Learned pleasure from eating: An opportunity to promote healthy eating in children?
Abstract Across the lifespan, eating is a common everyday act driven by the search for pleasure and reinforced by experienced pleasure. Pleasure is an innate indicator of the satisfaction of physiological needs, in addition to other attributes. Pleasure from eating is also learned and contributes to the development of children's eating habits, which remain mostly stable until adulthood. Based on classical models of determinants of food consumption behaviour, we identified three dimensions of pleasure from eating learned during childhood: 1/the sensory dimension, i.e., pleasure from sensory sensations during food consumption; 2/the interpersonal dimension, i.e., pleasure from the social context of food consumption; and 3/the psychosocial dimension, i.e., pleasure from cognitive representations of food. The objective of this narrative review is to explore whether these three dimensions may play a role in promotion of healthy eating behaviour among children. Up to now, it was assumed that providing nutritional information, pointing out which types of foods are “good” or “bad” for health, would drive healthier food choices in children. Today, we know that such strategies based on a cognitive approach toward eating have a limited impact on healthy choices and can even be counter-productive, leading children to avoid healthy foods. In the context of increasing rates of childhood obesity, new perspectives are needed to build efficient interventions that might help children adopt a healthy diet. This review suggests new directions for further research to test the efficacy of novel interventions that emphasize pleasure from eating.
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