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Appetite. 2016 Jan 1;96:203-208. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.09.018. Epub 2015 Sep 18.

Food depictions in picture books for preschool children: Frequency, centrality, and affect.

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University of Connecticut, 348 Mansfield Road, Storrs, Connecticut, 06269-1058, USA. Electronic address:
Brescia University College, 1285 Western Road, London, Ontario, N6G1H2, Canada. Electronic address:


The food content and messages depicted in popular children's picture books were examined using a set of 100 "Favorite Books for Preschoolers." Sixty-nine of these books depicted food and comprised the sample. Examined were: the types and frequencies of food depicted in the text and/or illustrations of the books; the centrality (central, background); and the affect (positive, neutral, or negative) of those depictions. Each food item was counted, categorized by type, and where possible, coded for centrality and affect. Fruit was the most frequently depicted food, followed by sweetened baked goods, dairy, and vegetables. However, centrality and affect differed for these foods. For example, sweet baked goods were high in both centrality and affect. In contrast vegetables were relatively high in centrality but most often neutral in affect. Ice cream, although not in many books, always was associated with positive outcomes. Results were compared to findings in the literature on food messages presented in children's television programs. The ratio of healthy foods to nutrient-poor foods was higher in the books. However, as in television, the books emphasized the desirability of sweetened foods. The results point to the need for detailed analyses of the types of presentations associated with different foods presented in books for children, as well as for continued investigations into food messages in the growing range of media available to young children.


Children's books; Food messages; Media; Nutrition; Preschool; Young children

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