Healthy is (not) tasty? Implicit and explicit associations between food healthiness and tastiness in primary school-aged children and parents with a lower socioeconomic position

Amy van der Heijden*, Hedwig te Molder, Cees de Graaf, Gerry Jager

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Many people implicitly (automatically) believe that unhealthy foods are tastier than healthy foods, even when they explicitly (deliberately) report that they don't. It is unclear whether this ‘unhealthy = tasty intuition’ is already present in childhood. Children from families with a lower socioeconomic position (SEP) consume poorer diets than children from families with a higher SEP. Paradoxically, populations with a lower SEP are underrepresented in research and least reached by lifestyle interventions. This study explored implicit and explicit associations between healthiness, tastiness and liking of foods in primary school-aged children and parents with a lower SEP. These associations and an estimate of dietary intake were assessed with implicit association tests and paper-and-pencil questionnaires, developed and adapted specifically for this target group. Participants were recruited at Dutch food banks. Results of 37 parent-child dyads indicated that children and parents implicitly associated healthy foods and tastiness more strongly with each other than healthy foods and not tasty (D = −0.19, p =.03 and D = −0.46, p <.001, respectively). Explicitly, parents showed similar results, while children rated pictures of unhealthy foods as tastier than pictures of healthy foods. Following the discrepancy between our hypotheses, results, and more unhealthy eating habits that often prevail in families with a lower SEP, potential explanations are discussed. We address the possibility that an internalised social norm was exposed, rather than an intrinsic belief. We propose that this research calls for in-depth qualitative research on food-related preferences and norms in the everyday life of low SEP families.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103939
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Volume84
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Explicit associations
  • Food healthiness
  • Food tastiness
  • Implicit associations
  • Lower socioeconomic position
  • Primary school-aged children

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