“They think I’m a square for eating them” – New research into children’s beliefs about fruit and vegetables


Dr Rachel Povey

This month, Dr Rachel Povey and Lisa Cowap have had their article “They think I’m a square for eating them”: Children’s beliefs about fruit and vegetables in England published in the British Food Journal. The article was written together with Lucy Gratton, a Public Health Development Officer from Staffordshire Public Health.

The article describes the results from an interview study where 9-11 year old children were asked about their views of fruit and vegetables. The children were all attending an after school club associated with a primary school in a deprived area in the West Midlands.

The results from the study were encouraging in that the children seemed to have a very good awareness of the health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables. However, children were also found to hold negative beliefs towards fruit and vegetables. Some of these beliefs were associated with the senses (such as taste and texture), for example, one child described eating a mushroom to be like “eating a small furry animal” and another suggested that mushrooms tasted like “slimy worms”.


Parents were found to be positive influences on children’s eating habits, but surprisingly siblings and friends were sometimes shown to have negative influences, including teasing children for being “square” for eating fruit and vegetables. Recommendations from this study are to make fruit and vegetables more appealing to children, and also to develop interventions which focus on the influence of friends and siblings. Rachel Povey and Lisa Cowap are now developing this research further by designing and evaluating class-based healthy eating workshops for primary schools.

Both Rachel and Lisa are members of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research and the Centre for Health Psychology based at Staffordshire University. For more details of their study, please click on the below link:

Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a Psy1centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and BPS Accredited Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology.

The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research and the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise, one of the leading research-active academic schools for Psychology and Sport degrees situated in the heart of England.

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