ESRC White Rose DTP Collaborative Studentship: Experiential Learning to Establish Healthy Eating in Children and their Families

University of Leeds - School of Psychology

Session 2018-19 - Closing Date 17:00 (UK time) 9 March 2018

The online application form can be found at:

Project: Experiential learning to establish healthy eating in children and their families

Awards provide fees and maintenance at standard Research Council Rates (£14,777 in Session 2018/19) for eligible applicants.

This studentship is in collaboration with Purely Nutrition Limited

Overweight and obesity are more prevalent in areas of social deprivation than in areas of affluence. In part, this is attributable to long term exposure to diets which are high in energy density but low in nutrient density. For communities where food insecurity is an everyday experience, food waste is a significant concern and so food choices are often directed towards meals which are good value for money, highly palatable and high in energy but low in nutrient quality. Diets rich in vegetables confer considerable long-term health benefits, with population based studies showing lower risk of different cancers, and coronary heart disease. However, these foods are often disliked by children and might contribute to food waste if not accepted. In the UK only 10% of boys and 7% of girls aged 11-18 yr meet the 5 portions-a-day fruit and vegetable recommendation. Low vegetable intake is partly due to unfamiliar texture and taste of some vegetables, and in low income families, low intakes may be related to cost since low energy density, nutrient rich foods are more expensive than high energy density, nutrient poor foods. We have conducted a series of studies to investigate whether young children learn to accept vegetables in their diet through experience, finding that familiarity is a key component to increase liking and intake. We have examined this within the context of the Phunky Foods programme (Purely Nutrition Ltd) to investigate ways to approach this problem in the early years using education materials (through knowledge, recognition, identification), experiential learning (through sensory approaches involving play, touch, smell, taste and eating) and storybooks. To date we have examined novel vegetables, as a proof of concept and in the current project we will investigate the most effective ways to encourage healthy eating choices including parent-child cooking lessons, across ages and stages of development. Phunky Foods resources are used across local authority educational provision. Therefore, the PhD studentship will involve liaison with community education providers, a wide range of age groups and diverse communities ranging in ethnicity and socioeconomic status. We will address the following questions –when and what strategies are most successful for different children to increase vegetable intake? Secondly, what components of interventions secure sustainable changes in habitual consumption of new and familiar vegetables? The aim is to encourage vegetable intake in communities where diets are nutrient poor in order to promote healthy food choice and consumption.

Further information on the application procedure can be found at

For more information on the project, please contact Professor Marion Hetherington (

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Northern England