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Communication strategies that promote young children's healthful eating have received limited empirical study, particularly in early childhood education (ECE) settings. This study examines the effect of developmentally appropriate nutrition phrases on young children's food behavior.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Eighty-seven children aged 3-6 years attending two ECE programs participated in a within-subject experiment. For the six-week taste activity intervention, each child was randomly assigned a repeated exposure (RE) and a child-centered nutrition phrase (CCNP) food (quinoa, lentils, tomato, or bell pepper).
Outcome Measures and Analysis
A consumption trial measured individual intake pre- and post-treatment and at one month post-treatment. Grams consumed data were log-transformed then submitted to a 2-level random effects model with time of assessment, phrase condition, their interaction, pre-preference for the foods, and pre-exposure to the foods at level 1; and site, child age, income, parent education level, and parent nutrition knowledge at level 2.
Consumption of the CCNP food across the sample increased more than foods using RE alone. Children exposed to the CCNPs consumed 8.95g more of their target food post-treatment and 17.9g more at the one month post-assessment. A site effect was detected. Children from one ECE program accounted for the increased consumption of the CCNP food within the sample. Children attending the second site consumed less of the CCNP food than the RE food.
Conclusion and Implications
Strategic use of developmentally appropriate nutrition messaging in ECE programs may be an effective strategy for increasing food consumption, but further research is needed to better understand contextual factors.
University of Technology, Jamaica Research Development Fund