Skip to main content

Add Color and Variety to Children's Plates!

Zampollo, F., Kniffin, K. M., Wansink, B. and Shimizu, M. (2012), Food plating preferences of children: the importance of presentation on desire for diversity. Acta Paediatrica, 101: 61'66.

Are kids just born finicky eaters? Research on food preferences among children has found that the choices made by parents for their children have enormous impact on their future diet and food choices. In fact, there is ample research supporting the idea that the scope of the parent's palate determines the breadth of the child's. The implicit relationship documented between the appetites of adults and children begs the question: Is there, in fact, a direct correlation between the food preferences of children and those of their adult counterparts?

Apparently not, according to a recently published study conducted by Dr. Brian Wansink, Dr. Kevin Kniffin and Dr. Mitsuru Shimizu from Cornell University and Francesca Zampollo graduate student at London Metropolitan University. In their study 23 pre-teen children and 46 adults were shown 48 different photographs and asked for their preferences. Wansink et. al. set out to explore different dimensions of food presentation, such as the number of components and colors on the plate, the position of the main component, crowded plate versus an empty plate presentation, organizational levels and design.

The results suggest amazing opportunities to encourage more nutritionally diverse diets among children! They show significant differences between the plating preferences of children and adults. For instance, children prefer entrees to be positioned in the lower segment of the plate with some design or pattern to it, while adults prefer it in the center. And, possibly the most interesting finding was the difference in the preference for number of components and colors. While adults prefer three components and three colors on their plates children preferred seven components and six colors, more than double the adult preference of three!

Nutritional Gatekeepers - Getting Kids to Eat Better

And even though more research is needed to test what the limit might be in terms of the diversity of foods that children appear to prefer, these preliminary findings suggest more evidence that children aren't just 'little adults' and that they don't view the world the way we do!

Article Summary by Margaret Sullivan
Full text paper: (availble through the publisher here)

Brian Wansink, PhD
Food and Brand Lab, Director
110 Warren Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853