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Developmental Readiness, Caregiver and Child Feeding Behaviors, and Sensory Science as a Framework for Feeding Young Children

Johnson, Susan L. PhD; Hayes, John E. PhD

doi: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000200
Feature Article

Encouraging the development of healthy eating habits early in life is considered to be the best pathway toward the prevention of diet-related chronic diseases. One goal of the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to add children from birth to the age of 24 months to those included in the subsequent editions of the guidelines. Although a focus on early childhood is long overdue, the construction of these guidelines will require an integration of evidence from multiple disciplines including nutrition, child development, sensory science, and socioeconomic and environmental factors. This article briefly reviews the rapid trajectory of infant and toddler anatomical and social development as they relate to the acquisition of eating habits, sensory aspects that influence children's food acceptance, and how each of these influences children's food preference development. The effects of caregiver feeding strategies on children's food acceptance patterns, as well as the impact of cultural norms, are also examined. The article closes with identifying opportunities for research that could integrate nutrition and child development principles with individual differences in the sensory perception and could incorporate a focus on interactions within the caregiver-child dyad.

Susan L. Johnson, PhD, is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the director of the Children's Eating Laboratory in Aurora, Colorado.

John E. Hayes, PhD, is an associate professor of food science and the director of the Sensory Evaluation Center at the Pennsylvania State University in State College.

This article is based on a presentation by Dr Susan Johnson during a conference held in Washington, DC, on October 29–30, 2015. This conference was funded by the Sugar Association and planned in part by the Department of Pediatrics Section of Nutrition, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Dr. Johnson did not receive travel expenses or an honorarium from The Sugar Association for her participation in the conference.

No funding was received by the authors for the preparation of this paper. This article appears in the Nutrition Today supplement, Sweet Taste Perception and Feeding Toddlers, funded by The Sugar Association.

Dr Johnson receives salary support from the University of Colorado, US Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Sugar Association. She has also received honoraria and travel support from federal agencies and nonprofit organizations. Dr Hayes receives salary support from the Pennsylvania State University and US Department of Agriculture Hatch Project Funds (PEN04565). In the past 5 years, he has received honoraria, travel expenses, and/or consulting fees from federal agencies, publishers, nonprofit organizations, trade groups, and corporate clients in the food industry. The Sensory Evaluation Center at the Pennsylvania State University routinely conducts taste tests for clients in the food industry to facilitate experiential learning for undergraduate and graduate students.

Correspondence: Susan L. Johnson, PhD, Children's Eating Laboratory, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Mail Stop #F561, Room #2609, 12631 E 17th Ave, Aurora, CO 80045 (

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