The aim of this new study: To find out whether children prefer their food served in a particular way and whether their gender and age make a difference with regard to their preferences.
There isn’t much evidence-based research about how children prefer and eat their food, which is important when, for example, we want our children to eat more vegetables -- or eat their food in general.
It’s already known that you can get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables just by presenting them in small portions and making them freely available, so they can easily grab and eat them. It’s also known that how foods are presented visually can affect how much children eat.
The researchers, from Future Consumer Lab at the University of Copenhagen asked 100 schoolchildren, aged 7-8 and 12-14 years, to make a priority list of photos of six different dishes served in three different ways:
- With the foods on a plate presented separately so they did not touch each other
- As a mix of separate ingredients and ingredients that were mixed together
- With all the food mixed together
The study found that younger girls (aged 7-8) preferred the separate serving style, while boys of the same age did not prefer how their food was arranged. The research also found that children between 12 and 14 prefer food to be either mixed together or served as a mix of separate and mixed-together ingredients.
Best option: Separate foods on the plate
The researchers did not say why younger girls prefer to have their food served as separate ingredients.
One reason could be that they believe that the different ingredients could contaminate each other, or, that they prefer to eat the different components of a meal in a certain order. It’s also possible that having a clear delineation been foods served at a meal provides a better overview.
Kids can mix the food when the various elements of the food are separated on the plate, while the reverse is not possible, the lead researcher said.
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