Serving Fruits and Vegetables in Kid-Friendly Shapes Increased Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Preschool Children Aged 2-5 Years

Sarah Millard
Sara Stevenson
Magda Cojocaru


Background. With childhood obesity rising, and taste preferences being influenced at an early age, it’s more important now than ever to encourage children to eat right.

Objective. To find whether shaping fruits and vegetables (F&Vs) into kid-friendly designs would increase consumption in preschool aged children.

Design. The four week long observational study took place at Loma Linda Children Academy in two stages during their normal lunch time hour. Baseline data was recorded during the first two weeks, and a month later intervention data was collected during the last two weeks. The menus served remained exactly the same except for the shapes of the F&Vs were cut into one of our eight kid-friendly designs during intervention weeks.

Participants. A convenience sample of healthy preschool aged children (both male and female) between ages 2 and 5 were served hot lunch from the food service provider of the school, serving approximately 30 students per day, Monday through Thursday. Children with allergies were excluded from the study.

Main outcome measures. Daily measurements were pooled by age group (2-3, 3-4, 4-5) and gender, which generated approximately 6 data points daily to be used for statistical comparisons. This translates into a sample size of 46 during baseline weeks and 45 for intervention weeks, for a total of 91 data points. Data was analyzed looking at F&V consumed/total F&V served and reported as a percentage.

Statistical analysis performed. Results were calculated using an independent T-test and 3-way ANOVA comparison between variables.

Results. Overall, displaying F&Vs into kid-friendly shapes increased the preschoolers’ intake regardless of age and gender by 10.8% when compared to unshaped F&Vs (p =.02).

Conclusion. The results of this study may be helpful to parents and caregivers dealing with picky eaters and may be applied to school food service programs to increase F&Vs selections, displace empty calories, and ultimately produce overall benefits to the young, yet aging population.