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Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Increasing vegetable intake in Mexican-American youth: a randomized controlled trial

item Johnston, C
item Palcic, J
item Tyler, C
item Stansberry, S
item Reeves, R
item Foreyt, J

Submitted to: Journal Of The American Dietetic Association
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/24/2010
Publication Date: 5/1/2011
Citation: Johnston, C.A., Palcic, J.L., Tyler, C., Stansberry, S.A., Reeves, R.S., Foreyt, J.P. 2011. Increasing vegetable intake in Mexican-American youth: a randomized controlled trial. Journal Of The American Dietetic Association. 111:716-720.

Interpretive Summary: Evidence suggests that diets rich in vegetables protect against numerous chronic conditions. Despite the many health benefits of eating vegetables, consumption in children remains well below recommended levels. A major health objective of Healthy People 2020 is to increase the proportion of children and adolescents who consume the recommended number of daily servings of vegetables. The purpose of this study was to compare two methods (multiple exposures to vegetables vs. pairing vegetables with a preferred taste) of increasing vegetable consumption in youth. Results indicated that students who were repeatedly exposed to vegetables (carrots, broccoli, and celery) and were also allowed to pair the vegetables with peanut butter significantly increased the amount of vegetables consumed compared to the group that was repeatedly exposed to vegetables without a pairing. Furthermore, the pairing group also demonstrated significant increases in variety of vegetables eaten compared to those in the exposure-only condition. These findings offer a simple and cost-effective strategy to increase vegetable intake in children by pairing vegetables with preferred nutrient-dense foods.

Technical Abstract: Despite the health benefits, vegetable intake in youth remains below recommended levels. The purpose of our study was to compare two methods for increasing vegetable consumption. It was hypothesized that participants randomized to both the exposure-only and the pairing condition would increase their vegetable consumption and increase the variety of vegetables consumed. A total of 78 Mexican-American middle school-aged children from a charter school in Houston, TX, were randomized to a pairing condition (n = 40) or an exposure-only condition(n = 38) during the Spring 2009 semester. Children in the pairing condition were provided a preferred taste (peanut butter) paired with vegetables weekly at school during a nutrition class for 4 months. Children in the exposure-only condition received vegetables weekly during a nutrition class that covered the same material as the pairing condition. After 4 months, the pairing condition participants demonstrated significant increases in vegetable consumption (F = 13.40, P < 0.001) as well as variety of vegetables eaten (F = 13.69, P < 0.001) when compared to those in the exposure-only condition. The findings of this study suggest that the pairing of vegetables with a preferred taste, such as peanut butter, may be an effective technique in increasing consumption, especially in children who report being resistant to eating vegetables.