Condition category
Nutritional, Metabolic, Endocrine
Date applied
Date assigned
Last edited
Retrospectively registered
Overall trial status
Recruitment status
No longer recruiting
Publication status

Plain English Summary

Background and study aims:
Parents are often the target of family-based dietary programmes as they are the dietary gatekeepers for young children. However, very few programmes use theory to promote behaviour change. Forming healthy habits could be one approach to improving the feeding habits of parents with pre-school aged children. This is based on the idea that repeating a behaviour in a certain situation over and over, will help to form new habits. This study assessed how effective this programme is in promoting healthy habits for three parental feeding behaviours (serving fruit/vegetables, healthy snacks, and non-sweet drinks).

Who can participate?
Parents of pre-school children.

What does the study involve?
Parents being visited at home four times by a researcher to discuss creating healthy habits and setting a new healthy habit each time relating to how they feed their child.

What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
The benefits of taking part are potential dietary improvements for both parents and children. There are no known risks of participating in this study.

Where is the study run from?
University College London, UK

When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
The study began in May 2010 and ended in January 2012.

Who is funding the study?
Cancer Research UK

Who is the main contact?
Laura McGowan

Trial website

Contact information



Primary contact

Prof Jane Wardle


Contact details

Health Behaviour Research Centre
Department of Epidemiology & Public Health
1-19 Torrington Place
University College London
United Kingdom
+44 (0)207 679 1720

Additional identifiers

EudraCT number number

Protocol/serial number


Study information

Scientific title

Healthy feeding habits: a cluster-randomized controlled exploratory trial of a novel, habit-based intervention with parents of pre-school aged children.


Study hypothesis

Habit theory was used as a framework to help parents adopt three healthy feeding behaviors (offering fruit or vegetables, serving healthy snacks, serving water instead of sweetened beverages). The hypothesis for this pilot trial was that there would be significantly greater increases in the subjective automaticity of the three parental feeding behaviors in the intervention group (i.e. habit strength), and significant increases in the child’s intake of fruit and vegetables, snacks and drinks in the intervention group compared to controls.

Please note that as of 11/02/2013, the following changes were made to the trial record:
1. The public title was previously "Healthy feeding habits: a home-visit, controlled pilot study of a novel, habit-based intervention with parents of pre-school aged children"
2. The scientific title was previously "Healthy feeding habits: a cluster-randomized controlled pilot trial of a novel, habit-based intervention with parents of pre-school aged children."

Ethics approval

University College London Ethics Committee, 01 April 2010, ref: 0521/003

Study design

Cluster randomised controlled exploratory trial

Primary study design


Secondary study design

Randomised controlled trial

Trial setting


Trial type

Quality of life

Patient information sheet

Not available in web format, please use the contact details below to request a patient information sheet


Public Health, Obesity Prevention


The healthy feeding habits intervention was delivered over the course of four fortnightly visits to the family home. Each visit lasted approximately 1 hour and involved the researcher working through an intervention booklet with the parent. The child was not directly involved. The booklet introduced the concept of habits along with information on environmental support for habit-formation (e.g. sticking to a routine, consistency, persistence, and had detachable self-monitoring sheets to use during the habit acquisition phase. There were sections for each of the target feeding areas: serving fruit or vegetables, choice of snacks, and choice of drinks. Focusing on one topic at each visit, parents formulated a specific, new healthy feeding habit in relation to that aspect of their child’s diet which was in line with an overall healthy goal, i.e. increase fruit and vegetable intake, serve healthy snacks and reduce sugary drinks. At each subsequent visit, parents were encouraged to continue the previous habit(s) while introducing a new one. On the final visit, they completed the post-intervention questionnaire and a brief interview on their experience of the intervention.

Intervention type



Not Applicable

Drug names

Primary outcome measure

Parent habit strength for each new feeding behavior (measured by self-reported automaticity).

Secondary outcome measures

Children’s food intake and intervention acceptability

Overall trial start date


Overall trial end date


Reason abandoned (if study stopped)


Participant inclusion criteria

Parents with a child aged between 2-5 years and were motivated to take part.

Participant type


Age group




Target number of participants


Participant exclusion criteria

Parents with a child that had a serious medical condition which meant they had a severely restricted diet.

Recruitment start date


Recruitment end date



Countries of recruitment

United Kingdom

Trial participating centre

Health Behaviour Research Centre
United Kingdom

Sponsor information


University College London (UK)

Sponsor details

Department of Epidemiology and Public Health
Health Behaviour Research Centre
1-19 Torrington Place
United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7679 1720

Sponsor type




Funder type

Research organisation

Funder name

Cancer Research UK (UK) ref: C1418/A7974

Alternative name(s)


Funding Body Type

private sector organisation

Funding Body Subtype

Other non-profit organizations


United Kingdom

Results and Publications

Publication and dissemination plan

Not provided at time of registration

Intention to publish date

Participant level data

Not provided at time of registration

Basic results (scientific)

Publication list

2013 results in:

Publication citations

  1. Results

    McGowan L, Cooke LJ, Gardner B, Beeken RJ, Croker H, Wardle J, Healthy feeding habits: efficacy results from a cluster-randomized, controlled exploratory trial of a novel, habit-based intervention with parents., Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 2013, 98, 3, 769-777, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.052159.

Additional files

Editorial Notes