Creating healthy environments: Encouraging fruit and vegetable intake at the day care and primary school

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentationAcademic


This presentation was part of session: Vegetalizing the diet: what are the determinants of consumer behaviour and choice?

Fruit and vegetables are important constituents of a healthy and sustainable diet. However, in many countries, children’s fruit and vegetable consumption is below the recommended daily intake. Childhood is an important period to support the development of healthy eating habits, because food preferences and eating habits that children have obtained at a young age are more likely to be remained throughout life.
The day care and school are suitable settings to promote the development of healthy eating habits, because both are playful learning environments, children engage in multiple eating moments, and teachers and peers can act as role models. Schools have the additional advantage of a high reach and the potential to reduce inequities, because all children attend primary school.
Here we show three studies that implemented various strategies to support children’s fruit and vegetable consumption. It is important to evaluate such strategies on both effectiveness and on implementation success.
(1) The Veggie Time project tested the strategy of repeated exposure in the real-life day care setting. Children were repeatedly exposed to three different – relatively unfamiliar - vegetables which were each presented in two forms. Repeated exposure increased children’s intake of pumpkin and white radish (with ~ 15 gram), whereas intake of zucchini remained stable (around ~20 gram).
(2) In a second project, 13 day care locations chose one out of five promising fruit and vegetable supporting strategies to implement for at least 10-12 weeks. A concrete implementation plan was developed with the researchers. Gardening and playful learning were most frequently chosen (4x), followed by repeated exposure (3x) and cooking (2x). Implementation of a self-chosen strategy resulted in satisfactory scores for acceptability, feasibility, appropriateness en sustainability, with somewhat lower scores for cooking. Staff reported that children’s eating pleasure for vegetables and their willingness to taste new fruit and vegetables increased.
(3) A primary school project compared three strategies: a 5-day fruit and vegetable policy, no school food policy, and providing a bowl filled with fruit and vegetables in the classroom. Actual portion sizes were weighed to assess consumption. Children’s fruit and vegetable consumption during the morning snack break at school was 60 gram at the no-policy schools, 130 gram at the schools with a 5-day policy and 250 gram at the schools that provided a bowl with free fruit and vegetables.
These projects show that day cares and schools can effectively contribute to children’s fruit and vegetable consumption, with availability, experiential learning and repeated exposure as key elements. We should utilize these environments to encourage the development of healthy and sustainable eating habits among children.

Period20 Sept 202322 Sept 2023
Event titleEGEA conference
Event typeConference
LocationSpainShow on map