Toddlers' food preferences. The impact of novel food exposure, maternal preferences and food neophobia

Appetite. 2012 Dec;59(3):818-25. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.08.022. Epub 2012 Aug 29.


Food preferences have been identified as a key determinant of children's food acceptance and consumption. The aim of this study was to identify factors that influence children's liking for fruits, vegetables and non-core foods. Participants were Australian mothers (median age at delivery=31years, 18-46years) and their two-year-old children (M=24months, SD=1month; 52% female) allocated to the control group (N=245) of the NOURISH RCT. The effects of repeated exposure to new foods, maternal food preferences and child food neophobia on toddlers' liking of vegetables, fruits and non-core foods and the proportion never tried were examined via hierarchical regression models; adjusting for key maternal (age, BMI, education) and child covariates (birth weight Z-score, gender), duration of breastfeeding and age of introduction to solids. Maternal preferences corresponded with child preferences. Food neophobia among toddlers was associated with liking fewer vegetables and fruits, and trying fewer vegetables. Number of repeated exposures to new food was not significantly associated with food liking at this age. Results highlight the need to: (i) encourage parents to offer a wide range of foods, regardless of their own food preferences, and (ii) provide parents with guidance on managing food neophobia.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Breast Feeding
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers*
  • Parenting*
  • Phobic Disorders
  • Pleasure
  • Regression Analysis
  • Young Adult