A Mobile App to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Acceptance Among Finnish and Polish Preschoolers: Randomized Trial

Henna Vepsäläinen, Essi Skaffari, Katarzyna Wojtkowska, Julia Barlińska, Satu Kinnunen, Riikka Makkonen, Maria Heikkilä, Mikko Lehtovirta, Carola Ray, Eira Suhonen, Jaakko Nevalainen, Nina Sajaniemi, Maijaliisa Erkkola

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Early childhood education and care (ECEC) centers are ideal venues for food education. As smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly popular in ECEC centers, technology can be used to deliver such pedagogical content. Evidence suggests that video games can affect fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption among 9- to 12-year-old children, but studies among preschoolers are scarce.

OBJECTIVE: This paper describes the development of the Mole's Veggie Adventures app and its effectiveness in increasing FV acceptance among Finnish and Polish preschoolers aged 3 to 6 years.

METHODS: A multiprofessional team created an app to be used in ECEC centers in groups of 3 to 10 children. The app aimed to increase vegetable acceptance, and it was built using elements that support the development of self-regulation and social skills. Altogether, 7 Finnish and 4 Polish ECEC centers participated in the study. Before randomization, parents reported background factors and their children's willingness to taste different FVs. The ECEC professionals in the intervention arm were instructed to use the app at least once a week during the 3- to 4-week intervention period. The main outcomes in this unblinded, cluster-randomized study were FV acceptance and relative FV acceptance. The first was calculated as a sum variable describing the children's willingness to taste 25 different FVs, the second as FV acceptance divided by the number of FVs served. We used analysis of covariance to compare the FV acceptance and relative FV acceptance scores between the intervention and control groups at follow-up.

RESULTS: A total of 221 children were included in the analysis. At follow-up, the intervention group (115/221, 52%) had higher FV acceptance scores (baseline adjusted difference of mean 7.22; 95% CI 1.41-13.03) than the control group (106/221, 48%). The intervention effect was parallel for relative FV acceptance scores (baseline adjusted difference of mean 0.28; 95% CI 0.05-0.52).

CONCLUSIONS: The Mole's Veggie Adventures app has the potential to increase FV acceptance among preschoolers and can be a valuable tool in supporting food education in ECEC centers. Furthermore, the app can be feasibly incorporated into preschool routines in countries with different educational environments.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT05173311; https://tinyurl.com/4vfbh283.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere30352
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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