Colorful foods on the plate can help picky children eat better

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Getting your child to eat healthy foods may be as easy as adding color.

Getting kids to eat a variety of healthy foods - especially fruits and vegetables can be difficult. A new study suggests simply putting a lot of color on your child's food plate can make eating fun and healthier.

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The finding comes from Cornell University researchers who studied food preferences among children and adults.

Researchers Brian Wansink, professor of Marketing in Cornell's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and co-authors Kevin Kniffin and Mitsuru Shimizu, Cornell postdoctoral research associates; and Francesca Zampollo of London Metropolitan University presented 23 preteen children and 46 adults with a variety of full size photos showing different food arrangements, quantity and color.

They found that children prefer food with lots of color and with the entrée placed at the front of the plate, with figurative designs.

Kniffin said, "While much of the research concerning food preferences among children and adults focuses on 'taste, smell and chemical' aspects, we will build on findings that demonstrate that people appear to be significantly influenced by the shape, size and visual appearance of food that is presented to them."

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The study, which appears in the January 2012 issue of Acta Paediatrica, shows kids can be prompted to eat healthier with a little creativity and by making eating fun.

It’s not impossible to make broccoli and fish appealing to children. Putting more color on the plate and arranging it "just so" can make eating fun and help kids get plenty of fruits and vegetables.

The authors found 6 different items and 7 different colors of food are especially appealing to kids. For adults, 3 items and 3 colors are enough.

Acta Paediatrica: DOI: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2011.02409.x
“Food plating preferences of children: the importance of presentation on desire for diversity”
Francesca Zampollo et al.
January, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile

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