Taste the feeling or feel the tasting: Tactile exposure to food texture promotes food acceptance
Abstract The texture of food can be a reason why children reject it: It matters if food is crispy, slimy, smooth or has pips and bits in it. In general, mere exposure is the best method to increase acceptance of food: becoming more familiar with a food by repeated exposure increases liking for it. However, exposure to texture can be difficult, as children can be reluctant to try tasting it. In the current study, it is tested if acceptance of a food with a specific texture is improved after exposure to the feel of it, with hands only. Sixty-six children (between 3 and 10 years old) were randomly assigned to either the exposure or control condition. In the exposure condition, children played with an colourless and odourless jelly with their hands and in the control group, children played a board game. Afterwards, children were asked to taste 3 desserts (in balanced order): smooth strawberry yoghurt, strawberry yoghurt with pieces and strawberry jelly. Results showed that the children in the exposure condition ate specifically more of the jelly dessert - the texture of which they had been pre-exposed to - compared to the children in control condition. No group differences were found for the other two desserts. The results imply that feeling the texture of a food with hands increases the acceptance of food with the same texture. Playing with food with hands seems therefore be a first step in getting familiar with food and might help to increase variety of food intake.
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