HabEat brings together 11 European partners from 6 European countries with a multidisciplinary approach (psychology, epidemiology, behavioural science, nutrition, sensory science) to enable a key breakthrough in the understanding of how food habits are formed (and can also be changed) in infants and young children. This will be done by combining epidemiologic studies based on existing human cohorts from 4 countries and experimental work carried out in 6 countries so as to collaboratively identify:
• the critical periods in the formation/breaking of food habits
• the key learning mechanisms, their relative impact in the short, mid and long term and their importance according to the different critical periods
• the most effective strategies for breaking habits, i.e. for changing from poor to healthy habits
• Individual reactions to the learning mechanisms and individual susceptibility to changes
Furthermore the project will work hand-in-hand with a board of stakeholder advisors (including industry, health professionals) to produce guidelines on the recommendations that should be communicated to childcare professionals and parents from different target groups (especially those most at risk) in different EU regions. HabEat will also propose strategies to policy makers for promoting practices to ensure healthy food habits in young infants and children as well as intervention
strategies for enabling habit breaking taking into account individual differences and parental feeding strategies.
The European added value lies in capitalising on the variety of food choice within Europe. Research in this area is rather limited in Europe. The results would support development of European policy directed towards healthier food habits. This research will help to increase understanding of the critical ages and periods when food habits and eating patterns form in infants and children and to support effective intervention strategies for habit-breaking and behavioural change directed towards healthier food choices.