CHICAGO Sweet and salty flavors, repeat exposure, serving size and parental behavior are the key drivers in children's food choices, according to a July 15 panel discussion at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo held at McCormick Place.
A standing-room only crowd of more than 200 conference attendees heard new insights into how children choose the foods they eat, what their eating behaviors are and how the industry and parents can give children access to healthy food environments that shape those food choices.
"Children's decision making has few dimensions," explained Dr. Adam Drewnowski (CQ), director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition and professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle. Not surprisingly, children lean toward sweets like cookies, chocolate, fruits and juices as well as salty foods that make them feel full like French fries and pizza. But environment, peer groups, family, and exposure to a variety of menu items play a key role in children's food choices.
"Kids are not as complicated as adults and are not making food choices based on health," said Dr. Jennifer Orlet Fisher, an associate professor of public health at Temple University, Philadelphia. "Preference trumps all. Children eat what they like and leave the rest."
In her studies, she found children like fat and sugar and somewhat surprisingly, fruit is at the top of the list of food choices, followed by starches, meat and eggs, dairy and vegetables. She said it's not surprising kids like candy and cake over peas and carrots.
"Children do not naturally like healthy foods. They need to learn to like those healthy foods," Fisher said. "They also like what they know."
Repeat exposure creates a food familiarity that also drives food choices for children, which explains why many children repeatedly choose chicken nuggets and cheese, as she found in a st
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Institute of Food Technologists