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Food Plating Preferences of Children: the Importance of Presentation on Desire for Diversity

Zampollo, Francesca, Kevin Kniffin, Brian Wansink, and Mitsuru Shimizu (2012). Food Plating Preferences of Children: the Importance of Presentation on Desire for Diversity. Acta Paediatrica, 101(1), 61-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2011.02409.x

Adults are often responsible for putting food on a plate for children. However, the intrinsic plating preferences of adults may not be the same in children. Given the importance of food presentation and child nutrition, we aimed to test the degree to which adults and children have different preferences for the arrangement of food on a plate. A sample of 23 children, aged 5 to 12 years old, were shown a group of pictures and asked to rate their most preferred options for each of the 48 picture categories given. Similarly, a group of 46 adults completed an online survey asking them to rate their most preferred options for each picture category.

The results show that children’s plating preferences are significantly different than adults’. Children prefer 6 food colors and 7 different food components while adults prefer 3 colors and 3 food components. In addition, children prefer the main entrée to be positioned in the lower right hand corner on a round plate, while adults prefer it to be in the middle right. The differences in plating preferences promote the idea for age-appropriate strategies to support healthy eating. These results open a window of possibilities for those concerned with childhood nutrition because they show that young children have a preference for very diverse food presentations that adults do not typically cater to.