Even if a produce item is nutritious, it does no good if preschoolers turn up their noses at it.
To try to better gauge youngsters' liking of familiar fruits and vegetables, Suzie Goodell and Virginia Carraway-Stage have developed an innovative pictorial method.
The tool, which features different renditions of the "smiley face," needs no translation, according to a news release.
Goodell is a North Carolina State University assistant professor of nutrition science. Carraway-Stage is an assistant professor of nutrition science at East Carolina University.
The two tested it with preschoolers ages 3-5 at several different Wake County Head Start centers.
Using iPads, a research assistant would show 20 different fruit and vegetable images one at a time.
At the bottom of each image were five faces that represented a range of super yummy to super yucky.
The child would then be asked to point to the face that bests represents his or her liking of that particular produce item.
The two researchers started with 200 images three years ago and narrowed them down to 20 images.
The results can be used to develop nutrition education programs designed to improve fruit and vegetable consumption, especially the green ones, among children.
The tool and accompanying materials are free and can be obtained by contacting Suzie Goodell.
Their work was published in the April issue of the journal Appetite.