Colorful plates boost a picky eater's appetite

January 5, 2012

Parents of picky eaters can encourage their children to eat more nutritionally diverse diets by introducing more color to their meals, according to a new Cornell University study. The study finds that colorful food fare is more appealing to children than adults. Specifically, food plates with seven different items and six different colors are particularly appealing to children, while adults tend to prefer fewer colors only three items and three colors.

"What kids find visually appealing is very different than what appeals to their parents," said Brian Wansink, professor of Marketing in Cornell's Dyson School of and Management. "Our study shows how to make the changes so the and fish look tastier than they otherwise would to little Casey or little Audrey."

The study is published in the January issue of Acta Paediatrica (101:1).

Wansink and co-authors Kevin Kniffin and Mitsuru Shimizu, Cornell postdoctoral research associates; and Francesca Zampollo of London Metropolitan University, presented 23 preteen and 46 adults with full-size photos of 48 different combinations of on plates that varied by number of items, placement of entrée and organization of the food.

"Compared with adults, children not only prefer plates with more elements and colors, but also their entrees placed in the front of the plate and with figurative designs," Kniffin said. "While much of the research concerning food preferences among children and adults focuses on 'taste, smell and chemical' aspects, we will build on findings that demonstrate that people appear to be significantly influenced by the shape, size and visual appearance of food that is presented to them."

More information: For more information about adding color and variety to children's plates, visit: foodpsychology.cornell.edu/outreach/child-plate.html

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