Struggling to know what to offer a picky eater? Forget worries about food and focus on the colour of the plate.
Researchers from the University of Portsmouth have discovered that the colour of the bowl in which food is served also influences taste perception.
As part of a study of nearly 50 people to measure their food neophobia - the reluctance to eat or try new food - participants were divided into picky and non-picky eaters. They then tasted the same snacks served in red, white, and blue bowls.
Results revealed that both the perceived saltiness and desirability of the foods were influenced by colour in the picky group, but not the non-picky group.
"Specifically, the snack was rated as higher in saltiness in the red and blue versus white bowl, and least desirable when served in the red bowl," the authors reported.
Looking to the future, the team wants to investigate the links between other foods and colours.
"This knowledge could be useful for those trying to expand the repertoire of foods," said Dr Lorenzo Stafford. "For example, if you wanted to encourage a picky eater to try more vegetables well known to be viewed as bitter, you could attempt to serve them on a plate or bowl that is known to increase sweetness. Through further research we could determine ways to help positively affect a person's diet, and as a result their mental and physical health."
Full study results have been published in Food Quality and Preference journal.