Parents of picky eaters can encourage their children to eat more nutritionally diverse diets by introducing more color to their meals, according to a new Cornell University study. The study finds that colorful food fare is more appealing to children than adults. Specifically, food plates with seven different items and six different colors are particularly appealing to children, while adults tend to prefer fewer colors ‑ only three items and three colors.
"What kids find visually appealing is very different than what appeals to their parents," said Brian Wansink, professor of Marketing in Cornell's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. "Our study shows how to make the changes so the broccoli and fish look tastier than they otherwise would to little Casey or little Audrey."
The study is published in the January issue of Acta Paediatrica.
Wansink and co-authors Kevin Kniffin and Mitsuru Shimizu, Cornell postdoctoral research associates; and Francesca Zampollo of London Metropolitan University, presented 23 preteen children and 46 adults with full-size photos of 48 different combinations of food on plates that varied by number of items, placement of entrιe and organization of the food.
"Compared with adults, children not only prefer plates with more elements and colors, but also their entrees placed in the front of the plate and with figurative designs," Kniffin said. "While much of the research concerning food preferences among children and adults focuses on 'taste, smell and chemical' aspects, we will build on findings that demonstrate that people appear to be significantly influenced by the shape, size and visual appearance of food that is presented to them."
- Francesca Zampollo, Kevin M Kniffin, Brian Wansink, Mitsuru Shimizu. Food plating preferences of children: the importance of presentation on desire for diversity. Acta Paediatrica, 2012; 101 (1): 61 DOI: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2011.02409.x
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