Scholarly article on topic 'A systematic review of types of healthy eating interventions in preschools'

A systematic review of types of healthy eating interventions in preschools Academic research paper on "Health sciences"

Share paper
Academic journal
Nutrition Journal
OECD Field of science

Academic research paper on topic "A systematic review of types of healthy eating interventions in preschools"

Mikkelsen et al. Nutrition Journal 2014,13:56 http://www.nutritionj.eom/content/13/1/56


REVIEW Open Access

A systematic review of types of healthy eating interventions in preschools

Mette V Mikkelsen, Sofie Husby, Laurits R Skov and Federico JA Perez-Cueto*


Background: With the worldwide levels of obesity new venues for promotion of healthy eating habits are necessary. Considering children's eating habits are founded during their preschool years early educational establishments are a promising place for making health promoting interventions.

Methods: This systematic review evaluates different types of healthy eating interventions attempting to prevent obesity among 3 to 6 year-olds in preschools, kindergartens and day care facilities. Studies that included single interventions, educational interventions and/or multicomponent interventions were eligible for review. Included studies also had to have conducted both baseline and follow-up measurements.

A systematic search of the databases Scopus, Web of Science, CINAHL and PubMed was conducted to identify articles that met the inclusion criteria. The bibliographies of identified articles were also searched for relevant articles. Results: The review identified 4186 articles, of which 26 studies met the inclusion criteria. Fifteen of the interventions took place in preschools, 10 in kindergartens and 1 in another facility where children were cared for by individuals other than their parents. Seventeen of the 26 included studies were located in North America, 1 in South America, 5 in Asia, and 3 in a European context.

Healthy eating interventions in day care facilities increased fruit and vegetable consumption and nutrition related knowledge among the target groups. Only 2 studies reported a significant decrease in body mass index.

Conclusions: This review highlights the scarcity of properly designed healthy eating interventions using clear indicators and verifiable outcomes. The potential of preschools as a potential setting for influencing children's food choice at an early age should be more widely recognised and utilised.

Keywords: Preschool, Kindergarten, Healthy eating, Intervention, Obesity, Vegetable consumption


The worldwide prevalence of overweight and obesity among preschool children has increased from 4.2% (95% CI: 3.2%, 5.2%) in 1990 to 6.7% (95% CI: 5.6% - 7.7%) in 2010 and is expected to increase even further to 9.1% (95% CI: 7.3 - 10.9) in 2020 [1]. This increase is disturbing due to the accompanying social, psychological and health effects and the link to subsequent morbidity and mortality in adulthood [2,3].

Considering the consequences of overweight and obesity on both a personal and societal level, healthier eating habits among children should be promoted as one of the actions to prevent overweight and obesity in future

* Correspondence:

Development of Planning and Development, Research group for Meal science and Public Health Nutrition - MENU, University of Aalborg, A.C. Meyers Vaenge 15, Copenhagen SV 2450, Denmark

Bio Med Central

generations. The most common place for health promotion among children has previously been in the school setting mostly with children aged 6 to 12 years-old. But, there are promising findings in interventions targeting infants and 5-year-olds, although there is an underrepre-sentation of interventions and research within this age group [4]. Most of these interventions have been taking place in early education establishments for 3-6 year-olds like preschools in the U.S. or kindergartens as they are called outside the U.S. as well as daycare facilities, where children are nursed by a childcare giver in a private home. In this setting children consume a large number of their meals and may consume up to 70% of their daily nutrient intake [5]. These captive settings present a venue for intervention because institutional catering may be designed in such a way that nutritional guidelines are

© 2014 Mikkelsen et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, anc reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Mikkelsen et al. Nutrition Journal 2014,13:56 http://www.nutritionj.eom/content/13/1/56

followed, resulting in an adequate food intake [6] and improved food choices later in life [7]. The objectives of the early educational establishments are often to teach and develop the child's opportunities and skills that will prepare them for a better future [8] and many of the previous interventions have either focused on developing food preferences among children often by exposure or with nutritional educational interventions or with a combination of these two approaches. Previous reviews have included intervention studies that evaluated the outcomes of dietary educational interventions versus control on changes in BMI, prevalence of obesity, rate of weight gain and other outcomes like reduction in body fat, but as stated previously this did not yield a sufficient number of studies to provide recommendations for practice [4,9]. The Toybox study

[10] has published a number of reviews about several aspects of health promotion efforts for pre-schoolers including the assessments tools of energy-related behaviours used in European obesity prevention strategies

[11], the effective behavioural models and behaviour change strategies underpinning preschool and school-based prevention interventions aimed at 4-6-year-olds

[12]. They also published a narrative review of psychological and educational strategies applied to young children's eating behaviour in order to reduce the risk of obesity and found that there was potential for exposure and rewards studies to improve children's eating habits

[13]. None of the recent published studies have included both interventions that include both exposure or meal modification and educational interventions and multicom-ponent interventions that combine both approaches. With the exception of [13] all the previous reviews include physical activity and although this is an important factor in obesity prevention, many interventions do only focus on nutritional education and is as such excluded from previous reviews.

The objective of this article is to review published literature on healthy eating interventions in day care facilities and analyse the effectiveness of different strategies in relation to their influence on children's food choice at an early age. Based on findings, this article also provides recommendations for future interventions.


A systematic search for literature using four databases (PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science and CINAHL) was carried out. The search strategy was based on a careful selection of keywords and clear, pre-established criteria for inclusion of studies.

Inclusion criteria

Included studies were intervention studies with the objective of treating or preventing the occurrence of obesity by influencing preschool children's eating habits. As a

prerequisite for inclusion, the healthy eating interventions had to take place in institutions and had to have taken both baseline and follow-up measurements. Although it is acknowledged that physical activity interventions are important and should not be disregarded, this study focuses solely on healthy eating interventions. Only studies targeting children aged 3 to 6 years were included as it is this age group that predominantly attends early education facilities. Since early education and school systems vary from country to country, it was decided to include all interventions in day care facilities if the mean age was between 3 to 6 years old. Children in included studies also had to be healthy at initial baseline measurement, although obese children were included in order to recognize the already existing prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and the necessity to acknowledge treatment of this particular target group. Interventions that focused on diet, nutrition, food, eating or meals in day care facilities were included. Due to the importance of environmental factors in children's acquirement of healthy eating habits, interventions including kitchen employees and childcare givers in day care facilities were also included. As the review concerns itself with the effectiveness of different interventional strategies, the types of interventions were categorized into single component interventions, educational components, and multicomponent interventions that aiming to promote healthy eating habits and counteract obeso-genic actions in children attending day care facilities.

The review included studies measuring biological, an-thropometric and attitudinal outcomes: body mass index, z-scores for height and weight, waist to height measurements, serum cholesterol levels, skin-fold measurements or prevalence of overweight and obesity in the sample population, as well as food consumption patterns, knowledge and attitude towards foods and liking and willingness to try new food.

Exclusion criteria

Research into weight loss of obese children and any interventions involving children with special needs or who were chronically sick and required on-going counselling, such as patients with diabetes or heart disease, were excluded from the review. Studies taking place in nursery, primary or elementary schools were also excluded when the mean age was either younger than 3 years or older than 6 years old. Interventions targeting parents of preschool children and descriptive articles about pre-schoolers behaviour, knowledge and consumption were also excluded. Lastly, studies including a physical activity component were excluded unless the dietary component was clearly separated from the physical activity intervention during implementation and analysis.

Mikkelsen et al. Nutrition Journal 2014,13:56 http://www.nutritionj.eom/content/13/1/56

Conducting the search

Literature for the review was obtained using a systematic search conducted during spring 2014 with relevant literature published up to and including the search period. A meta-analysis was intended, however due to a lack of sufficient data, a meta-analytical comparison was difficult to deploy.


The databases Scopus, Web of Science, CINAHL and PubMed databases were used for the literature search. The search was restricted to articles written in English, German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish as these were the language capabilities present in the reviewing group. The filter for research involving humans only was activated and the search was conducted to obtain articles published between 1980 and 2014.

The search strategy was created using relevant terms describing settings, possible inputs in an intervention and possible outputs of an intervention. The search terms were refined a number of times in order to optimize the selection of articles, without compromising with the sensitivity of the search in order to take into account the vast number of articles published on the topic of children and obesity. The keywords can be found in Table 1.

Data management

The search hits were downloaded and saved in the databases. A total of 4186 papers were identified and screened on the basis of titles and abstracts by the first author, who has experience within a preschool venue, leaving 66 papers for further enquiries. Reference lists from the systematic review were scanned in order to identify interventions in kindergartens and preschools that the previous search had been unable to detect. Altogether, 10 papers were identified. After removing repeated studies and articles, 47 full text papers were retrieved through the library service at University of Aalborg, campus Copenhagen.

The 47 remaining papers were read independently by three reviewers in order to verify that they met the inclusion criteria. 33 papers were excluded as a consequence primarily because they did not publish results, solely was targeted parents or were descriptive in nature. The reviewing process resulted in 26 papers left for analysis. Figure 1 contains an overview of the search process.

Data collection and analysis

Selection of studies Articles identified in the literature search were read by the first author and divided between three reviewers for further evaluation and was debated in meetings with all three reviewers present.

For each of the located interventions, the following was extracted: aim of the study, setting where 3-6 year-olds were cared for by others than their parents, study design, characteristics of the target group, sampling methods, sample size, ethnicity, and theoretical background. Furthermore; duration, content and delivery mechanism of the intervention was extracted, as well as information about the control group, random allocation to control or treatment and whether there was information missing from the article.

Quality assessment

The quality of the identified studies was assessed using a rating scheme from * (weak) to **** (very strong). The studies were rated according to the level of information available, study design, risk of bias, study population and study duration. The quality rating scheme was adapted from the Cochrane guidelines on quality assessment [14]. Table 2 illustrates definition and explanation of the research design rating scheme. Each included study was rated independently among the three first authors (MVM, SH & LRS) with strong inter-rater reliability and disputes over assessment were settled through discussion.


The 26 studies that the literature search resulted in were divided into 8 single intervention studies, 11 educational interventions and 7 multicomponent studies. The single intervention studies involved the modification of a single factor in the environment in order to promote fruit or vegetable intake and preferences in children. Educational interventions were carried out in the kindergartens, either by teachers that had undergone a teaching program or by nutritional educators provided by the research program and aiming to increase children's knowledge of healthy eating. Multicomponent interventions included more than one strategy to influence eating behaviour.

Table 3 shows the characteristics of the studies.

Table 1 Keywords for literature search




Kindergarten, preschool, day care facilities, nursery

cooking ability, skill, or competence, food and nutrition literacy, curriculum or syllabus, teaching, taste development, food and mealpolicies, legislation or regulations or farm to fork or plate, garden farm or visits; food and taste education

BMI, body mass index, diabetes, skinfold, weight and height, and intervention, food neophobia and neophilia, food and mealpreferences including liking, willingness to try, knowledge, food consumption or intake

Mikkelsen et al. Nutrition Journal 2014,13:56 http://www.nutritionj.eom/content/13/1/56

Figure 1 Flowchart of the study selection process.

Populations studied

Altogether, 17 of the 26 included studies were North American, three of the studies were carried out in Asia, five in a European context and one study was conducted in South America. Thirteen of the interventions took place in preschools, 10 in kindergartens and three in other facilities where 3 to 6 year-olds were cared for by others than their parents.

Ethnicity and socio-demographic characteristics of participants

The majority of the single interventions was from the USA and included Caucasians. The educational interventions did not present a clear picture of any tendencies. All of the American multicomponent interventions were targeted towards low-income families or families from African-American or Latino backgrounds. The European interventions targeted children from middleclass families.

We identified eleven interventions consisting of nutritional educational programs carried out either by teachers in the kindergarten, individuals that had undergone a training program or by nutritional educators provided by the research project.

Seven multicomponent interventions included educational activities for the children and delivered similarly to the educational activities described previously. The multicomponent interventions also encompassed other activities like availability of fresh water and fruits and in some cases vegetables [8,36,39] the children participation in growing their own vegetables [22,37], newsletters for parents [36,41], food modifications in the canteen [42] and healthy school policies [41]. A detailed description of the interventions can be found in Table 3.

Table 4 shows the quality assessment and outcomes of interventions.


Of the single intervention studies identified the majority [10,17-20,22] made modifications to the serving of vegetables, serving either novel or non-preferred vegetables and looked at the effect on vegetable preferences as well as whether peer-models had an influence on the children's intake during lunch.

Table 2 Quality rating scheme

The study design of included studies

Fourteen of the 26 studies included in this review were randomized controlled studies or cluster randomized controlled trials. Nine quasi-experimental designed studies were found primarily as single or educational intervention [20-23,29,32-34,42]. Only one study used a crossover design as control [19], but neither the sampling method nor

Rating Definition Study description Design & methods

* Weak Many details missing (three or more of the following: setting, intervention design, duration, intensity, population or statistical analysis) irrelevant design or methods Methodologicalflaws (in statisticalmethods used or design of intervention) or the intervention was in a non-naturalenvironment i.e. food laboratory

** Moderate One or two details missing Smallsample size (<50) or short duration (<one week)

*** Strong One or two details missing Larger sample size or longer duration

**** Very Strong Clearly presented with alldetails provided Larger sample size or longer duration and at least one of the following criteria: population randomly allocated or matched for intervention or control, generalizable results, or validated dietary assessment

Adapted from Seymour et al. [15]. Table 2 showing the standars for quality rating of the studies.

Aim of study


Age Ethnicity (years)

Detailed description of the intervention

Theoretical foundation

Single intervention Bannon et al.; [16]

Birch et al.; [17]

Harnack et al.; [19]

Hendy; [20]

Leahy et al.; [21]

The purpose of the study was to develop and test a commercial for apples on kindergarten children's snack choice.

The influence of peer models' food selections and eating behaviours on preschoolers' food preferences was investigated.

O'Connell et al.; [18]

Kindergarten 5 in Elementary school (USA)


92% Caucasian

4% African- American 4% Hispanic

87% Caucasians. 8% African American 5% Asians, Middleclass families

The trialtested the hypotheses that children who are served unfamiliar vegetables repeatedly in the preschool lunch setting willincrease consumption of them, and that consumption willbe influenced by peer eating behaviours and parentalfeeding behaviours.

To evaluate the effects on serving vegetables first or together with the mealon fruit, vegetables and energy intake among preschoolers.

The purpose of the study was to examine the effectiveness of trained peer models to increase food acceptance of preschool children and the test whether the same gender would be the most effective.

To test the effect of reducing the energy density of an entrée on children's ad libitum intake.

Preschool (USA)

Preschool (USA)

Preschool (USA)

Preschools, (USA)

4-52 Caucasians: 69% Asian 8%

African-American: 5% Hispanic: 6%. Other: 12%

From highly educated households. Missing Not stated

3-62 90% Caucasians

8% African American 2% Hispanic

3,91 Caucasians: 69%

Asian: 27%

African-American: 4%

90% of the mothers and 85% of fathers reported having at least a 4-year university degree

The children were shown 60 s videos with either 1 positive gain-framed video; 1 negative loss-framed video; 1 control video prior to apple/animalcrackers eating.

A target child who preferred vegetable A to B was seated with 3 or 4 peers with opposite preference patterns. 17 situations were arranged. Children were served their preferred and non-preferred vegetable pairs at lunch and asked to choose 1. On day 1 the target child chose first, while on days 2, 3, and 4 peers chose first.

Serving of unfamiliar vegetables repeatedly in a preschoollunch setting 10 times during a 6 week period. Influence of between child variability and thus peer influence.

Meal service strategy: serving vegetables first, compared with serving all food items at the same time compared with control (no change). Every strategy was implemented in two weeks.

Three novel foods presented during the preschool meal. 16 children were trained by their teachers to serve as peer models and given toy reinforcement.

Children were served two version of a macaroni and cheese dish with the same palatability; one was energy dense and the other calorie-reduced. Each version was served 3 times.

Not stated

Not stated

Not stated

Not stated

Socialcognitive theory.

Not stated

Noradilah; [22] The objective of this study was to Kindergartens 5-62

determine the effects of multiple (Malaysia)

exposures to the acceptance of a targeted vegetable among Malay preschoolers.

Ramsey; [23]

Educational intervention

Baskale et al.; [24]

Cason KL; [25]

Cespedes; [26]

The objective of this study was to compare kindergarteners' intake of food from a school lunch meal when they are pre-served a larger entrée portion to when they are allowed tO choose from three preplated entrée portion sizes.

The purpose was to develop and implement a program based upon Piaget's theories. It also determined the average levels of knowledge children would have about nutrition following the program would be different in terms of group, group time, whether there would be any differences in food consumption frequencies between the study and the control group and whether there would be changes in anthropometric measurements of the children.

The objective of the educational program were to enable preschool children to identify nutritious snack foods, identify and name vegetables, increase willingness to try novel vegetables, help to prepare and consume nutritious foods using developmentally appropriate practices and acquire behaviours that contribute to nutritionally sound food choice and a healthy lifestyle.

The objective was to implement and evaluate a nutritional and physical activity educational intervention in preschools.

Kindergartens 2-72 (USA)

Nursery schools (Turkey)

Preschool 4,4 (USA)

Preschools 3,7, (Colombia)

The majority of the fathers of the subjects (89.2%) had education up to secondary school, were self-employed (59.5%) and had monthly incomes of below RM1500 (91.9%). Meanwhile, the majority of the mothers were housewives (73%) with secondary education level (86.5%).

Not stated

The children were exposed to three exposures of round cabbage in the kindergarten setting. The test vegetable had been decided upon based on questionnaire data from the parents. The parents served the vegetable at home once in order to determine the child's liking of round cat

Not stated

A portion size of 4 chicken nuggets was Not stated the standard amount offered to the kindergarteners before the study. In the study they were given the choice to self-select smaller entrée portion sizes of 2, 3 and 4 nuggets.

Different socio-economic layers, but the Activities were carried out once a week Piaget's cognitive groups were not significantly different. by a nurse educator in the course of development theory

6 weeks. The sessions were carried out in the children's classroom and the lengths were 20-30 minutes. The themes were the food pyramid, variation of fruits and vegetables, and healthy bones.

Parents in both intervention and contra group were given nutrition education in 1 V2 -2 hours.

63% African Americans 37% Caucasians

A theory-based curriculum of 12 lessons of 40 minutes every second week developed for preschool children, the core topics of healthy snacking, fruit and vegetables identification, and the Food Guide Pyramid.

Multiple intelligence theory.

Low-income: 58% Middle-income: 42%

Children were provided educational and interactive classroom activities throughout 5 months (1 hour daily). Parents participated in 3 workshops and weekly healthy messages were distributed. Teachers participated in 3 centralised workshops and 2 hourly personalised sessions every 14 days. Teachers also received a guidebook.

Social cognitive theory and the trans-theoretical model

Gorelick et al.; [27] To develop a developmentally age Preschools 3-52

appropriate educational curriculum and (USA) assess the success of the project curricular objectives.

Hu et al.; [28] To evaluate the impact of nutrition Kindergarten 4-62

education in kindergartens and to (China)

promote healthy dietary habits in preschool children.

Johnson SL; [29] Objective was to investigate whether children could be taught to focus on internal cues of hunger and satiety and consequently improve their self-regulation of energy intake.

Nemet; [30,31] To examine the effects of a randomized

school-based intervention on nutrition and physical activity knowledge and preferences, anthropometric measures and fitness in low socioeconomic children.

Preschool (USA)

Kindergarten 3-6 (Israel)

Parcel et al.; [32] To evaluate the impact of a health Preschool

curriculum on educational and (USA)

behavioural outcomes

Piziak V; [33] The purpose was to test the

effectiveness of a bilingual nutrition game to increase the servings of healthful foods particular vegetables, fruit and water offered to children and decrease the servings of sugar sweetened beverages in the Head Start population.

Preschool (USA)

Primarily Caucasians Wide SES range

Low-income: 14% Middle-income: 57% High income: 29%

Primarily high socio economic population.

All kindergartens were situated in a low-socio economic area.

Not stated

The study took place at Head Start, a governmentally funded locally operated school for low-income families. Mexican-American: 57,3%

A kit with assessment instruments, fifty classroom activities, patterns to make materials for the classrooms lessons, a recipe book and two film strips. The educational curriculum was delivered by teachers.

Monthly nutrition education sessions were held over two semesters. The nutrition educational program consisted of a flexible curriculum for children and parents. An illustrated book to all children and pamphlets were delivered to parents. Two series of promotiona pictures providing information regarding nutrition were shown to the children.

Introduction of hunger through video and role-play with adults and dolls. Children were instructed before, during and after eating to attend to cues of hunger and satiation.

Three all-day seminars for teachers. Parents were invited for two health-day festivals. The nutritional intervention was designed mainly to improve nutritional knowledge and was delivered by preschool teachers. Monthly pamphlets with nutrition information were sent home via the children, who were asked to present the nutritional information to their parents.

Health education curriculum that was designed to teach selected age-appropriate types of behaviour that enables children to assume greater responsibility for their own health. The classes were taught everyday by a project employee, 1 teacher and 2 aides. The teachers additionally received two-three in-house training.

A pictorial nutrition education game played at class and during meals, the game lends itself to nutrition education. The cards and boards show colour images of culturally appropriate foods and the reverse side gives the name in English and Spanish which may also be used to improve reading skills.


developmental^ theory

Not stated

Not stated

Not stated

Social Learning theory

Not stated

Sirikulchaya-nonta To evaluate the use of food experience, Kindergarten 4-5 et al.; [34] multimedia, and role models for (Thailand)

promoting fruit and vegetable consumption.

Witt et al.; [35] Determine whether an interactive Child care 4-5

nutrition and physical activity program centres (USA) for preschool children increases fruit and vegetable consumption

Multicomponent Bayer et al.; [36]

The intervention focused on improving health behaviour on a daily basis in the day care setting, aiming at establishing a health promoting behaviour patterns that might also be maintained outside of the day care setting.

Kindergarten 3-6 (Germany)

Brouwer et al.; [37] The purpose of this study was to assess Childcare 4,8' the feasibility of a garden-based centres (USA)

intervention to promote fruit and vegetable intake among children attending childcare.

De Bock et al.; [38] To assess the short-term impact of a Kindergarten 4,2' nutritional intervention aimed at (Germany)

reducing childhood overweight in German pre-school children.

Not stated

Not stated

The program consisted of 11 activities of 30-40 minutes duration that presented information on health benefits of F&V as manner to improve familiarity with and acceptance of the concept. Teachers, peers, and parents were used as role models while eating together. A take-home letter was sent to the parents once.

The Color me healthy program was implemented for 6 weeks; 2 circle-time lessons and 1 imaginary trip were taught to children each week. The lessons were 15-30 minutes in duration.

Social Learning theory

Not stated

Children: German nationality: ntervention: 91,6 Control: 92,4%

Parents: Educational level medium -high:

ntervention: 73% Control: 71% Child care directors: 75% African American 50% College degree. Children:

All centres had children from low-income families

Without immigrant background: 65% With immigrant background: 32% Maternal educational level: Low: 16% Middle: 56% High: 21% Missing: 7%

A behavioural intervention programme using a box-set with activities for kindergarten teachers. Included 2 day training session for KG teachers and a hotline for additional advice. Newsletters for parents was provided and availability of fruit, vegetables and water as well. An internet platform with additiona information was established.

A garden-based intervention with a structured curriculum for child-care providers, consultations by a gardener, and technical assistance from a health educator. The curriculum included an overview module followed by monthly modules designed around a specific crop.

A nutritional intervention, consisting of fifteen 2 hours sessions once weekly over a period of 6 months. Ten modules only targeted children, another five parents and children or parents exclusively. Intervention activities consisted of familiarizing with different food types and preparation methods as well as cooking and eating meals together in groups of children, teachers and parents. Availability of fruit, vegetables and water was increased.

Not stated

Not stated

Social Learning theory and Zajonc' Exposure theory as well as the RE-AIM framework for the process evaluation

re oo o

Hammond et al.; [39] To evaluate the impact of an early Kindergarten 52

childhood nutrition education program (CAN) on kindergarten students familiarity with and stated willingness-to-try 16 test foods

Hoffman et al.; [40] The purpose of this study was to Kindergarten 62

examine the impact of a multi-year, (USA) multicomponent school-based F&V consumption during school lunch.

Vereecken et al.; [41]

To develop and assist Belgian preschools in the implementation of a healthy school policy and evaluate the impact of the intervention in children's food consumption.

Preschools |ium)

Williams et al.; [42]

To evaluate the effects on a preschool Preschools nutrition education and food service (USA) intervention

1Mean; 2Range.

Cultural inheritance:

ntervention: Canadian/British/English: 59% Other: 41 %

Control: Canadian/British/English: 81% Other: 19%

Experimental group: African-American: 29% Latino: 41% Asian: 24% Caucasian: 3% Other: 2% Control:

African-American: 36%

Latino: 51%

Asian: 0%

Caucasian: 4%

Other: 9%

ntervention: Education low: 60% Education medium: 22% Education high: 18% Control: Education low: 57% Education medium: 26% Education high: 17%

Minority, primarily African-American: 67% Latino: 33% The majority lived in families with annual income below poverty lines.

Nutrition Educational Program that Not stated

includes 4 steps; food introduction

activities, cooking, journal keeping

activity, and communication between

child and parents

Multi-year, multi-component fruit and vegetable promotion program, that included school-wide, classroom, lunchroom and family components to promote F & V consumption with an emphasis on F&V in the school lunch. Program components were designed to capture students' attention and to increase retention of nutrition information using influential role models and deliver consistent messages across the setting.

A two-days training was given to school staff. An educational package, including an educational map for the teachers, an educative story and educational materia was developed. Food messages and newsletters directed at the school staff and parents were made available.

There was two intervention types; 1 Not stated

with food service modification and

nutrition education and 1 with food

service modification and safety

education. The nutrition education

segment included a curriculum. The

food service modification consisted of

help to decrease the consumption of

total and saturated fat.

Social Learning theory

ntervention Mapping

Study design

Sampling n Duration Limitations

Quality1 Main target behaviour

Primary and secondary outcomes

Single intervention Bannon et al.; [16]

Convenience 50 3 d

Birch LL; [17]


O'Connell et al.; [18]


Harnack et al.; [19]

Hendy H; [20]

Randomized Not stated


53 6 w


No controlling for internal measurement bias.

Short time between exposure and controlconditions.

Smallsample size

Short duration of intervention (3x60 s.)

No control

No data on allocation short duration of exposure

Smallsample size.

Sampling methodology not stated. ** Not enough time between exposure/controlconditions.

Smallsample size

Not Duration not stated



Food preference questionnaire.

Healthy Food questionnaire (children circled the food they thought were healthy).

Snack choice between an apple or a snack


Food preferences were assessed

Food intake of the test vegetables

Children: Willingness to try new vegetables.


Anthropometric measures

Food and nutrient intake during lunch.


Number of bites taken of the novelfoods

Food preference

Mothers: Information on height, weight, age.

The children viewing the gain-framed and loss framed videos were significantly more likely to choose apples than controls. Among the children who saw one of the nutrition message videos, 56% chose apples rather than animalcrackers; in the control condition only 33% chose apples.

Vegetable preference increased significantly from day 1 to 4.

The totalconsumption of vegetables decreased during the 4 days, but they stillate the non-preferred food item. Young children were more affected than older children by peer modelling.

Repeated exposure did not increase vegetable consumption.

Greater consumption by tablemates was a significant predictor of greater vegetable consumption. 1 gr. of peer intake was associated with roughly 1/ 5 gr. Intake among the subjects.

Fruit intake was significantly higher with serving style 1

Vegetables intake did not appear to

The study found an effect on food acceptance, but the effect had disappeared after 1 month.

The children serving as peer models rated their food preferences for the novelfood higher than the observers.



Leahy et al.; [21] Quasi Convenience 77 6 d No contra

Noradilah; [22] Quasi Convenience, 37 3 d The sample size is small and the

but randomly duration short. Liking was assessed

assigned to by parents


Ramsey; [23] Quasi Not stated 235 5 d No individual data. Short duration

No control conditions Sampling conditions are not stated

Educational intervention

Bajkale et al.; [24] RCT Convenience 115 6w High drop-out rate (50%+). No

evaluation of parent part of intervention.


Preference assessment of the two dishes

Height and weight.

Lunch intake of the two different dishes.


Child feeding questionnaire Socio-demographic variables. Children:

Food intake of the test vegetable

Parents: Liking of the test vegetable

A questionnaire was developed to obtain information on the usual preparation methods of vegetables, frequency of vegetables served and consumed by children at home

Children: Food intake at lunch. The food intake was on canteen level, not at an individual level.

<decreasing the energy density of the entrée by 30% significantly decreased children's energy intake by 25% and total lunch intake by 18%. Children consumed significantly more of the lower-energy-dense version.

The liking scores were significantly higher after the intervention. Consumption of the test vegetable significantly increased from 21.58 to 28.26 on the 3rd day. The effect was especially evident among girls.

Children's intake of chicken nuggets was greater when they were not given a choice of nugget portion size. Demonstrating that serving larger portion sizes in preschools increase children's intake of them.

Children: Body Mass Index Mid-upper arm circumference Nutrition knowledge. Parents:

Demographic data Food consumption of children

Children's nutritional knowledge increased significantly compared to control group.

Healthy food consumption increase significantly in milk, yoghurt, white meat and green leafy vegetables. No anthropometric differences.

Cason KL; [25] P/P Convenience. 6102 24 w No control or comparison group

Cespedes; [26] Cluster RCT Randomly 1216 5 m

Gorelick et al.; [27] RCT Convenience 187 6 w

Hu et al.; [28] RCT Randomly 2102 10 m Educational intervention not

theoretically founded

Johnson SL; [29]

Quasi Convenience 25 6 w Small sample size No control Short

exposure time


Knowledge and attitude pictoria questionnaire.

Parents: Children's eating habits and food attitudes.

Food frequency questionnaire and pictorial assessment of food likes.

Children: Height and weight Knowledge and attitude scores.

Nutritional status


Parental knowledge and attitudes.


Identification of bread, fruits and vegetables

Food classification of bread, fruits and vegetables.

Food preparation

Food choices


Nutrition-related eating behaviours.

Nutrition knowledge

Attitudes to the factors they considered important when arranging their children's dietary habits. Food frequency questionnaire

Children: Height and weight.

Children: Compensation index based on baseline food intake data. Anthropometric data.

Subjects showed significant improvement in food identification and recognition, healthy snack identification, willingness to taste food, and frequency of fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy consumption.

Children showed significantly changes in knowledge and attitudes. Parents showed statistically significant, but minor changes in knowledge, attitudes and habits. More children were eutrophic after the intervention.

The outcomes were fruit identification; vegetable identification; bread identification; vegetables classification; fruit classification; matching; tooth brushing; hand washing; food preparation; food choices and there was a significant improvement over the course of the project. Older children scored higher than the younger ones.

No significant difference in anthropometrics but difference in children's unhealthy diet related behaviours and parents attitudes and knowledge between intervention and control.

Food intake was measured and showed that children had improved their ability to compensate their energy intake according to the energy density of food offered. The intervention did not have an effect on BMI.

Nemet; [30,31] RCT Not stated 725 1 y Sampling methodology not stated

Frequency of nutritional education not stated.

ntervention not theoretically founded

Parcel et al.; [32] Quasi Convenience 173 4 y Allocation process is missing. Lack

of transparency in changes of the sample throughout the study.

Lack of information on validation

Piziak V; [33] Quasi Convenience 413 1y No contra

Sampling methodology not stated

ntervention not theoretically founded

Lack of information regarding intervention group.

Lack of information of intervention group Small sample size.

Sirikulchayanonta et al.; [34] Quasi Random 26 8 w

selected school, but convenient chosen class

Children: Weight and height. Nutritional knowledge and preferences using a photo-elicitated questionnaire.

Mothers: Health values, health behaviour in the home.

Children: Health locus of control.

Preferences for health and safety behaviour

Teachers: Observation of children regarding health and safety behaviour.

Parents: Food frequency questionnaire.

Significant increase in nutritional and physical activity knowledge and preference

Significant decrease in number of overweight children.

Significant improvement in fitness

No sign in BMI percentiles, but 32% from overweight to normal weight.

At follow-up after 1 year with 206 children BMI and BMI percentiles were significantly lower in the intervention group compared to control. Nutritional knowledge and preferences remained significantly elevated in the intervention group compared to the control.

No evidence of effect on fruit consumption as a replacement for candy according to parent self-reporting. However, there was strong evidence of less candy eating among the health curriculum group compared to the control according to teacher observation. No evidence of increased variety in food for lunch.

There was a significant increase in vegetables served outside the preschools both on weeks and in weekends.

Parents: Demographic variables

Family F&V vegetables consumption behaviour.

Changes in the children eating behaviour after the intervention

Children: F&V behaviour at lunch time in respect to kinds and amounts consumed.

The use of food experience, multimedia and role models were effective in increasing F&V consumption

Witt et al.; [35] RCT Not stated 263 6 w Sampling methodology not stated.

The parental data at follow-up was only at 14%, which was insufficient to make substantive conclusions.

Mult! component intervention

Bayer et al.; [36] Cluster RCT Randomly 1609 1y

Brouwer et al.; [37] RCT Randomly 16 4 m The intervention was carried out in

6 preschool, but only 3 children per class were evaluated causing a smal sample size, also the children were not the same at pre and post measurement

De Bock et aL; [38] Cluster RCT Convenience 348 6 m High dropout rate

Children: Food consumption of Strong evidence that the Color Me

F&V snacks.

Parents: Changes in children's F&V consumption at home.

Food frequency questionnaire

General health survey.

Healthy program increased F&V snack consumption among the intervention group compared to the contra group. There was a significant increase in consumption of fruit with 20,8% and with vegetable snacks with 33,1 %.

Parents: Children eating habits and food frequency data were examined using a questionnaire.

Anthropometrics (height, weight) and motoric testing of children were done at the yearly health examination offered to all children in the area of Bavaria.

Children: Structured dietary observation of food intake during meals and snack time in preschools.

Child care centres: Demographic variables including low-income children and ethnicity of child care directors.

Children: Height, weight, waist circumference, total body fat using skinfold measurement.

Parents: Questionnaire assessing multiple domains of behaviour including

Children's' eating behaviour and physical activity.

Food frequency questionnaire.

Socio-demographic information.

The program led to an increased proportion of children with high fruit and vegetable consumption after 6 months, which was sustainable with adjusted odds ratios of 1.59 (1.26: 2.01) and 1.48 (1.08:2.03) after 18 months. Subgroup analyses by gender, overweight and parenta education, performed in order to assess consistency of effects, showed similar results. Prevalence of overweight and obesity as well as motoric testing results were not statistically different between intervention and control groups.

Consumption increased with an additional 'A serving of vegetables, despite fewer vegetables being served.

Children's fruit and vegetable intakes increased significantly.

No significant changes in the consumption of water and sugared drinks were found.

No anthropometric measurements changes were found.

Hammond et al.; [39]

Convenience 123 7 m

Hoffman et al.; [40]

Convenience 297 1 y

Demographic difference between *** intervention and controlgroup.

Vereecken et al.; [41]

Convenience 476 6 m

Response rate is low 33%

Williams et al.; [42]

Convenience 787 6 m

No information about the allocation *** process.

Children: Interviews with children to test their familiarity.

Parents: Demographic variables

Children's willingness-to-eat.

Changes in the child's dietary habits over the school year.

Children: Awareness of the intervention

F&V preferences

Weighed plate waste during 3 lunches in the preschool cafeteria.

Height and weight

Caregiver/parents: Demographic variables

Parents: Food frequency questionnaire on their children's generalfood consumption.

Socio-demographic information

Questions relating to the school food policy. Teachers: Registration of food available for consumption.

Children: Dietary intake by observation during school and by interviewing the parents.

Weight and height

Familiarity with and stated willingness to eat 16 tested foods increased significantly.

Mentioning of exposure of foods in KG when requesting food at home more than doubled (reported by parents)

No difference in F&V preferences

Increase in fruit and vegetable intake at year 1, but at year 2 a difference was only found on fruit intake.

Increased fresh fruit intake among the intervention children, but the effect was only significant among parental reported fruit consumption. The increase was due to more available fruit at school.

Very strong evidence of a decreased relative risk of elevated cholesterol levels among children with elevated cholesterolat baseline in both food service modification groups. Furthermore, strong evidence of a decrease in total cholesterol in the two food service modification groups compared to the control group.

*See quality rating scheme in Table 2. Indicating: the the strength of the studies: *Weak, ** Moderate, *** Strong and **** Very strong.

Mikkelsen et al. Nutrition Journal 2014,13:56

the time between intervention and control were stated, making the control effect limited.

Sampling methods

Random sampling had been used in only five of the 26 studies as most of the studies were based on convenience sampling. Two studies combined random and convenience sampling [22,34]. Four studies did not describe the sampling method used [19,23,30,31,35].

Sample size

Sample sizes varied greatly between single interventions and the educational and multicomponent interventions. The mean sample size of the single component interventions was 78 and the mean sample size among the educational and multicomponent interventions were 1031 and 522. The mean sample size of all 26 studies was 601.

Main target behaviours

Food preferences, willingness-to-try novel foods and nutrient intake during lunch were the most used target behaviours in the single interventions. Not surprisingly knowledge and attitudes were the most used target behaviours in the educational interventions, but also consumption of target foods were evaluated using food frequency questionnaires answered by parents. The consumption of target foods were also evaluated in multicomponent studies, but here the intake was measured using observation by researchers or teachers in the setting, just as it was the case for single interventions. Anthropometric measurements of height and weight were applied across the studies, although they only happened in two single interventions [19,20], however it was only used to control for BMI in the statistical analysis. The multicomponent interventions included other anthropometric measures as well.

Duration of intervention

The single change interventions were relatively short in duration, lasting from 3 to 4 days and up to 6 weeks. The educational interventions with a smaller sample size lasted from 5 to 8 weeks and the studies involving a higher number of participants were of longer duration of between 10 months to 2 years. However, there were exceptions to this, including Cason [25] who evaluated a preschool nutrition program involving 6102 children over 24 weeks and Parcel et al., [32] who carried out a 4 year study targeting approximately 200 preschool children Hendy [20] failed to report their intervention duration. The duration of the multicomponent interventions was generally between 4 and 7 months and up to 1 year.

Theoretical foundations of interventions

16 of the 26 included interventions did not base their interventions on health behavioural theories. 6 of the

studies used Bandura's social cognitive theory or the related social learning theory. Piaget's developmental theory was used in 2 studies and others were the theory of multiple intelligences or Zajonc's exposure theory.

Information missing from articles

In the single interventions Hendy [20] failed to state the duration of their intervention and Ramsey et al. [23] did not mention their allocation process, however this was due to the study taking place at one canteen without individual data. Nemet et al. [30] and Witt et al. [35] failed to report their sampling process, which was quite surprising considering the high research rigour their studies otherwise presented.

The single interventions generally had small sample sizes, lacked controls and were of relatively short duration and with a short period of time in-between the exposure and follow-up measurements and. The majority of studies in both the educational and multicomponent intervention groups suffered from low response rates.

Effects of interventions

Single intervention Single exposure interventions failed to demonstrate a significant increase in vegetable consumption. Fruit intake was more easily influenced, however. Results also showed that younger children in particular were influenced by role models and that girls may be more promising role models than boys [17,18].

Educational intervention

None of the educational interventions resulted in a change in anthropometric measurements, with the exception of [30] who observed a significant decrease in children's BMI in the overweight children group who became normal weight. At follow-up after one year the BMI and BMI per-centiles were significantly lower in the intervention group compared to the control group. Promising results were also found in 6 of the studies where an increase in the consumption of fruit and vegetables was observed. However, none of these changes were significant at the 0.05 level, with the exception of [35], where a significant increase was found in the consumption of fruit by 20.8% and in vegetable snacks by 33.1%. Witt et al. [35] found a significant increase in vegetables served outside pre-schools, but this was based on mother's own food frequency data, which may have biased the results [33]. One of the major effects of the educational interventions was in the level of knowledge among its participants. For instance, the level of nutrition-related knowledge increased in two studies [24,30] and the identification of fruits and vegetables increased in two studies [25,27].

Mikkelsen et al. Nutrition Journal 2014,13:56 http://www.nutritionj.eom/content/13/1/56

Multicomponent interventions

Six of the multicomponent interventions showed a significant increase in fruit and vegetable consumption, but one found the effect only to be present on fruit consumption after follow-up after 1 year. None of the other studies found an effect on BMI, but one intervention resulted in a decrease in the relative risk of serum cholesterol among children [42]. Only one study [39] evaluated knowledge and found that familiarity with novel foods increased significantly.

Discussion and conclusions

This review finds that healthy eating interventions can influence the consumption of vegetables through different strategies. The studies acknowledged that a single exposure strategy was insufficient to increase vegetable consumption and that there needs to be an education component as well. This was supported by the fact that the over half of the educational interventions and six of the eight multicomponent interventions resulted in an increase in vegetable consumption. The increase in consumption was greater in the multicomponent studies which could indicate that the more comprehensive the intervention strategy, the more likely the intervention is to be successful.

The effectiveness of the interventions on anthropomet-ric change was more inconclusive, the single interventions did not include measures of BMI and considering how short the duration of their interventions were, it might also be difficult to find change in anthropometric measures. None of the other intervention types that did in fact use anthropometric measurements found an effect on BMI, with the exception of [31]. However Witt et al. [35] found an effect on serum cholesterol.

The educational and the majority of multicomponent interventions included an educational component and the former did find significant increases in nutrition related knowledge, but the multicomponent interventions did not evaluate intermediate effects of knowledge in addition to anthropometrics. This highlights the fact that multicomponent interventions should include measures on knowledge, when they include an educational component, particularly, because the duration of multicompo-nent interventions often was shorter than the pure educational interventions and anthropometric change is difficult to find during short intervention periods. A lack of follow-up in all of the interventions makes it difficult to conclude whether the observed effects were sustainable over time. With the exception of De Bock et al. [38] and Hoffman et al. [40] the multicomponent and even some of the educational intervention failed either to base or mention the theoretical foundations that they based their educational programmes on. This may be excused in the single interventions that base their studies on

empirical data from food choice development theories, but interventions aiming at delivering educational programmes should have some knowledge of health behavioural or educational theories that explains the process behind the success or failure of the implementation of their educational programs. This is again highlighted by the fact that process evaluations were only performed in three of the interventions and the evaluations consisted of either revision of the provided educational materials or checking the adherence to the program, but they did not focus on drivers or barriers behind the implementation of the interventions and thereby to increase the understanding of what made the intervention successful or unsuccessful.

Ethnicity and socio-demographic background play an important role in the development of eating habits and this should be taken into account so interventions are targeted towards those that need it the most. A setting-based approach can be an important intermediate for this, if it is applied to institutions where children of low-income families are nursed and educated. Several educational and multicomponent interventions were targeted towards institutions with children of low-income families and several of them e.g. Cespedes et al. [26], Vereecken et al. [41], and Williams et al. [42] had positive results especially on the consumption of fruits and vegetables that supports the notion of early education establishments as a potential setting to decrease inequalities in health.

Quality of the evidence

Overall the quality of the intervention studies became better the more comprehensive they were; the single intervention studies were generally of weak quality with small sample sizes, short durations and, in some cases, a lack of controls, which makes it difficult to generalize to a larger population, especially because they were mostly carried out among American Caucasians from families with high socio-economic status. The educational interventions were of better quality and with the largest populations, but still suffered from limitations like lack of consideration in the allocation process, in some cases lack of controls and high drop-out rates. The multicomponent interventions were the most well-designed studies, but also suffered from high drop-out rates and as mentioned above the effectiveness of the educational components were difficult conclude upon, because they failed to evaluate on knowledge. With the exception of Nemet et al. [31] there was a lack of follow-up evaluations that makes it difficult to state whether the outcomes of interventions are sustainable over time.

Author's conclusions

Implications for practice

The majority of interventions found promising results when targeting the consumption of healthy foods or when

Mikkelsen et al. Nutrition Journal 2014,13:56

attempting to increase children's knowledge of healthy eating, providing sufficient evidence in support of using pre-schools as a setting for the prevention of chronic disease by making behavioural and lifestyle changes. Interventions are more likely to be successful if they take actions on several levels into account.

Implications for research

This review supports the need for a longer follow-up of intervention studies in order to assess whether results will be sustainable and how they might influence children's eating habits later in life. Anthropometric measurements were included in some of the multicomponent interventions but as nutritional status measured as BMI does not change rapidly, interventions using BMI as the outcome measure should be of a longer duration or they should include other intermediate measures such as knowledge and consumption in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.

Parents may not always be aware of what their children consume outside of the home, or about their knowledge surrounding fruits and vegetables, particularly when children learn about food and healthy eating behaviour in their kindergartens. Even though many choices are made on behalf of the children by their parents at home, children today spend a reasonably large amount of time away from the home environment in day care facilities, together with playmates or cared by other members of family. As a result, a child's food choice is no longer restricted to being a sole family matter. Children's knowledge and awareness of food is also being influenced in pedagogical activities, in day care facilities or by talking to their peers. It would therefore be suitable to develop innovative data collection methods, ensuring that the children are able to express what they like to eat and what they know about a given food-related topic. Such innovative research methods should take the developmental stages of the children into account and could perhaps rely more heavily on pictures or on IT material.

The review found that healthy eating interventions in preschools could significantly increase fruit and vegetable consumption and nutrition-related knowledge among preschool children if the strategy used, is either educational or an educational in combination with supporting component. It further highlights the relative scarcity of properly designed interventions, with clear indicators and verifiable outcomes. Key messages are that preschools are a potentially important setting for influencing children's food choice at an early age and that there is still room for research in this field. Healthy eating promotion efforts have previously been focusing on schools, but within the last decade the focus have started to shift to pre-schoolers. This review synthesizes some of the interventions that promote healthy eating habits on early education establishments

using different strategies. The field of health promotion among this younger age group is still in its earlier stages, but future studies with thorough research designs are currently being undertaken like the Toybox study [10] and The Growing Health Study [43], the healthy caregivers-Healthy children [44] and the Program Si! [45]. These studies may improve our understanding of the effectiveness and underlying mechanisms behind successful implementation of healthy eating efforts in early education establishments.


• Healthy eating interventions in preschools were classified by their type.

• Comprehensive interventions were more likely to succeed in behaviour change, especially when targeting children of low-income families

• Preschools are a promising venue for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.

• Evaluations showed a positive increase in food-related knowledge.

• Properly designed interventions, with clear indicators and outcomes are scarce.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Authors' contributions

Allauthors were involved in the design of the review. MVM performed the literature search. MVM, SH, LRS read and rated the articles. MVM wrote the manuscript with the assistance of SH, LRS and FJPC edited the manuscript. Allauthors read and approved the finalmanuscript.

Received: 7 November 2013 Accepted: 14 May 2014 Published: 6 June 2014


1. De Onis M, Blossner M, Borghi E: Global prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity among preschool children. Am J Clin Nutr 2010, 92(5):1257—1264.

2. World Health Organization: Milestones in Health Promotion: Statements from Global Conferences. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2009.

3. World Health Organization: European Charter on Counteracting Obesity.WHO European Ministerial Conference on Counteracting Obesity, Istanbul, Turkey, 15-17 November 2006.Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2006.

4. Waters E, de Silva-Sanigorski A, Hall BJ, Brown T, Campbell KJ, Gao Y, Armstrong R, Prosser L, Summerbell CD: Interventions for preventing obesity in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011, 12:00.

5. Mikkelsen BE: Images of foodscapes: Introduction to foodscape studies and their application in the study of healthy eating out-of-home environments. Perspect Public Health 2011, 131 (5):209-216.

6. Lehtisalo J, Erkkola M, Tapanainen H, Kronberg-Kippila C, Veijola R, Knip M, Virtanen SM: Food consumption and nutrient intake in day care and at home in 3-year-old Finnish children. Public Health Nutr 2010, 13(6):957.

7. Schindler JM, Corbett D, Forestell CA: Assessing the effect of food exposure on children's identification and acceptance of fruit and vegetables. Eating Behav 2013, 14(1):53-56.

8. Moss P: Workforce Issues in Early Childhood Education and Care. New York: Columbia University, New York; 2000.

9. Bluford DA, Sherry B, Scanlon KS: Interventions to prevent or treat obesity in preschool children: a review of evaluated programs. Obesity 2007, 15(6):1356—1372.

Mikkelsen et al. Nutrition Journal 2014,13:56 http://www.nutritionj.eom/content/13/1/56

20. 21.

ToyBox Study. [] Last assesed June 17

Mouratidou T, Mesana M, Manios Y, Koletzko B, Chinapaw M, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Socha P, Iotova V, Moreno L: Assessment tools of energy balance-related behaviours used in European obesity prevention strategies: review of studies during preschool. Obes Rev 2012, 13(s1):42—55.

Nixon C, Moore H, Douthwaite W, Gibson E, Vogele C, Kreichauf S, Wildgruber A, Manios Y, Summerbell C: Identifying effective behavioural models and behaviour change strategies underpinning preschool-and school-based obesity prevention interventions aimed at 4-6-year-olds: a systematic review. Obes Rev 2012, 13(s1):106-117. Gibson EL, Kreichauf S, Wildgruber A, Vögele C, Summerbell C, Nixon C, Moore H, Douthwaite W, Manios Y: A narrative review of psychological and educational strategies applied to young children's eating behaviours aimed at reducing obesity risk. Obes Rev 2012, 13(s1):85—95. Higgins JP, Green S: Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions: Cochrane Book Series. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2008.

Seymour JD, Yaroch AL, Serdula M, Blanck HM, Khan LK: Impact of nutrition environmental interventions on point-of-purchase behavior in adults: a review. Prev Med 2004, 39:108-136.

Bannon K, Schwartz MB: Impact of nutrition messages on children's food

choice: Pilot study. Appetite 2006, 46(2):124-129.

Birch LL: Effects of peer models' food choices and eating behaviors on

preschoolers' food preferences. Child Dev 1980, 51(2):489-496.

O'Connell ML, Henderson KE, Luedicke J, Schwartz MB: Repeated exposure

in a natural setting: A preschool intervention to increase vegetable

consumption. J Acad Nutr Diet 2012, 112(2):230-234.

Harnack LJ, Oakes JM, French SA, Rydell SA, Farah FM, Taylor GL: Results

from an experimental trial at a Head Start center to evaluate two meal

service approaches to increase fruit and vegetable intake of preschool

aged children. int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2012, 9:51.

Hendy H: Effectiveness of trained peer models to encourage food

acceptance in preschool children. Appetite 2002, 39(3):217-225.

Leahy KE, Birch LL, Rolls BJ: Reducing the energy density of an entree

decreases children's energy intake at lunch. J Am Diet Assoc 2008,


Noradilah M, Zahara A: Acceptance of a test vegetable after repeated exposures among preschoolers. Malaysian J Nutr 2012, 18(1)67-75. Ramsay S, Safaii S, Croschere T, Branen LJ, Wiest M: Kindergarteners' entrée intake increases when served a larger entrée portion in school lunch: a quasi-experiment. J Sch Health 2013, 83(4):239-242. Bajkale H, Bahar Z: Outcomes of nutrition knowledge and healthy food choices in 5-to 6-year-old children who received a nutrition intervention based on Piaget's theory. J Spec Pediatr Nurs 2011, 16(4):263-279. Cason KL: Evaluation of a preschool nutrition education program based on the theory of multiple intelligences. J Nutr Educ 2001, 33(3):161 -164. Céspedes J, Briceño G, Farkouh ME, Vedanthan R, Baxter J, Leal M, Boffetta P, Hunn M, Dennis R, Fuster V: Promotion of Cardiovascular Health in Preschool Children: 36-Month Cohort Follow-up. Am J Med 2013, 126(12):1122-1126.

Gorelick MC, Clark EA: Effects of a nutrition program on knowledge of preschool children. J Nutr Educ 1985,17(3):88-92.

Hu C, Ye D, Li Y, Huang Y, Li L, Gao Y, Wang S: Evaluation of a kindergarten-based nutrition education intervention for pre-school children in China. Public Health Nutr 2009, 13(2):253. Johnson SL: Improving Preschoolers' self-regulation of energy intake.

Pediatrics 2000, 106(6):1429-1435.

Nemet D, Geva D, Pantanowitz M, Igbaria N, Meckel Y, Eliakim A: Health promotion intervention in Arab-Israeli kindergarten children. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metabol 2011, 24(11 -12):1001 -1007.

Nemet D, Geva D, Pantanowitz M, Igbaria N, Meckel Y, Eliakim A: Long term effects of a health promotion intervention in low socioeconomic Arab-Israeli kindergartens. BMC Pediatr 2013, 13(1):45. Parcel GS, Bruhn JG, Murray JL: Preschool health education program (PHEP): analysis of educational and behavioral outcome. Health Educ Behav 1983, 10(3-4):149-172.

Piziak V: A pilot study of a pictorial bilingual nutrition education game to improve the consumption of healthful foods in a head start population.

int J Environ Res Public Health 2012, 9(4):1319-1325.

Sirikulchayanonta C, Iedsee K, Shuaytong P, Srisorrachatr S: Using food experience, multimedia and role models for promoting fruit and vegetable consumption in Bangkok kindergarten children. Nutr Diet 2010, 67(2):97—101.

Witt KE, Dunn C: Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption among preschoolers: evaluation of 'color me healthy'. J Nutr Educ Behav 2012, 44(2):107-113.

Bayer O, von Kries R, Strauss A, Mitschek C, Toschke AM, Hose A, Koletzko BV: Short-and mid-term effects of a setting based prevention program to reduce obesity risk factors in children: a cluster-randomized trial.

Clin Nutr 2009, 28(2):122—128.

Brouwer RJN, Neelon SEB: Watch Me Grow: A garden-based pilot intervention to increase vegetable and fruit intake in preschoolers.

BMC Public Health 2013, 13(1):1-6.

De Bock F, Breitenstein L, Fischer JE: Positive impact of a pre-school-based nutritional intervention on children's fruit and vegetable intake: results of a cluster-randomized trial. Public Health Nutr 2011, 15(03):466-475. Hammond GK, McCargar LJ, Barr S: Student and parent response to use of an early childhood nutrition education program. Can J Diet Pract Res 1998, 59(3):125-131.

Hoffman JA, Thompson DR, Franko DL, Power TJ, Leff SS, Stallings VA: Decaying behavioral effects in a randomized, multi-year fruit and vegetable intake intervention. Prev Med 2011, 52(5):370-375. Vereecken C, Huybrechts I, Van Houte H, Martens V, Wittebroodt I, Maes L: Results from a dietary intervention study in preschools "Beastly Healthy at School". Int J Public Health 2009, 54(3):142-149. Williams CL, Strobino BA, Bollella M, Brotanek J: Cardiovascular risk reduction in preschool children: the "Healthy Start" project. J Am Coll Nutr 2004, 23(2):117-123.

Miller AL, Horodynski MA, Herb HE, Peterson KE, Contreras D, Kaciroti N, Staples-Watson J, Lumeng JC: Enhancing self-regulation as a strategy for obesity prevention in Head Start preschoolers: the growing healthy study. BMC Public Health 2012, 12:1040. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1040. Natale R, Scott SH, Messiah SE, Schrack MM, Uhlhorn SB, Delamater A: Design and methods for evaluating an early childhood obesity prevention program in the childcare center setting. BMC Public Health 2013, 13(1):78.

Peñalvo JL, Santos-Beneit G, Sotos-Prieto M, Martínez R, Rodríguez C, Franco M, López-Romero P, Pocock S, Redondo J, Fuster V: A cluster randomized trial to evaluate the efficacy of a school-based behavioral intervention for health promotion among children aged 3 to 5. BMC Public Health 2013,



Cite this article as: Mikkelsen et al.: A systematic review of types of healthy eating interventions in preschools. Nutrition Journal 2014 13:56.

Submit your next manuscript to BioMed Central and take full advantage of:

• Convenient online submission

• Thorough peer review

• No space constraints or color figure charges

• Immediate publication on acceptance

• Inclusion in PubMed, CAS, Scopus and Google Scholar

• Research which is freely available for redistribution

Submit your manuscript at