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Our Purpose

Research in the Energy Balance and Nutrition Laboratory (EBNL) focuses on the energy mechanisms that contribute to desirable or less desirable weight gain, growth, and nutritional status in infants, children, and adolescents who are healthy, and in those with chronic disease. Since weight status in young childhood affects development and is predictive of adult weight status, the goal of our laboratory is help all individuals reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Current Research Studies

Current studies:

One of our current studies involves Dietary Approaches for Cardiovascular Health. Click to learn more about this study.

Another one of our current studies focuses on the impact of first foods on an infant’s natural gut bacteria. Click to learn more about this study.

Interested in participating in an Energy Balance and Nutrition Lab study?

Lab Directors

Jillian Trabulsi, PhD, RD

Associate Professor

Dr. Trabulsi is an alumnus of the nutrition program at the University of Delaware. She started her career as a clinical dietitian at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). After practicing for six years, she went on to earn her Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences at The University of Wisconsin – Madison, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship in Pediatric Nutrition and Growth at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Her research interests center upon diet, nutritional status, growth, and energy balance in infants and children who are healthy and in those with chronic disease. She is specifically interested the components of the energy balance equation that contribute to desirable or less desirable growth patterns. Her research has been funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health as well as private foundations and her work is published in peer-reviewed journals.

Shannon Robson, PhD, MPH, RD

Associate Professor, Director of Nutrition Science PhD Program

Dr. Robson is an alumnus of the nutrition program at the University of Delaware. She earned her MPH in community health education and PhD in Nutrition Science at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and completed a National Institutes of Health post-doctoral fellowship in Child Behavior and Nutrition in the Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Her research interests are focused on individual- and family-level factors that influence eating behaviors to promote health.

Carrie P. Earthman, PhD, RD

Professor and Director of Research for the UD Health Nutrition Clinic


Dr. Earthman joined the faculty at the University of Delaware in 2019, after spending much of her academic career at the University of Minnesota. She has been a Registered Dietitian since 1991, when she began her career as an acute care dietitian working in GI disorders, heart and pulmonary failure, HIV/AIDS, cancer, and nutrition support. She went on to earn her MS and PhD in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois and the University of Arizona, respectively.

Graduate & Undergraduate Research Assistants



Adriana Verdezoto Alvarado is a Nutrition Sciences doctoral student from Ecuador. She graduated with a BS in Biology with a minor in Chemistry at Randolph College and an MS in Nutritional Sciences at Arizona State University. At ASU, Adriana worked with minority populations to improve nutrition and physical activity in children and adults. Her research interests include behavioral-based interventions, the home food environment, dietary patterns, and prevention of chronic disease. 





Lynn Ferro is a doctoral student working in the Energy Balance and Nutrition Laboratory. Lynn’s research interests are centered around infant nutrition and its connection to the gut microbiota. Currently, Lynn is conducting the First Foods Study to examine the impact that first complementary foods fed to infants have on the microbial communities of the gastrointestinal tract. Prior to coming to the University of Delaware, Lynn received her B.S. in Nutritional Sciences with a concentration in Biomedical and Molecular Nutrition from Michigan State University.





Michelle Delahanty is currently a Research Associate in the Energy Balance and Nutrition Lab. She earned her Master of Public Health in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, with a certificate in Evaluation, from the University of Pittsburgh in 2019. Her research interests include food security, maternal and child diet/health, and chronic disease management and prevention.



In the News

Dr. Trabulsi in UDaily
Getting a Healthy Start

Dr. Robson in Delaware Public Media
UD research shows a link between parent and child diet quality


Current publications

Fultz AK, Burns KF, Davey A, Trabulsi J, Robson S. Dietary Energy Density from Infancy to 5 years: Results from NHANES 2009-2018. J of Nutr. Jun 7:nxac133. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxac133. Online ahead of print


Ferro LE, Crowley LN, Bittinger K, Friedman ES, Decker JE, Russel K, Katz S, Kim JK, Trabulsi J. Effects of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics on the infant gut microbiota and other health outcomes: A systematic review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Online before print 04 Jan 2022. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2021.2022595


Mennella JA, Li Y, Bittinger K, Friedman ES, Zhao C, Li H, Wu GD, Trabulsi JC. The Macronutrient Composition of Infant Formula Produces Differences in Gut Microbiota Maturation That Associate with Weight Gain Velocity and Weight Status. Nutrients. 2022 Mar 15;14(6):1241. doi: 10.3390/nu14061241


Mennella JA, Smethers AD, Decker JE, Delahanty MT, Stallings VA, Trabulsi JC. Effects of early weight gain velocity, diet quality, and snack food access on toddler weight status at 1.5 years: Follow-Up of a randomized controlled infant formula trial. Nutrients. 2021 Nov 4;13(11):3946. doi: 10.3390/nu13113946


Jarrold K, Bartosz B, Eskander M, Trabulsi J, Caulfield L, Duffy G, Garcia-Larsen V, Hayward D, Hyde M, Jeffries S, Knip M, Leonardi-Bee J, Loder E, Lodge C, Lowe A, McGuire W, Osborn D, Hildegard P, Renfrew M, Trumbo P, Warner J, Schneeman B, Boyle R. Guidance for the Conduct and Reporting of Clinical Trials of Breastmilk Substitutes: a Delphi Consensus Statement. JAMA Pediatr. 2020 May 11;174(9):874-881 doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.0578


Raynor HA, Robson SM, Griffiths L. Translating the Recommended Multicomponent Intervention for Childhood Overweight and Obesity into Practice: Implementation Challenges. J Contemp Psychother. 2022. [In Press]


Burns K, Raynor HA, Robson SM. A Low-energy-dense Dietary Pattern: A Narrative Review. Nutr Rev. 2022. [Online ahead of print] doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuac037


Fultz AK, Baker S, Steeves EA, Trabulsi J, Verdezoto Alvarado A, Robson SM. Feasibility of Implementing a Food Skills Intervention. J Acad of Nutr Diet. 2022. [Online ahead of print] doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2022.02.015


Rex SM, Kopetsky AK, Bodt B, Robson SM. Relationships Among the Physical and Social Home Food Environments, Dietary Intake, and Diet Quality in Mothers and Children. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2021;121(10):2013-2020. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2021.03.008.


Kopetsky AK, Baker S, Hobbs K, Robson SM. Understanding Mothers’ Perceptions of Food Skills: A Qualitative Study. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2021;121(7):1339-1349. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2021.01.001

Rosbon SM, Vadiveloo M, Green S, Couch SC, Sallis JF, Glanz K, Saelens BE. Examining the consumer restaurant environment and dietary intake in children. Prev Med Rep. 2020;20:101274. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2020.101274


Rex SM, Russel K, Reiter-Purtill J, Zeller MH, Courcoulas A, West-Smith L, Robson SM. A cross-sectional examination of the home food envionrment of mothers who have undergone metabolic and bariatric surgery: a pilot study. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2020;16(12):2016-2021. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2020.07.021


Trabulsi JC, Smethers AD, Eosso JR, Papas MA, Stallings VA, Mennella JA. Impact of early rapid weight gain on odds for overweight at one year differs between breastfed and formula-fed infants. Pediatr Obes. 2020;15(10):e12688. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12688. 


Mennella JA, Reiter A, Brewer B, Pohlig RT, Stallings VA, Trabulsi JC. Early weight gain forecasts accelerated eruption of deciduous teeth and later overweight status during the first year. J Pediatr. 2020;225:174-181. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.06.019


Jarrold K, Helfer B, Eskander M, Crawley H, Trabulsi J, Caulfield L, et al. Guidance for the Conduct and Reporting of Clinical Trials of Breast Milk Substitutes [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 11]. JAMA Pediatr. 2020;e200578. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.0578


Rex SM, Trabulsi J, Baker S, Bodt B, Robson SM. Food Purchasing Behaviors of WIC Participants: What Non-WIC Eligible Foods Items Are Being Purchased. Am J Health Promot. 2020;34(3):307-310. Doi:10.1177/0890117119892765 


Robson SM, McCullough MB, Rex S, Munafò MR, Taylor G. Family Meal Frequency, Diet, and Family Functioning: A Systematic Review With Meta-analyses. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2020;52(5):553-564. Doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2020.12.012 


Robson SM, DeLuccia R, Baker S, Bodt B, Trabulsi J. Qualitative Research on the Real-Time Decision Making of WIC Participants While Food Shopping: Use of Think-Aloud Methodology. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2019;120(1):111-119. Doi:10.1016/j.jand.2019.05.009 


Zeller MH, Robson SM, Reiter-Purtill J, et al. Halo or horn? A qualitative study of mothers’ experiences with feeding children during the first year following bariatric surgery. Appetite. 2019;142:104366. Doi:10.1016/j.appet.2019.104366 


Mennella JA, Papas MA, Reiter AR, Stallings VA, Trabulsi JC. Early rapid weight gain among formula-fed infants: Impact of formula type and maternal feeding styles. Pediatr Obes. 2019;14(6):e12503. doi:10.1111/ijpo.12503 


Robson SM, Ziegler ML, McCullough MB, et al. Changes in diet quality and home food environment in preschool children following weight management. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2019;16(1):16. Published 2019 Feb 4. Doi:10.1186/s12966-019-0777-6 


Mennella JA, Inamdar L, Pressman N, Schall JI, Papas MA, Schoeller, D, Stallings VA, 

Trabulsi J. Type of infant formula increases early weight gain and impacts energy balance: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018;108(5):1015-1025. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqy188 


Towner EK, Robson SM, Stark LJ. Secondary Impact of a Behavioral Intervention on Dietary Quality in Preschoolers with Obesity. Child Health Care. 2018;48(1):75-89. Doi:10.1080/02739615.2018.1463532 


McCullough MB, Janicke D, Odar Stough C, et al. Barriers to recruitment in pediatric obesity trials: Comparing opt-in and opt-out recruitment approaches. Journal of Pediatric Psychology.2016:jsw054. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsw054


Perkett M, Robson SM, Kripalu V, et al. Characterizing cardiovascular health and evaluating a low-intensity intervention to promote smoking cessation in a food-assistance population. Journal of Community Health. 2016. doi: 10.1007/s10900-016-0295-2


Robson SM, Bolling C, McCullough MB, Stough CO, Stark LJ. A preschool obesity treatment clinical trial: Reasons primary care providers declined referrals. The Journal of pediatrics. 2016;177:266.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.06.027


McCullough MB, Robson SM, Stark LJ. A review of the structural characteristics of family meals with children in the united states. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.). 2016;7(4):627-640. doi: 10.3945/an.115.010439


Robson SM, Couch SC, Peugh JL, et al. Parent diet quality and energy intake are related to child diet quality and energy intake. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016;116(6):984-990. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.02.011


Papas M, Trabulsi J, Dahl A, Dominick G. Food insecurity increases the odds of obesity among young hispanic children.J Immigrant Minority Health. 2016;18(5):1046-1052. doi: 10.1007/s10903-015-0275-0


Ehrenthal DB, Wu P, Trabulsi J. Differences in the protective effect of exclusive breastfeeding on child overweight and obesity by mother’s race.Maternal and child health journal. 2016;20(9):1971. doi: 10.1007/s10995-016-2015-z


Mennella J, Trabulsi J, Papas M. Effects of cow milk versus extensive protein hydrolysate formulas on infant cognitive development.Amino Acids. 2016;48(3):697-705. doi: 10.1007/s00726-015-2118-7


Trabulsi J, Irving S, Papas M, et al. Total energy expenditure of infants with congenital heart disease who have undergone surgical intervention.Pediatr Cardiol. 2015;36(8):1670-1679. doi: 10.1007/s00246-015-1216-3


Riley AW, Trabulsi J, Yao M, Bevans KB, DeRusso PA. Validation of a parent report questionnaire. Clinical Pediatrics. 2015;54(12):1167-1174. doi:10.1177/0009922815574075