Children's fussy eating is associated with a reduced vegetable intake. This quasi-experimental study evaluated "Big Chef Little Chef" (BCLC), a nursery-based cooking skills programme aimed at reducing food fussiness and increasing willingness to try green vegetables by incorporating repeated exposure and sensory learning. Parent and child (3-5 years) dyads attended BCLC for four/1.5 h weekly sessions. A comparison group was recruited after BCLC completion and attended a single education session at week 1. A questionnaire measured food fussiness at week 1 and week 4. At week 4, all children were offered six green vegetables (raw and cooked) and an average score (1 = did not try; 2 = tried it/ate some; 3 = ate it all) was calculated for willingness to try vegetables. In total, 121 dyads (intervention: n = 64; comparison: n = 57) participated. The food fussiness score (1 min-5 max) in the intervention group decreased significantly from 3.0 to 2.6 (p < 0.01) between time points, while there was no change in the comparison group (3.1 (week 1) and 3.0 (week 4)). The intervention group was more willing to try green vegetables with significantly higher (p < 0.001) median scores for raw and cooked vegetables (2.5 for both) compared with the comparison group (2.0 and 1.7, respectively). The BCLC reduced food fussiness and increased willingness to try green vegetables.
Keywords: cooking skills; eating behaviour; parent; preschool child; repeated exposure; sensory learning; vegetables.