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MSI Funded Study: Herbs and spices increase liking and preference for vegetables among rural high school students.
Vegetable consumption in youth is below recommendations and strategies to increase intake at school are needed. This study investigated barriers to vegetable intake at a rural public high school and evaluated whether new vegetable recipes using herbs and spices would increase liking and preference for vegetables served to adolescents at this school.
Before recipe development, herb and spice familiarity and barriers to vegetable intake were assessed through surveys with a sample of students, parents, and cafeteria staff at the high school. Recipes for vegetables were then developed using spice blends (including dill, coriander, cumin, etc.) uniquely formulated for each vegetable. To evaluate recipe acceptance, we assessed liking (100 mm visual analog scales) and preference (forced choice) among students (N’s = 96–110; aged 14–18 years) for 8 plain (oil and salt) and 8 seasoned vegetables. Liking ratings between plain and seasoned vegetables were compared with paired T-tests. Preferences were compared by chi-square tests.
Students reported higher liking for several seasoned recipes compared to plain: broccoli (P = 0.02), vegetable dip (P < 0.0001), black beans and corn (P < 0.001), and cauliflower (P = 0.01). Students preferred the seasoned recipe to the plain for corn and peas (P = 0.002), broccoli (P = 0.02), dip (P < 0.0001), black beans and corn (P < 0.001), cauliflower (P < 0.0001), and green beans (P = 0.02).
Common herbs and spices improved liking and preference for several school lunch vegetables compared to plain varieties among rural high school students. Future research will test the impact of offering these vegetables in the school lunch program on student vegetable intake.