Development and testing of education materials to increase visual exposure of MyPlate foods in preschoolers
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Childcare centers provide a unique place for nutrition education to begin encouraging healthy eating habits in young children. Lack of financial resources allocated to nutrition education can often hinder this process. Nutrition educational books discussing characteristics, origin, and function of the MyPlate food groups may facilitate familiarity and acceptance of foods at a low cost to childcare centers. The purpose of this study was to develop educational MyPlate-based food group books and test whether or not visual exposure to these books would increase consumption of these foods in preschoolers. Books were developed in four distinct phases: initial book development using 4-year-old pre-kindergarteners’ input (n=24), pilot testing with 3-year-old preschoolers (n=23), focus group discussion concerning book prototypes with preschool educators (n=24), and review by three experts in child development and nutrition education. The final five books were then tested among preschoolers (n=207) in 17 childcare centers. Participating students at these centers were placed into one of five different intervention groups (one for each food group) or the control group. The intervention group was read their designated food group book once a day for two weeks. Food intake for all groups was recorded through the use of photographic food diaries for three days, pre-, post- and post-natural environment intervention. A food behavior questionnaire was also sent home to parents during the post-intervention data collection. The photographic food diaries were visually analyzed for percent of one serving consumed for each food group. Intake was analyzed using MANCOVA, with pre-intervention intake treated as the covariate. A good inter-rater reliability score of .702 was established using intra-class correlation. Participants in the dairy and vegetable intervention groups had a significantly higher intake in their corresponding food group compared to the control group. Visual exposure to healthy foods using print media can be an inexpensive and effective way to familiarize young children with healthy foods. This increase in familiarity can lead to increases in consumption that may aid in the development of lifelong healthy eating habits.