In terms of nutrition, parents are the ultimate role model for their children, and their influence has even more impact when they both set an example, a recent Finnish research study suggests.
If you would like your child to eat more fruit and vegetables, it is up to you to set an example. And it’s even better if both parents get involved, suggests a study by the University of Eastern Finland published in Food Quality and Preferences.
Previous research studies have confirmed that parents’ influence on their children’s eating habits begins as early as the first year after birth. Children learn what, when and how much to eat, largely by observing the eating behaviors of others.
To determine the extent to which parents’ eating habits could influence their children’s, the authors of this new study surveyed 114 children between the ages of 3 and 5 and 100 parents, to determine what foods they consumed at home.
Overall, the results suggest a low consumption of fruits and vegetables among children aged 3 to 5 and their parents. Cooked vegetables and berries were the foods least consumed by participants, the study notes.
Parental influence is particularly important at dinner time
The researchers found that, to some extent, the pattern of consumption of a specific food could vary between parents: for example, mothers were more likely to eat raw and cooked vegetables, as well as fruits and berries. Fathers, on the other hand, reported higher consumption of cooked vegetables.
“This shows that teaching children to eat their greens is not something mothers should be doing alone. A positive example set by both parents is important, as is their encouragement of the child,” points out nutritionist and researcher Kaisa Kähkönenn, who was also the lead author of the study.
Parents’ responses also suggest that dinner is the most important meal at home when it comes to teaching children to eat vegetables and fruit.
According to the World Health Organisation, which recommends consuming more than 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day, low fruit and vegetable consumption is among the top ten risk factors for mortality worldwide.