The researchers, who studied nearly 100 pupils aged four to seven in the Netherlands and Belgium – offered them apples, strawberries and seedless grapes presented in different ways.
Given the choice, the children plumed for these fruits more readily when they were made into a hedgehog- skewered with colourful cocktail sticks.
The same cubed fruits did little for the children’s palates when they were simply offered on a white dish.
Even though the children understood that both fruit options should taste the same, they ate nearly twice as much of the “fun” fruit.
The researchers suggest supermarkets could also capitalise on the findings to make fruit more appealing for children and their parents alike.
Attractive packaging and “perhaps adding a little toy, like the toy that comes with a Happy Meal, to the packaging could make this kind of snack even more appealing”, they said.
But Esther Jansen warns that “fun” fruit presentations might soon lose their appeal with children if they are used too many times.
“It is probably necessary for parents and food producers to remain innovative,” they said.
Dr Laura Wyness of the British Nutrition Foundation said: “It is advisable to try to make food as appetising as possible.
“How food looks probably does have quite an influence, especially for kids who are getting used to different types of food.”
She said some children were fussy eaters and this could be challenging for parents.
“Another technique is to try to hide vegetables and fruits in other foods like sauces,” she said.
And for parents who do not have the time to make elaborate fruit faces and flowers from carrots and radishes, there are simpler ways to make foods interesting, such as cutting it into triangles, squares or strips.
By Deepika Dudakia