Children are the most easily influenced age group in our society. They are a sponge soaking up what they see and hear, which in turn effects who they grow up to be and the decisions they make.
They’re most easily and often influenced by those in their home. They look up to their parents and older siblings and emulate their actions, including what they eat and how active they are.
A Duke Medicine study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, says1 parents are role models for their children and stressed the importance of promoting physical activity and healthy eating. If children see their parents exercising and are encouraged to do so as well, they’re more likely to be active and healthy eaters, according to the study.
Parents aren’t the only influence on their child when it comes to activity levels, but what they put on the television influences their eating habits too. A recent study at the University of Michigan found2 commercial television viewing, as opposed to viewing commercial-free, digitally recorded television or other media without food advertising, in the home was related to greater junk food consumption.
Even though parents and other caregivers are the primary gatekeepers regarding young children’s food intake, children are still learning about food as it relates to health from family, media, and other sources, and may use this knowledge later on to inform their decisions when parents or other adults aren’t there to supervise them, Kristen Harrison of the University of Michigan said.
Besides parents taking an active role in what their children do and eat, it’s also important to educate. Chef Jamie Oliver says3 “the world isn’t as educated about food as we think it is. Diet related-issues”, Oliver says, “is a global problem. It’s a catastrophe. It’s sweeping the world.” Oliver has been doing his best to start a food revolution4 in hopes to better educate the world about real food and eating healthy. He started the Better Food Foundation5 in hopes of increasing school kitchens and instructing the new generation on basic cooking skills so we can transform the way we feed ourselves and our children.
It is very important for the future of our children to bring this education into our homes. KidsHealth.org’s ways6 to encourage healthy eating habits in your family:
- Have regular family meals. Children who take part in regular family meals are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, less likely to have unhealthy snacks and less likely to smoke or drink alcohol.
- Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks
- Be a role model by eating healthy yourself
- Avoid battles over food. Give your kids the freedom to choose.
- Involve kids in the process. Let them help pick the menu or even make the meal.
Jennifer Tyler Lee, mother of two children and creator of Crunch a Color7 nutrition games, struggled with picky eaters in her family and decided to embark on 52 weeks, 52 new foods8. Each week her family tries out a new, healthy food item (everything from romanesco broccoli to quinoa stuffing), which makes meals different, but still healthy, and kids are more excited to eat.
It’s important for parents to pass down healthy habits to their children and it isn’t a hard thing to do.
Stay active, research healthy food recipes and get your kids excited about doing what’s best for their bodies.