Think you can't get your kids to eat
mushrooms? Think again.
Starting in the womb, a mother's influence on her
child's nutrition is irrefutable. Researchers are discovering just
how much sway she has, along with other influencers in a child's
Maternal personality. Mothers with many
negative thoughts and feelings are more likely to give their
children unhealthy food, according to a 2009 study published in
Maternal and Child Nutrition. The mothers who were emotionally
unstable, anxious, angry, sad, had poor self-confidence or a
negative view of the world were far more likely to give their child
sweet and fatty foods. Yet there was no link between maternal
personality and the amount of fruit and vegetables a child
receives. The researchers suspect the moms may be trying to
compensate for their negative emotions.
Parenting styles. Parents with extreme
parenting styles usually fail to serve as good dietary role models
for their children, according to Oklahoma State University
research. Strict parents tend to have an authoritarian approach to
their children's eating, such as banning certain foods or using
pressure to get them to eat fruits and vegetables. On the other
hand, permissive parents who let their children eat whatever they
wanted tended to be permissive in their parenting styles as well.
Parents who fell somewhere between permissive and authoritarian
were those who set limits on their kids' diets and enforced them
through more positive approaches, such as leading by
Nagging. Mothers who pressure their
children to clean their plates may help produce a fussy eater,
while tight control of what they eat could make children prone to
overeating, according to a new study in the Journal of the American
Dietetic Association. But parents' mealtime strategies don't
necessarily cause their children to overeat or become picky eaters.
The researchers admit the parents' urges may be in response to
eating habits their children already have.
Mothers and friends. When a young child's
mother is present, he tends to eat more nourishing foods than when
he's with his friends. In a study in the American Journal of
Clinical Nutrition, boys and girls age 5 to 7 ate fewer calories
from unhealthy snacks and desserts when their mothers were with
them compared to when their friends were there.
Grandma. Grandmothers can greatly
influence the nutrition environment of their preschool-aged
grandchildren. In a Maryland study, grandmothers shaped their
grandchildren's fruit and vegetable consumption by buying and
providing food for their daughters and grandchildren. However,
grandmothers also reported consuming less than the recommended
daily amount of fruits and vegetables, which suggests they might
have a negative effect on how much produce their grandchildren
Buying healthy foods, or not. While
parents prefer nutritious foods for the entire family, their
preference for healthy foods is about 50 percent weaker when
they're selecting products for the kids, rather than for
themselves. The likely explanation is that parents give in at the
grocery store-or before they even get there-compromising their
preferences based on what they believe their children will accept,
according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is an award-winning dietitian
and mother of three from Naperville. She received the 2011
Outstanding Dietetic Educator award from the Illinois Dietetic
Association in April. Follow her on Facebook at Christine Palumbo
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.
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