Experts in nutrition and eating behaviour will gather at the University of St Andrews this week (21-22 March) to examine how we can improve children’s diets by starting good habits early.
The two-day event will present research findings from the VIVA partnership, a collaboration between the Universities of St Andrews, Leeds and Aberdeen and Danone Baby Nutrition, which aims to promote and increase the intake and acceptance of vegetables in children.
Dr Jo Cecil from the University of St Andrews, who is co-ordinating the Congress, will be joined by 100 fellow scientists, health care professionals, policy makers and industry representatives for the VIVA international congress on healthy eating. During the two day event, experts in appetite, eating behaviour and obesity from across Europe will explore the latest evidence on infant feeding.
The principal investigator of the project, Professor Marion Hetherington from the University of Leeds, said, “Vegetable intakes remain relatively low, especially in children. Most children in Europe fail to consume the recommended 5 fruit and veg a day and many even fail to meet the minimum recommendation of just one portion of vegetables a day.”
“Consuming enough fruit and vegetables depends on how much they are liked, therefore establishing preference for vegetables early in a child’s development is the best way to improve intake and this will last a lifetime.”
During the special event in St Andrews, specialists will look at how children can be encouraged to ‘learn’ to like a wide range of vegetables through early introductions, good old-fashioned bribery and by parents simply adopting healthy eating habits themselves.
It is generally accepted that consuming fruit and vegetables promotes health and well-being, can protect against cancer and is an important part of healthy eating habits.
Experts have now concluded that repeated exposure and variety seem to be the most effective way to increase a child’s liking of vegetables, especially if these strategies are used right from the beginning of weaning.
Professor Hetherington continued, “Over the last decade it has become clear that food preferences and eating behaviours established in infancy set the foundation of later eating habits.
“Healthy eating established in early life improves healthy eating later and this may help to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity.”
Dr Cecil added, “The early years and especially the period when infants are introduced to solid foods provide the ideal window of opportunity to develop future healthy eating habits. Encouraging your children to eat vegetables at a young age is more likely to lead to healthy eating habits and a longer, healthier life.”
Note to Editors:
The VIVA project has arisen from a partnership between academics from three UK universities (Leeds University, University of St Andrews and Aberdeen University) and industry (Danone Baby Nutrition), all interested in discovering how to promote healthy eating in the early years.
Project VIVA (V is for Vegetable – Applying Learning theory to increase liking and intake of vegetables) is funded by a grant from the EU Marie Curie Program.
Conference organiser Dr Jo Cecil is available for more information via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issued by the Press Office, University of St AndrewsPublic interest stories