Children's Response to Flavor Variety In Herb and Spice Seasoned Vegetables Served Within a Meal

Open Access
Graduate Program:
Food Science
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 30, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Kathleen L. Keller, Thesis Advisor
  • John E. Hayes, Committee Member
  • Joshua D. Lambert, Committee Member
  • Vegetables
  • Eating Behaviors
  • Herbs and Spices
  • Preschool
  • PROP
  • Variety
  • Sensory Specific Satiety
Consumption of vegetables in preschool aged children is significantly lower than nutritional recommendations. Vegetables are an important source of vitamins and minerals, but they also may be able to combat the onset of obesity by displacing more energy dense foods in the diet. This intervention aimed to increase vegetable intake by creating flavor variety in vegetables served within a meal. Variety has previously been shown to delay sensory specific satiety and to increase food intake. Preschool aged (3-5 years-old) children attended two separate laboratories visit and were given a test-meal of common foods: pasta, applesauce, milk, water, and three servings of carrots. For the “No Variety” condition, all three servings of carrots were seasoned with the same herb and spice blend. For the “Variety” condition, the three servings of carrots were all seasoned with a different herb and spice blend. Children’s liking of the seasoned carrots was assessed on a hedonic scale, along with a salted control carrot. No differences were found in children’s individual acceptance ratings of the three types of seasoned carrots, or between the seasoned carrots and the salted carrot, but 41% of children selected the salted carrot as their favorite in a rank-order task. Children’s bitter sensitivity was assessed using a suprathreshold solution of 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP). Children did not consume significantly more carrots in either the Variety or the No Variety condition (36.5 ± 40.5 g and 35.9 ± 43.7 g, respectively; T = 0.15, P = 0.88) when directly comparing differences in grams. Carrot intake at the two conditions was also adjusted into a proportion of total carrots consumed at both meals, in order scale significant differences relative to children’s individual intakes rather than the total weight of carrots served. The proportion of carrots consumed at each meal were not statistically different (P = 0.58), but there was a significant interaction between meal condition and PROP status (F1,40 = 5.16, P = 0.03). PROP tasters consumed relatively more carrots in the Variety condition, while PROP nontasters had the opposite response. It is possible that PROP tasters were better able to discriminate the differences between the seasoned carrots in the Variety condition. These findings suggest that seasoning vegetables with a variety of herbs and spices may be an effective strategy to increase vegetable intake in PROP tasters. Once replicated, this form of targeted intervention could be particularly helpful because PROP tasters tend to consume fewer vegetables than nontasters. These results also suggest that PROP status may influence sensory specific satiety and affect an individual’s response to flavor variety. More work is needed to clarify the role of individual herbs and spices on flavor perception and to determine what levels of spice can be used to optimize acceptance.