Researching and testing an intervention to improve access to healthy lower-caloric foods for preschool children

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, affecting even our youngest children. Fortunately, the first five years of life are an optimal time to implement dietary interventions. As nearly all food preferences are learned, this is a critical period to influence what, when, and how much young children eat. However, there is little evidence to guide the development of strategies for prevention in the preschool years. Perhaps the most basic way to change food environments is to alter the nutritional and caloric content of available foods. Studies with adults have shown that reducing energy density (caloric content) of foods can lead to moderate but important reductions in total calories with improved overall nutrient levels. However, we do not know if children will respond similarly to adults to changes in energy density of available foods. The purpose of this project is to: (1) evaluate whether young children consume fewer calories when the energy density of foods is reduced (and the nutrient content improved), and whether this response varies by age; and 2) test the feasibility and impact of the intervention in day care centers. The results of this research could be translated directly into intervention strategies for use in homes, day care, and preschool settings. These results may also be useful to the food industry.

Grant Details

Amount Awarded $729,170.00

Awarded on: 7/25/2005

Time frame: 8/1/2005 - 7/31/2009

Grant Number: 52717


Pennsylvania State University College of Health and Human Development

Pennsylvania State University
201 Henderson Building
University Park, 16802-6501


Leann L. Birch
Project Director


Barbara J. Rolls
Project Director