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expert reaction to SACN report on feeding young children aged 1 to 5 years

An independent report from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) covers feeding young children aged 1 to 5 years.


Professor Carmel Houston-Price, Professor of Language & Cognitive Development and Head of the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, said:

“This evidence-based and balanced report provides some useful pointers to help parents develop healthy eating habits with their children. This includes highlighting the importance of repeatedly offering pre-school children the foods we want them to eat.

“Research has established that repeated taste exposure is a particularly effective way to introduce vegetables into young children’s diets. However, parents can find it hard to keep offering food to their child when they don’t seem to like it, especially when the food they reject ends up on the floor or in the bin.

“Research has been carried out, including at the University of Reading, to find ways to make this easier for parents. At the time of the systematic reviews used to compile this new SACN report, there was insufficient evidence for the effectiveness of some forms of exposure other than taste exposure. However, there is now a substantial body of research showing that familiarity with vegetables outside of mealtimes can make children more amenable to tasting them at mealtimes. Knowing what vegetables look like, how they grow, and where they come from can be the first step towards children becoming familiar with their taste, leading children to ultimately accept them at mealtimes.

“On the basis of this research, we and others have developed a set of resources to support parents, nursery workers and healthcare practitioners in familiarising children with vegetables. Parents can access free resources online and printed books to buy from the SEE & EAT project website.”


Dr Ada Garcia, Senior Lecturer in Public Health Nutrition, University of Glasgow, said:

“This is quite an important report that is welcomed and timely.  There a couple of aspects I want to remark on.  One is the quality of available evidence which is deemed mostly moderate or adequate, this is largely due to the difficulty of conducting good quality studies like randomised controlled trials in children.  There is also the issue of outdated population based data on dietary intake.  For example existing data for young children (12-18 months) from DNSYC dates back to 2011.  The food environment has shifted greatly in the past years, in particular for higher availability of foods targeted to young children which are in a large proportion not nutrient dense or are high in sugars.”



Declared interests

Professor Carmel Houston-Price: “I am the project lead for SEE & EAT, which is funded by EIT Food, the innovation community on Food of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the EU, under the Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. I am a member of the Kids’ Food Choices and Food, Health and Behaviour Change research groups at the University of Reading, and I am a member of the Steering Group for the Institute of Food, Nutrition & Health and the Advisory Board for the University’s Agriculture, Food & Health theme.”

Dr Ada Garcia: “I don’t have any conflict of interest


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