Children overcoming picky eating (COPE) – A cluster randomised controlled trial

Carmel Bennett, Alex Copello, Christopher Jones, Jackie Blissett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Food neophobia limits dietary variety in children and adults. Interventions to alleviate the impact of neophobia on children's dietary variety have had varying success. The potential effectiveness of mindfulness, a process of bringing awareness to the present moment, has received little attention. This trial aimed to explore the effectiveness of two mindfulness exercises on novel food acceptance for children.

A cluster-randomised controlled trial with three trial arms compared the impact of two mindfulness exercises (mindful breathing and mindful raisin-eating) and a non-mindful control task on anticipated liking and intake of a novel fruit. Seventy-one children aged 10–12 years engaged in one of the three tasks at school over five days and were offered a novel fruit at the end of the intervention. Children self-reported mindfulness, food neophobia and anxiety at baseline and follow-up.

Two mixed-effects models showed that, controlling for school effects and covariates (including mindfulness, food neophobia and anxiety), children in the mindful raisin-eating arm reported greater anticipated liking of a novel fruit and children in both mindfulness arms consumed greater amounts of a novel fruit than children in the control arm. Mixed-design ANOVAs indicated that mindfulness, food neophobia and anxiety did not change over time in each trial arm.

The results provide promising evidence for the potential effectiveness of mindfulness interventions in encouraging children to try new foods. The mechanisms underlying effectiveness remain unclear and further research, exploring long-term effects and the possibility to generalise these findings to other food groups such as vegetables, is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104791
Early online date10 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


  • Eating behaviour
  • Food intake
  • Food neophobia
  • Mindfulness


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