Study shows a child’s healthy eating habits starts with mum and dad

Mealtimes are a battle of wills in our household – my two-year-old can request spaghetti for dinner then promptly spit out her first mouthful while saying “don’t like tomatoes”. When nothing else will suffice, the fallback is usually yoghurt – and compared to her demands for a Paddle Pop, I think yoghurt is a good outcome.

But it appears I am doing something right – I don’t force her to eat healthy food or use treats as bribes, which are both big no-nos according to new research.

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The best way for parents to get their children to eat well is to eat healthy food in front of them, the study shows. As a vegetarian, I’ll take a gold star for our daughter’s love of cucumber, peas and blueberries.

A study of 57 Australian preschoolers has found that encouraging them and repeatedly offering good food is the best approach, as is getting them to eat the same food as their parents from their first birthday. It warns against cooking different and separate meals for the children, instead recommending that the kids eat the same foods as their parents.

University of Technology researcher Dr Georgina Russell says some parents do not offer food their children won’t eat, or even put it in the supermarket trolley in the first place, which can lead to unhealthy eating.

“Children can need to be offered food a dozen times before they will taste it. What’s important is that kids are not pressured or coerced,” Dr Russell tells the Herald Sun. “Parents can adapt or reduce the portion size, but eating the same food offers an opportunity for modelling good eating and exposure to healthy food.”

Dr Russell say her research shows that what parents eat in front of their children has a big impact on what children eat.

“The general rule is that the parents provide, child decides. It’s important also not to offer any alternatives. Kids in Australia are unlikely to starve,” says Dr Russell.

But parents can “bridge” the taste of family meals to make it more child friendly by including cheese or tomato sauce, she says.

The research was published in the latest Appetite journal.

(via Herald Sun)

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