Improving novel food choices in preschool children using acceptance and commitment therapy

Author(s):
Abigail E. Kennedy, Seth W. Whiting, Mark R. Dixon

Abstract:
The present study examined the effects of a novel treatment package consisting of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) - based activities with and without contingent rewards on children's consumption of low-preferred healthy foods. Participants were 6 children, age 3-5, who attended a local day care center. The effects of the two treatment packages on children's tasting and approach of foods were assessed using a multiple baseline design across food categories. During the ACT-based mindfulnes condition, the experimenter led a set of four ACT activities prior to the presentation of food. This condition produced a mean increase in foods tasted of 7.4% for fruits but 0% for vegetables, and mean increases in food approaches of 18.6% for fruits and 8.7% for vegetables. A second condition consisted of the same ACT condition with an added emphasis on values and committed action. Through the use of rewards delivered contingent upon tasting the foods produced mean increases in foods tasted of 69.2% for vegetables, 25.3% for fruits, and 43.2% for beans, and inceases in foods approached of 54.7% for vegetables, 16.2% for fruits, and 44.6% for beans. The results suggest that the values and committed action components of ACT are critical for behavior change at young ages.

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