Modifying children's food preferences: the effects of exposure and reward on acceptance of an unfamiliar vegetable

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Feb;57(2):341-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601541.


Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate two interventions (one reward-based and one exposure-based) for increasing children's acceptance of an unfamiliar vegetable compared with a no-treatment control. It was predicted that the exposure condition would increase liking for, and consumption of, the vegetable relative to either the reward or control group.

Design: Using a randomized controlled design, participants were assigned to one of two intervention groups (exposure or reward) or to a no-treatment control condition, for a 2 week period. Liking for, and consumption of, red pepper was assessed before and after the treatment period.

Setting: The study was conducted in three primary schools in London.

Subjects: Parental consent was obtained for 49 out of a possible 72 children.

Interventions: Interventions comprised eight daily sessions during which participants in the exposure group were offered a taste of sweet red pepper and told that they could eat as much as they liked. Participants in the reward group were shown a sheet of cartoon stickers and told that they could choose one of them on condition that they ate at least one piece of the pepper.

Results: The exposure-based intervention significantly increased both liking (P=0.006) and consumption (P=0.03) compared with the control group. The outcome of the reward intervention was intermediate and did not differ significantly from the exposure or control conditions.

Conclusions: Repeated exposure to the taste of unfamiliar foods is a promising strategy for promoting liking of previously rejected foods in children.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reward*
  • Vegetables*