Grant for Shelley van der Veek to teach toddlers healthy eating habits
Shelley van der Veek has received a LUF Gratama grant for a research project that aims to help parents teach their toddlers healthy eating habits by promoting sensitive feeding in the phase when toddlers become fussy about food.
The project aims to develop a free and accessible eLearning programme to teach parents how to encourage healthy eating during the challenging ‘don’t-like-it!’ phase.
Shelley van der Veek is an assistant professor at the Institute of Education and Child Studies at Leiden University. She researches health and disease within families. She was also involved as a senior researcher in the ‘Baby’s Eerste Hapjes’ (‘Baby’s first bites’) project, which was awarded a Dutch Research Council (NWO) grant and studied babies’ transition to solid foods.
Preventing obesity in adults
Ensuring people do not become overweight is essential to preventing chronic diseases later in life. It is crucial to address this in early childhood, as weight gain in the first years of life is a significant predictor of being overweight as an adult. But how? Many parents struggle with how to help their children develop healthy eating habits. This is particularly challenging when children become pickier eaters in their second year, the ‘don’t-like-it!’ phase.
Positive feeding strategies encourage healthy eating habits
Scientific literature has shown that repeatedly trying foods is the best way to introduce new flavours and encourage healthy eating habits. But persuading a two-year-old to try something it doesn’t want to eat isn’t easy. Several large studies have shown that interventions that successfully promote healthy eating habits during the first year of life lose their positive effects when toddlers enter the ‘don’t-like-it!’ phase. In this phase many parents start pressuring their child to eat. This is counterproductive: the child will only become pickier about the food and will eat less of it. Instead, positive feeding strategies may actually promote healthy eating habits in the first year of life.
Shelly van der Veek’s research project is building on the results of Merel van Vliet’s PhD research, Baby's Eerste Hapjes and Samen Happie, and aims to promote positive healthy eating in young children who have reached the ‘don’t-like-it!’ phase.
The Gratama Foundation is a family fund, established in 1925, which supports and encourages societally relevant projects in the area of research and education. The Fund gives a grant once a year to staff of the University of Groningen and Leiden University, working in close consultation with the LUF.