This quasiexperimental study used a within-subjects experimental design to determine whether adding herbs and/or spices to a reduced-fat dip increased children's willingness to taste, liking of, and consumption of vegetables. Participants were preschool children aged 3 to 5 years who attended a child-care center in Central Pennsylvania in late 2008 and early 2009. First, children's familiarity with and liking of six raw vegetables and five dips (reduced-fat plain, herb, garlic, pizza, and ranch) were assessed. In Experiment 1 (n=34), children tasted a vegetable they liked, one they disliked, and one they refused, with a reduced-fat plain dip and their favorite reduced-fat herb-flavored dip. In Experiment 2 (n=26 or n=27), they rated their liking of celery and yellow squash, with and without their favorite reduced-fat herb dip (pizza or ranch), and their intake of those vegetable snacks was measured. In Experiment 1, the herb-flavored dip was preferred over the plain dip (P<0.01), and children were three times more likely to reject the vegetable alone, compared with eating the vegetable paired with an herb dip (P<0.001). In Experiment 2, children ate significantly more of a previously rejected or disliked vegetable (celery and squash) when offered with a preferred reduced-fat herb dip than when the vegetable was served alone (P<0.05). These findings suggest that offering vegetables with reduced-fat dips containing familiar herb and spice flavors can increase tasting and thereby promote liking, acceptance, and consumption of vegetables, including vegetables previously rejected or disliked.
Keywords: Herbs; Preschool children; Spices; Vegetable consumption.
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