Topical Area: Maternal, Perinatal and Pediatric Nutrition
The objective was to identify the age at which parents expose their children to different food textures and how challenging the textures were for their child to eat. It was hypothesized that older children would be exposed to a wider variety of food textures and that parents would consider a larger proportion of these textures to be easy to eat.
Methods : Parents (n=365) in Grand Rapids, MI, USA with a child aged 6-36 months completed an online survey. The survey had 37 questions, including 15 unique food texture categories with food examples (Table 1). Parents were asked how difficult each texture category was for their child to eat using a 5-point scale ranging from "Very Easy" to "Very Difficult", plus an option for "My child hasn’t tried this yet". Children were divided into 5 age groups (6-8 months, 9-12 months, 13-18 months, 19-24 months, 25-36 months) for analysis. Across texture category and age group, data were analyzed using analysis of variance, with mean separation accomplished using Fisher’s LSD (p< 0.05).
Results : A majority of children in the youngest age group (6-8 months) had only eaten foods described as creamy, dissolvable, or pureed. All of the texture categories had been served to a majority of 9-12 month-old children, except for “hard” and “tough meat”. By 18 months of age, a majority of children had tried all food texture categories except “hard”. Across all age groups, creamy, dissolvable, and puree were rated as easy and “tough meat” was rated as difficult. The other textures showed age-related differences, with parents of older children reporting the textures as easier to eat than those of younger children. Food textures were compared within the 9-12 and 13-18 month age groups, when most new food textures are introduced, and similar trends were observed. The easiest textures were creamy, dissolvable, puree and soft, followed by lumpy and juicy, then slippery, chewy, rubbery, and sticky. The most difficult textures were leafy, with skin, hard, tough meat and combination of textures.
When considering textures of the foods that comprise a well-balanced, healthy diet, many foods are difficult for children to eat. Preparing foods such as green vegetables specifically to have age-appropriate textures could improve consumption.
Funding Sources :
Washington State Univ College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Emerging Research Issues Grant