"CAULIFLOWER POWER" STORYBOOKS AND CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLE CONSUMPTION IN PRE-SCHOOL CHILDREN: EXAMINING THE EFFECT OF REPEATED EXPOSURE ON ACCEPTANCE AND CONSUMPTION OF CAULIFLOWER, BROCCOLI, AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Open Access
Author:
Canova, Anna Claire
Area of Honors:
Biobehavioral Health
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Lori Francis, Thesis Supervisor
  • Lori Francis, Honors Advisor
  • JOSEPH PETER GYEKIS, Faculty Reader
Keywords:
  • Nutrition
  • Nutrition Education
  • Vegetables
  • Children's storybooks
  • Children
  • Exposures
  • Obesity Prevention
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • PTC Genetic Test
  • Biology and Environment
  • Cruciferous Crew
  • Childhood Obesity
Abstract:
Background: The obesity epidemic continues to be an urgent public health concern in the United States, with high rates in children as young as pre-school and early elementary school particularly alarming. With tendency for early weight status to permeate through the lifespan, early prevention is necessary (Llewellyn, 2015). Increasing cruciferous vegetable consumption and liking in 3- to 5-year-olds is proposed as a positive means for developing healthy eating habits early for a lifetime of positive lifestyle behaviors. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to consider biological, environmental (home and school), and social influences on children’s liking and consumption of cruciferous vegetables, and whether those behaviors and ideas can be positively changed through repeated exposure to education and food tastings, as well exposure at home (recipes and fun fact sheets). Methods: The “Cruciferous Crew” intervention study included 24 children ages 3 to 5 years and their parents, recruited from a university childcare center in Central Pennsylvania. Children’s ability to identify liking for and willingness to try cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts was measured before and after the intervention. Children were exposed to a series of 4 storybooks that introduced them to cauliflower (main focus), and other vegetables including broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Children also had the opportunity to taste a cauliflower-based snack after the lesson (e.g., cauliflower rice). It was hypothesized that repeated exposure to the stories and cauliflower in various forms, would increase children’s liking for and willingness to try the target vegetables. Sensitivity to bitter taste (“taster” status) and parents-reports of child picky eating and the frequency of consuming the target vegetables were also measured. Results: Results showed that the intervention was successful in significantly increasing children’s ability to identify and liking for cauliflower. Children’s ability to identify Brussels sprouts also significantly increased after the intervention. However, in a subsequent offering, children’s willingness to try the target vegetables decreased after the intervention, which was opposite of what I hypothesized. Children with a bitter taste sensitivity showed the greatest pre-post increases in liking of all target vegetables, although the differences did not reach significance. Qualitative data showed expressions of great enthusiasm around the phrase “Cauliflower Power” and excitement with the visits and tastings in general. The positive, neutral, and negative verbal and behavioral observations noted may give even more insight in a study this small on the relevance of the quantitative results. Conclusions. Repeated exposure to storybooks about cruciferous vegetables can increase children knowledge about and liking for those vegetables. This approach may be particularly powerful for children with a bitter taste sensitivity. Although limitations such as shortened classroom time, limited research assistance, and small sample size did exist for this study, these complications are surmountable and future research on this topic is both feasible for the research team and likely to be a very rewarding, fun, and well-accepted experience for the participants.