_Li’l Eats

Healthy eating advice for children is just a video call away thanks to the new program from Drexel's Center for Weight, Eating, and Lifestyle Science.

_Evan Forman

Forman is a psychology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the WELL Center.

Parents can play an important role in helping their children adopt healthier eating habits, but encouraging children to eat more vegetables and cut down on sugary treats isn’t easy.

So then-doctoral student Britt Evans at Drexel’s Center for Weight, Eating, and Lifestyle Science (WELL Center) developed “Project PICNIC” as her dissertation project.

Project PICNIC (Parent Skills Coaching to Nourish Children) is designed to help parents of 2–10 year-olds who are having difficulty promoting a healthier diet for their child. The program uses video-conferencing software to provide parent coaching from WELL Center counselors on skills and strategies to manage challenging situations at family mealtimes.

“Most types of treatment require the parent or family to come into an office to learn new strategies, then go home and try to use them on their own, without any guidance or support,” says Evan Forman, a psychology professor in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences and director of the WELL Center, who served as a faculty mentor to Evans. With video conferencing “the coaching they receive is going to be better tailored to exactly those challenges that a parent faces at mealtimes, because the coach is observing the interactions in real-time,” he says.

Results from the proof-of-concept program indicated that it was feasible to provide effective video-conference coaching at the dinner table and that parents were highly satisfied with the program.

Furthermore, child fruit and vegetable intake increased, and parents demonstrated more effective parenting skills in addition to reporting greater self-efficacy for effectively managing problem behaviors at mealtime.