For Kids, Healthy Eating Habits Start At Home, Part 1 of 2
Mary Porter shares studies and personal experience on how your food choices influence your child’s
My 7-year old twins have been opting for Miso Soup in the morning several times a week for the past month. This trend started two years ago during a really cold spell that sent me looking for something warming to start off the day. Miso Soup, a traditional Japanese breakfast, seemed to fit the bill. I filled a pan with a bowl’s worth of water, added a tablespoon of soy sauce and set it to boiling, after which I added some broken udon noodles, a handful of baby spinach and some diced baked tofu. At the end, I dissolved two tablespoons of brown rice miso in water and added it to the broth. The result was splendid, but the best part was that when my kids came down for breakfast that morning, they wanted to share it, and a tradition was begun. Although I think I’ve done a pretty good job of feeding my kids healthy foods and teaching them to make good choices, that experience cemented it for me – it’s really how I choose to eat that influences how they choose to eat.
In 2008, researchers from Dartmouth Medical School came to the same conclusion. In the study 120 children, two to six years old, pretending to be adults, shopped at a pretend grocery store stocked with 73 different products. The majority of the kids, 78 percent, selected foods in the “least healthy” category. Only 13 percent selected foods in the “healthiest” category. It may come as no surprise that the food choices they made mirrored the food purchases their parents made. The study concluded that children begin to mimic their parents’ food choices at a very young age, long before they are able to understand the implications of these selections, thus potentially setting dietary preferences for life.
A new study from the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at 30 years of studies on children’s’ diets and found them far different now from their parents’ – and far less healthy. One of the reasons for the shift, it was concluded, was that kids, especially older ones who eat out more, are more likely to be influenced by retailers, advertisers, friends and schools when making food choices. That doesn’t mean parents don’t still play an influential role, but that their efforts need to be more concerted to sway their kids’ eating decisions. And parents’ own food choices are where that starts.
Next week: more on how to be a good food model for your family, and when it’s okay to cheat.
Have you had particular challenges or successes being a good influence on your child’s eating habits? Share them with me in the Comments.