Vegetables are the food category least accepted by children, which is a key reason for their low intake. Common sense suggests that vegetable preparation, liking and consumption is idiosyncratic to each vegetable, e.g. carrots may be eaten raw, but raw broccoli may be unacceptable, however scientific evidence is largely lacking. This study measured children's experiences, liking and consumption of vegetables in relation to preparation practices at home. Questionnaire data were collected for a comprehensive range of preparation methods (raw, boiling, steaming, frying, roasting, and seven ways of preparing it with other dishes (e.g. soup)) across five common vegetables, i.e. carrot, potato, broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans. Measures included experience with preparation methods (yes/no), liking (9 point hedonic scale) and consumption frequency (5 point scale). Data were reported by parents for their child (N= 82, 5-6. years, low and high vegetable intake), and child/parent pairs were recruited from the Sydney metropolitan area. Parents reported that children consumed an average of 6.8 (SD 3.4) different preparation methods for vegetables at home, including many mixed dishes. The number and type of preparations the child consumed depended on the vegetable type (p<.0001). Preparation method was associated with liking of carrot and potato (both p<.0001), and with consumption frequency of all vegetables (all p<.05). The most and least liked preparations were vegetable specific. Parents reported that vegetables in mixed dishes were generally well accepted by their children, and flavourings were added on average by 54%. The results also showed that a higher vegetable consumption was related to a higher liking, and exposure to more preparation methods. This study demonstrates the potential for further experimental research into preparation practices to increase vegetable acceptance and intake in children. A vegetable by vegetable approach is recommended, with potential cross-vegetable opportunities for flavour-flavour learning and flavour masking strategies including the use of mixed dishes.
- Consumption and liking
- Food preparation