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Impact of parental behaviour on childrens food intake

Obesity - genetic and environmental Obesity is a complex condition influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. For children, overweight and obesity is defined using growth charts and adjusted BMI cut-off points. Currently in Europe, one in five children is overweight or obese. Genes define the propensity to become overweight, and diet and physical activity can determine to what extent that propensity becomes a reality.

In addition, behaviours are influenced by the environment. Eating habits developed when young influence lifelong eating behaviours.

Once children begin school, most have already developed their food preferences likes and dislikes so achieving behaviour change is more difficult.

Parental influence on children’s food preferences and energy intake

This reflects an evolutionary response that was historically useful because the sweet taste signalled sources of energy calorieswhile bitter tastes signalled foods that might be toxic.

Some researchers believe that infants begin to accept bitter tastes around the age of 14—180 days. A reluctance to try new foods is called neophobia. It presents many challenges for parents, and they respond in a variety of ways. Some give their children what they want to pacify them. Others restrict highly palatable foods, pressure to eat fruits and vegetables, provide rewards for eating nutritious foods, or do nothing at impact of parental behaviour on childrens food intake.

Recent research provides answers as to why young children act this way towards food and how parents can best respond to encourage healthy eating habits that will last into adulthood. Parental impact of parental behaviour on childrens food intake that seem intuitive — restricting less nutritious foods, pressuring to eat nutrient-rich foods, or rewarding for good behaviours — might actually be counterproductive and lead to unhealthy habits, which might lead to obesity for children later in life.

Restricting a tasty food from children usually increases their desire for it. In addition, some studies have found that children with restrictive parents were more likely to be overweight later in life.

Child nutrition

In contrast, a moderate amount of restriction could be beneficial. Children whose parents moderately restricted what they ate were found to consume fewer calories overall than children whose parents used high or low amounts of restriction. Older children who said their parents were authoritative — active in meal times but not restrictive — ate more fruit, fewer sweets and fatty snacks, and breakfast more days of the week than children who claimed their parents were neglectful. Pressuring children often deters them from eating certain foods and has also been associated with a lower body weight and picky eating.

However, this does not mean that pressuring causes a lower body weight or picky eating; instead, it is thought that when parents have children who are picky eaters or are underweight, they are more likely to pressure them to impact of parental behaviour on childrens food intake.

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Rewarding Rewarding children for healthy eating is another common practice among well-intentioned parents.

However, rewarding with a highly palatable food can defeat the purpose of rewarding. In addition, rewarding does not allow children to develop intrinsic motivation for healthy eating. Parents may see better results from offering a variety of foods starting at a young age and repeating exposure to foods even if the child does not like them at first. A UK study found that exposing four to six year olds impact of parental behaviour on childrens food intake vegetables and giving them a sticker for eating them was the most effective at increasing their intake of vegetables compared to exposure plus verbal praise or just exposure.

The environment is partly to blame for less and poor modelling. People eat away from home more often, which can mean poorer food choices are modelled. Likewise, fewer family meals are eaten at home, an opportune place for parents to offer a model of healthy eating behaviours.

Children are more likely to try unfamiliar foods if they have observed someone else impact of parental behaviour on childrens food intake them.

There are two main ways modelling can increase consumption: This means eating a wide variety of foods and consuming fruits and vegetables regularly. In addition, parents can expose their children to fruits and vegetables through movies, books, or gardening.

Raising children to adopt healthy eating behaviours may seem daunting, but it does not have to be. Most importantly, parents should expose their children to a wide variety of foods starting at an early age. Usually children reject certain foods because they are new to them. It may take several exposures before they develop a liking to these initially unfavourable foods. The exact number of exposures needed depends on a number of factors including the age of the child, initial liking and novelty of the food, and previous exposures to new flavours.

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One exposure might be enough for some children, but others might require repeated exposure. Notably, the way fruits and vegetables look on the plate influences the likelihood that children will try them. One study found that children ate more fruit when it was boat-shaped compared to fruit served simply on a white plate. Be a positive role model by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

Provide a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables to your children starting when solid foods are introduced. Schedule meal times, and eat together as a family.

Impact of parental behaviour on childrens food intake new foods that are nutritious but not immediately appealing at least 5—10 times. Allow children to self-regulate — to determine when they are hungry and full. Apply a moderate amount of restriction and teach that all foods can be part of a healthy diet in the right amounts. Offer larger portions of vegetables for specifics, see below or serve vegetables as a first course.

Make fruits and vegetables visually appealing by changing the shape or method of cooking.