Maternal, Perinatal and Pediatric Nutrition
Young children need repeated exposure to learn to like new foods but can eat only foods caregivers offer. Thus, caregiver feeding decisions are central in determining whether children receive sufficient exposure to learn to like new foods. We undertook an exploratory study to: 1) examine child behaviors that influence caregiver perceptions of their child’s liking for novel foods; and to 2) identify which child behaviors are associated with caregiver intentions to continue offering new foods.
Infants/toddlers (n = 106; 57 males; 6 – 24 mo) were observed tasting up to 8 offers of a novel food (pureed kale) by their caregivers (94% mothers). Trained researchers coded videos for successful tastes, positive (e.g., reaching for the spoon, playing with the food) and negative (e.g., expelling the food, avoiding the spoon, crying) child eating behaviors and children’s degree of acceptance of the kale (0=refusal to 3=anticipation). Caregiver ratings of child liking for the food (1=Dislikes extremely to 9=likes extremely) and their likelihood of re-offering the food (1=not at all likely to 5=very likely) were collected. Kruskal-Wallis tests explored differences in successful bites, frequencies of child behaviors, and caregiver ratings across child age (6 – 8.30 [mo.days]; 9 – 14.30; 15 – 24). Spearman correlations explored associations among successful tastes, child behaviors and caregiver ratings.
Results : Successful tastes decreased with child age (p=.000) and toddlers (15 – 24) exhibited more avoidant behavior (p=.000), cried more (p< .05), played more (p=.005), and had a lower degree of acceptance (p=.000) than infants (6 – 8.30). Perceptions of child liking and the likelihood of re-offering the kale were highly correlated (r=.63, p=.000) and did not differ by child age. Ratings of child liking and the likelihood of re-offering were: 1) negatively associated with avoidant behaviors (p< .001), crying (p< .05) or expelling kale (p< .000); and 2) positively associated with successful tastes (p< .05) and the degree of acceptance (p=.000).
Caregiver intention to continue offering a novel food was related to whether their child ate the food, how avidly the food was eaten, and how negatively their child reacted to the food. Getting children to eat and avoiding stressful feedings may be the immediate priority over building food acceptance.
Funding Sources : The Sugar Association