Healthy eating may start at home, but parents need to do more than just eat well themselves.
A recent study, published in Science Daily last week, tracked the eating habits of a nationally representative sample of adults ages 20-65 and their children ages 2-18 via a questionnaire. It showed that parents’ “healthy example” diets have little effect on their kids.
After comparing the parent and child questionnaires, and scoring them against the USDA 2005 Health Eating Index, researchers found little similarities in intakes of carbohydrates, proteins, fats—saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, etc—or vitamins. However, the children’s diets did resemble their mothers’ slightly more so than their fathers’. The child’s age and the family’s income, however, did have a slight effect on the overall score. For example, the older the child, the less similarity, as friends tend to become more important in adolescence.
This doesn’t mean that kid’s won’t pick up on parental signals. Parents’ attitudes toward food—good or bad—can have a profound effect. Also, it’s never a bad idea to stock the house with healthy options. FYI, I don’t really think fat-free twinkies count as healthy…It’s not about creating a controlled environment at home; it’s about teatching your children how to make good choices for themselves.