Fruit and vegetable exposure in children is linked to the selection of a wider variety of healthy foods at school
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Background: The relationship between fruit and vegetable (FV) exposure, preference, and consumption among children has been a targeted topic of study due to the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity. The purpose of this study was to examine FV home exposure in elementary children and the selection of both fruits and vegetables and less familiar lunch entrées at school. Design: Cross-sectional data on 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students (N=59) from an elementary school in central Texas. Methods: Home and school FV exposure was collected via self-report using a six-item questionnaire. Students were placed into high and low groups for 1) the variety of FV offered at home, and 2) the variety of FV eaten at home. Absolute and relative ratings of eight lunch entrées were collected through taste-tests conducted at school. Results: Differences in the consumption of FV at school and the selection of lunch entrées between high and low groups were analyzed using Mann-Whitney U independent non-parametric tests. Results indicated that the distribution of consumption at school differed across high and low groups for parental offering of FV for: oranges (z=2.16, p<0.05), cucumber (z=2.44, p<0.05), pineapple (z=3.41, p=0.001), mandarin oranges (z=2.93, p<0.01), tomato (z=3.14, p<0.01), and broccoli (z=3.26, p=0.001). The distribution of consumption at school across high and low groups for the eating FV at home was significant for 10 out of the 11 FV items: oranges (z=2.24, p<0.05), cucumber (z=2.64, p<0.01), pineapple (z=4.19, p<.001), mandarin oranges (z=3.06, p<0.01), tomatoes (z=3.47, p=0.001), bell pepper (z=2.25, p<0.05), broccoli (z=4.00, p<0.001), melon (z=3.06, p<0.01), apples (z=2.79, p<0.01), and zucchini (z=2.27, p<0.05) Likewise, significant differences between high and low groups for parental offering of FV were found for the selection of the chef salad (z=2.546, p<0.05), the Greek salad (z=2.091, p<0.05), and the veggie humus plate (z=2.104, p<0.05). Absolute and relative ratings of eight lunch entrées are also reported. Conclusions: Children who are more frequently exposed to FV at home consume a wider variety FV at school and are more likely to select healthy, less familiar entrées at school lunch.