Qualitative Analysis of Dietary Behaviors in Picture Book Fiction for 4- to 8-Year-Olds

J Nutr Educ Behav. 2016 Oct;48(9):602-608.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2016.06.005.


Objective: Picture books may facilitate parents' efforts to decrease pickiness and other undesirable food habits in children. This study conducted a content analysis of dietary behaviors and feeding strategies featured in fictional picture books compared with those discussed in the research literature.

Design: Several databases were searched for fictional picture books about dietary behavior, published between 2000 and 2016, accessible in the US, available in print format, and designated for 4- to 8-year-olds.

Phenomenon of interest: Messages about dietary behavior in picture book fiction.

Analysis: Stories were systematically coded using holistic, data-driven, and evaluation coding methods. The final set of codes was examined for themes and patterns.

Results: Of the 104 books, 50% featured a specific eating behavior, 21% lifestyle/eating patterns, 20% food-related sensations and emotions, and 9% table manners.

Conclusions and implications: Books about dietary behaviors are abundant but the topic coverage is unbalanced. Problem behaviors portrayed in books overlap those discussed in the research literature. However, problem-solving strategies and actions do not align with those endorsed by nutrition professionals. Messages vary in their complexity (in terms of their plot and/or language), ranging from clear and direct to vague, sophisticated, unresolved, conflicting, or controversial. Recommendations for practitioners are discussed.

Keywords: children; eating habits; pickiness; picture books.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Books*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Health Education / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status
  • Psychology, Child*