Preschool Nutrition Education and Influence On Food Neophobia
This work made publicly available electronically on May 9, 2012.
Food neophobia, the fear of new foods, has been identified as a significant barrier to the intake of healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables in young children. Food neophobia can hinder dietary quality as well as dietary variety by limiting the development of food preferences. It has also been suggested that neophobia is linked to the development of childhood obesity, and due to the escalating epidemic of childhood obesity that is known to be associated with serious health complications, interventions that target food neophobia in preschool aged children may be successful in improving healthy eating habits and potentially reversing the obesity trend.
This thesis includes data collected from the testing of an interactive nutrition education curriculum, Food $ense Kids, that specifically targeted neophobia in 3 to 5-year-old children. It was implemented at two child care facilities using baseline and post-intervention surveys and included 51 participants. The curriculum was evaluated on its ability to engage children, be effective across multiple settings, and be easily implemented into a variety of preschool programs. The curriculum was also examined to determine its influence on food neophobia, food knowledge, and food preferences when implemented in its entirety.
Results indicate that the curriculum was engaging, equally effective across multiple settings, and easily implemented into a variety of programs. In addition, teachers were positive about the program and its effect on their students. Food knowledge increased significantly as a result of participation in the program at both facilities. Overall, no significant changes in neophobia or food preferences occurred as a result of participation in the curriculum. This lack of impact may be explained by not including multiple exposures to each food. Future application of the Food sense Kids curriculum could include selecting a smaller number of lessons from the overall curriculum to implement over time in order to include multiple exposures to each food, which may lead to beneficial effects on food neophobia and food preferences.