Call for partners: Some like it sweet, some like it quick: understanding the development of eating habits in young children

Fast eating of energy dense foods and a high preference for sweet tasting foods or drinks make children susceptible to overeating and the development of overweight. Eating habits are already formed at young age. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the early development of automated eating behaviours and taste preferences, in order to encourage the development of healthy eating habits. Wageningen University and Research looks for partners who want to join forces in this project to improve our understanding of children’s eating behaviours.

Eating speed & sweet taste preferences

Automated eating behaviours, such as a high eating speed, and a high preference for sweet foods or drinks are related to overweight and obesity. As eating habits are formed at a young age, it is essential to better understand these processes. There are two crucial age-related moments which form a window of opportunity to steer the development of eating behaviours: the transition from liquid foods towards more solid foods (~ 6 months) and the transition towards primary school (~ 4 years). Within this project, we will focus on: 1) the influence of (sweet) taste exposure on (sweet) taste preferences and food intake and 2) the development of automated eating behaviours (bite size, eating rate and chewing). Currently, little is known about how these processes develop and little guidance is available for parents, health care professionals and industry.

Project aim and approach

This 3-year project will address four key areas:

  1. Development of automated eating behaviour (bite size,  chewing and eating rate) in infants and young children
  2. Impact of varying exposure to sweet taste on subsequent sweet taste preferences, and intake of sweet foods and beverages in infants and young children
  3. Development of smart tools and new methodologies to assess taste preferences and automated eating behaviours in infants and young children.
  4. Development of dietary and product development advice and guidelines for parents, health care professionals and food industry.

Via several research activities, the project aims to: 1) generate new knowledge about the development of automated eating behaviours (chewing, bite size, eating rate) and (sweet) taste preferences among young children and 2) develop novel and reliable measurement tools to assess eating behaviours and preferences in young children. The ultimate aim is to optimize dietary interventions and advice, and product development for young children.

Partners sought who want to optimize children’s eating habits

The above described project is being developed for application to the TKI subsidy, a Dutch governmental program sponsoring applied research. Each project requires at least one Dutch company partner, but additional partners from abroad are welcome to join. Granted projects receive 50% subsidy funding. The other 50% is contributed by industry partners, of which up to half (25% of total) may be in-kind.

The budget for this 3 year proposal is estimated to be 1 Million Euro. The aim is to have ~6 partners, each contributing 17.5 K€ annually cash and 12.5 k€ annually in kind.

This consortium is open for participation from food industry, ingredient companies, societal parties, catering services, smart technology companies

as well as other organizations that support children’s healthy eating. In return for in-cash and in-kind contributions to the project, partners can specify desired topics for research, and provide direction to the research activities. Unfortunately, we are not able to reply to solicitations from research institutes or enquiries from students related to this project.