Pre-School Aged Children's Knowledge of Healthy and Unhealthy Foods.

Research has examined food knowledge in elementary- and high school-aged children; however, very little research has been done examining preschool-aged children’s understanding of health behaviors. The purpose of this research was to better understand preschool-aged children’s ability to (a) make healthy food choices; (b) categorize healthy and non-healthy foods; and (c) determining whether media can affect food choices, specifically whether a children’s book can influence food choices. For this study, I conducted interviews, asked children to sort food pictures, and conducted an experiment. Participants were 94 children ages 4 to 5 years from preschools in San Diego County and the surrounding areas. For the experiment, children were randomly assigned to hear one of two children’s story books: one about vegetables and one about weather. A food sorting task was given both before and after the experimental manipulation. I predicted that exposure to a children’s book about fruits and vegetables would affect the children’s food choices and their understanding of healthy foods; specifically, that those who were read a book about healthy foods would choose a healthy snack over a less healthy snack (carrots over cookies) compared to children who were read a book that did not mention foods. A chi-square test of independence found that there was no significant difference in food choice between children who listened to a story about fruits and vegetables compared to children who listened to a story that did not mention foods. Additionally, I expected those in the experimental conditional to have an increase in their score on the sorting task (higher scores equal better understanding of healthy foods), and that girls from high socioeconomic status families would have the most correct responses on food sorting tasks of all the groups. A 2x2 mixed model ANOVA found that there was no difference for gender or socioeconomic status on the food sorting task scores. Therefore, the study hypotheses were not supported. However, due to the lack of previous research in this area the findings from this study have the potential to fill gaps in the literature about young children’s food preferences and health knowledge.