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J Nutr. 1998 Feb;128(2 Suppl):407S-410S.

Psychological influences on the childhood diet.

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  • 1Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802, USA.


Psychological influences on the childhood diet are addressed. The focus is on factors that influence the formation of children's food preferences. Evidence for links among food preferences, dietary intake and children's adiposity is presented, with an emphasis on dietary fat. Few food and flavor preferences are innate; most are learned via experience with food and eating and involve associative conditioning of food cues to aspects of the child's eating environment, especially the social contexts and physiological consequences of eating. Parents' child-feeding practices are central in this early feeding environment and affect children's food preferences and their regulation of energy intake. An understanding of how children's food preferences are acquired is essential in developing strategies to improve the quality of children's dietary intake.

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