Should healthy eating programmes incorporate interaction with foods in different sensory modalities? A review of the evidence

Br J Nutr. 2012 Sep;108(5):769-77. doi: 10.1017/S0007114511007343. Epub 2012 Jan 23.


Commercial interventions seeking to promote fruit and vegetable consumption by encouraging preschool- and school-aged children to engage with foods with 'all their senses' are increasing in number. We review the efficacy of such sensory interaction programmes and consider the components of these that are likely to encourage food acceptance. Repeated exposure to a food's flavour has robust empirical support in terms of its potential to increase food intake. However, children are naturally reluctant to taste new or disliked foods, and parents often struggle to provide sufficient taste opportunities for these foods to be adopted into the child's diet. We therefore explore whether prior exposure to a new food's non-taste sensory properties, such as its smell, sound, appearance or texture, might facilitate the food's introduction into the child's diet, by providing the child with an opportunity to become partially familiar with the food without invoking the distress associated with tasting it. We review the literature pertaining to the benefits associated with exposure to foods through each of the five sensory modalities in turn. We conclude by calling for further research into the potential for familiarisation with the visual, olfactory, somaesthetic and auditory properties of foods to enhance children's willingness to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eating*
  • Food Preferences
  • Food*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Smell*
  • Taste*
  • Touch*