Predicting children’s fussiness with vegetables: the role of feeding practices

Vegetables are commonly rejected by children, making it is important to consider factors which are associated with children’s fussiness with vegetables. The current study aimed to investigate whether fussiness with vegetables is associated with a number of factors including: caregiver and child vegetable consumption; caregivers’ general feeding practices; and caregivers’ vegetable-specific feeding practices. Caregivers (N=297) of preschool children completed questionnaire measures of their child’s fussiness with vegetables, as well as several caregiver and child factors hypothesised to be associated with children’s fussiness with vegetables. Findings indicate that children who are fussier with vegetables consume a smaller quantity of vegetables and almost all have caregivers who eat a smaller quantity of vegetables. Children’s fussiness with vegetables was not significantly related to any general feeding practices used by caregivers. However, children’s fussiness with vegetables was significantly associated with the use of several vegetable specific feeding practices. Caregivers of fussier children used more encouragement/pressure to eat with vegetables (r=0.14, p=0.01), hid vegetables within other foods more often (r=0.30, p=<0.01), used more food rewards for vegetable consumption (r=0.19, p<0.01), more other rewards for vegetable consumption (r=0.21, p<0.01) and compromised more when feeding vegetables (r=0.14, p=0.01). These findings suggest that rather than caregivers’ general feeding practices being related to children’s fussiness with vegetables, the specific feeding practices used when vegetables are rejected are more significant. It may therefore be helpful to develop advice for caregivers about which feeding practices to avoid when faced with a child who is fussy about eating vegetables.