Associative conditioning can increase liking for and consumption of brussels sprouts in children aged 3 to 5 years

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 Aug;114(8):1236-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.11.014. Epub 2014 Jan 16.


Pairing foods with liked flavors repeatedly can increase preferences for those foods. We compared the effectiveness of associative conditioning (pairing vegetables with sweetened and unsweetened cream cheese) and exposure (presenting vegetables alone) in increasing liking and consumption of bitter and nonbitter vegetables. Twenty-nine children (aged 3 to 5 years) participated in the study. One group of children received brussels sprouts (bitter) with sweetened cream cheese and cauliflower (nonbitter) with unsweetened cream cheese and a second group received the reverse pairing. A third group received brussels sprouts and cauliflower with no cream cheese. Pairing brussels sprouts with cream cheese increased liking and consumption more than exposure, whereas cauliflower was liked by all groups regardless of presence of cream cheese. Associative conditioning was more effective than exposure in increasing liking for a novel, bitter vegetable-brussels sprouts-whereas exposure alone was effective for a nonbitter, more familiar vegetable-cauliflower.

Keywords: Associative conditioning; Bitter; Exposure; Nonbitter; Vegetables.

MeSH terms

  • Brassica
  • Cheese
  • Child, Preschool
  • Choice Behavior
  • Conditioning, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taste
  • Vegetables*