Monsters don’t eat broccoli – a pilot and feasibility study on play and food acceptance in preschoolers

Monsters don’t eat broccoli – a pilot and feasibility study on play and food acceptance in preschoolers poster

Research Authorship:

Briana Lopez B.A., Kimberly Ciccone, Raúl Ortiz, Ahna Parker, Anita Fuglestad Ph.D.

Faculty Mentor:

Dr. Anita Fuglestad | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Psychology


It is common for preschool children to demonstrate neophobia, the fear of trying new foods, which can make them more reluctant to accept fruits and vegetables. As a result, many parents struggle to find adequate solutions to promote healthy eating. The aim of this pilot study was to assess the feasibility of using pretend play in preschool children to improve food acceptance. Children from the UNF preschool were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: the control group with no pretend play (n= 15), and the experimental group with pretend play (n=12). Each group first participated in a play session where they were exposed to their assigned conditions. Children were then offered broccoli. Their acceptance of the broccoli was evaluated by the amount eaten (by weight), behavior coding, and self-report. Preliminary results will be presented, and the feasibility of this work will be discussed. Data from this pilot study will be used to refine the pretend play manipulations and to design larger-scale studies. The goal of this line of research is to help parents establish healthy eating habits with their children through positive experiences in accepting new foods.

6 thoughts on “Monsters don’t eat broccoli – a pilot and feasibility study on play and food acceptance in preschoolers”

  1. Michaela Tashjian

    What a fun poster! I’m going to have try out the Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli book.

    1. Thank you so much. We thoroughly enjoyed the work we have done so far and look forward to how we will advance this research in the future!

  2. Katherine Hooper

    That looks like a fun study to do. Was the broccoli raw or cooked?
    I think a major reason that kids don’t like broccoli is that it’s a little bitter and they have small tongues and more (and/or more dense) taste buds. Therefore, their experience is different than ours. It really does taste more bitter to them than it does to us. That’s why we usually grow out of our hatred for broccoli. I find that letting my kids dip it in Ranch dressing helps a lot.

    1. Hello Dr. Hooper,

      Thank you! It was a very fun study! We used raw broccoli.

      The odd texture/flavor of broccoli combined with fear of trying new foods definitely makes things challenging for kids. After testing, we did offer the remaining broccoli to children to avoid wasting the food and many enjoyed it more once they were able to dip it in whatever was available (sunflower butter, ranch etc…).

      Glad you enjoyed the poster!

  3. Jeff Chamberlain

    Fascinating. I wish I knew this when I was raising my daughter!! Now I’m wondering if we did any behavioral coding. Thanks for your great work!

    1. Hello Dr Chamberlain! I’m sure you did! If only you would’ve kept track somewhere…

      Thank you very much, we really enjoyed this project!

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