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Children’s Eating Habits Aren’t Influenced by their Parents, Study Says

The New York Times reported on a collection of research done which examined different studies related to children’s eating habits and those of their parents. The results surprised (and slightly disappointed) me. It turns out that we can only accomplish so much by setting good examples. The old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child” came to mind when I learned that external influences play a greater role in shaping the eating habits of our youngsters than we, the parents, do.

Dr. Youfa Wang, of Johns Hopkins, led the team of researchers and they admit that the findings were a bit flimsy. According to the New York Times, “The authors acknowledge that their conclusions were based on limited data, that only three of the studies were conducted in developing countries, and that methodologies varied.” Even after accounting for less-than-ideal studies, it certainly appears that the parent-child connection just doesn’t hold strong enough in a world inundated with advertisements and bad influences.

You might be asking yourself, “What’s next then? How do I get through to my child that healthy eating habits are important?” You may not be able to control every decision your mini-me makes, but you can do your best to lead by example. Studies show that influence is greater during the early years, so do your best to foster healthy habits when your children are young. When looking outside your home, lobby for better school lunches and responsible advertising. Remind all caregivers and older children that eating healthy is important to you. Explain yourself to your kids so that they understand why you eat the way you do and offer only healthy options at home.

It may also help to remember that children (as with the rest of us) need an occasional treat. Give in every once in awhile and try not to make older kids feel bad if they don’t always make food choices that are in-line with your own. Go ahead, try to stop your 16 year old from going to Jack in the Box with her friends! By encouraging a respectful and honest relationship, you will open the door for conversation which gives you the opportunity to teach.

What are some of the ways you try to improve the influence you have over the eating habits of your children?

Also Read:

One Third of American Babies are Obese

Mother’s Diet During Pregnancy Has Lasting Influence on Children

January 6th, 2011

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(Page 1 of 1, 2 total comments)


Good point, Diana. Maybe it's our own fault that we have less influence than advertisements. That's definitely something to consider and I would love to hear more opinions on the matter!

posted Jan 6th, 2011 11:19 pm


Hmmm. Something about their studies hits a nerve with me. I know not ever child is like mine, but I know dozens of kids who are. My child loves his veggies. He reads the packaging of the food he eats and does everything in his power to eat by the food pyramid. He loves his veggies, fruits and all the rest. Yes, he enjoys "special food" as we call it. He, on the other hand, doesn't jump up and down and throw a screaming fit just because he didn't get his daily Happy Meal.

It's the parents of children who are responsible for making them understand why the human body needs these things. Not every home can eat balanced meals regularly. Takes money and effort on a schedule to instill good eating habits in children. Yes, as they get older it's harder to be "food police". We can't always stop them from making poor choices, but if you teach them early on their health is important to you, it will become important to them. My son is 8 and yells at me for having a cookie before dinner.

I have experience in making healthy meals for children. I've found ways to take basic items such as potatoes, bread, cheese, milk, eggs.... and make healthy meals that taste better than anything you may get on the go.
Parents aren't being parents any more. They let everyone else, including advertisements, make choices for their children. I hope all parents step up and try to teach their children why it's important for them to be healthy.

posted Jan 6th, 2011 11:12 pm


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