Preschool Children's Self-Reports of Fruit and Vegetable Knowledge, Preference, and Messages Encouraging Consumption

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Journal of School Health






Background: Fruit and vegetable consumption (FVC) is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Only one third of children aged 4-8 years consume the recommended 5 servings a day. Studies involving school-aged children (6-11 years) demonstrate that positive outcome expectancies can mediate FVC. There is a lack of similar studies involving preschool-aged (years) children. The purpose of this study was to assess preschool children's knowledge and preference of fruits and vegetables, messages they recall hearing related to FVC, and how they perceive these messages.

Methods: Children (N = 192) were individually interviewed with a play-based picture card game followed by a mealtime environment reenactment open-ended interview. Fruit and vegetable messages were operationalized using Social Cognitive Theory (SCT). Descriptive statistics and associations are reported.

Results: Each child recalled an average of 2.27 messages associated with FVC. Positive outcome expectancies, negative outcome expectancies, and prompts were most frequently recalled. Statistically significant differences in knowledge, preference, and messages were observed based on income.

Conclusions: Children as young as age 4 years understand positive outcome expectancies. Experimental trials are warranted to determine if tailored expectancy messages mediate FVC among preschool children.