+ Children eating the same food as their parents have healthier diets

Children who eat the same food as their parents have healthier diets

Surprise, surprise!  Some science now supports what I and many others have considered the obvious…

Children who eat the same food as their parents have healthier diets, a recent study from the University of Edinburgh has found.  The study conducted by Dr. Valeria Skafida, with a sample of over 2000 four-year-olds in Scotland,  found that youngsters who are fed the same food as the rest of the family eat more fruit and vegetables, less fatty and salty foods and generally snack less.

This was found to have the greatest impact on a young child’s health than any other factor – including eating together at mealtimes.

“Children are nutritionally better off by eating the same food as their parents, and this holds independently of whether children eat meals together or not.” she said.

In the study, Dr. Skafida pointed to the fact that food geared especially to children, either in the home in restaurants, is not as nutritious as adult food (who would have guessed)!

“When children refuse to eat adult food during the family meal, it is a common coping strategy for parents to create separate and different child-friendly food alternatives often of inferior nutritional value to the family meal. This seems to be a widespread phenomenon, also reflected in child menus offered at restaurants which are typically of poorer nutritional value than adult equivalents,” she said.

The  message here…
Lead by example, share food with your kids and don’t compromise their health with nutritionally void foods that ‘they like to eat’.  Persistence, patience, and positivity are critical to altering their food desires and palate (and know this, your child will not go hungry or starve!).  I say rather a hungry fussy child than a sick child with a (preventable) chronic illness.

Also, next time you are out for dinner, try to avoid the kids menu.  I do one of two things.  Either eat tapas style by ordering a few different dishes and share them.  I love this as I get to try lots of different things and if one person doesn’t like something, they can eat some other part of what’s been ordered so there’s no waste.  Or, we order a main for the kids and they split it.  This is often a cheaper alternative to two kids meals and way healthier too.

Babies and toddlers…
With babies and toddlers, leave the jars of food at home and share your meal – they love it and their palate will develop enormously from sharing your meal with them.  Even at home, let them see you are eating the same as them and offer them food from your plate always.

I’m always offering ideas for combatting fussy eating habits in either my blogs or even in certain recipes (to make them more appealing to young palates).  So explore the website and look out for new blog posts for many more ideas.

For more about why family meals matter so much, check out this inspirational post.

Any other ideas, comments or observations? Love to hear your thoughts, why not post a comment below?


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  • Sally O

    Well after serving my children brussel sprouts for I’d say about 1,365 times in every possible combo you could imagine ….. they finally will eat them. Not saying they love them but hey i’m hoping a little goes a long way. Patience and persistence does pay off eventually!

    • I love brussel sprouts cooked quickly in a little sherry vinegar and grainy mustard on the BBQ. The charred and acidic flavour combination is delicious and we all fight for the biggest serve. Good on you for persisting Sally and sharing your experience. G x
      PS – also lovely shaved/ thinly sliced through a salad!

  • Lucy

    Such a good article! This is definitely something we’re doing with our little one who has just turned one! So far so good.. !

    • Great, they love to see that they are eating the same as you at that age. What you do now can make such a difference to their long term interest in food. My kids are obsessed with food – to the point my son as a toddler had a tantrum at the butchers once because I was buying lamb for dinner and he wanted chilli mussels. You can imagine the looks I received as he screamed “I want Chilli Mussels!” My daughter also had a massive wobbly in a very quiet French restaurant when my husband gave her one snail off his plate (he only had 6) and she wanted more. Not many 2 year olds scream “More snails”. Very funny in hindsight! G x

  • Vikki

    Hi, I’m struggling with giving my 12 month old solids. She has already built up a stubborn streak when it comes to eating! Even though i’ve always fed her with healthy foods, she is still partial to the sweeter things like fruit amd natural yoghurt and she throws big tantrums in her highchair when i give her something she doesn’t want. I know we’re supposed to offer foods 10 or so times before they like them, but what is the best thing to do when she outright refuses something? I have been running off to the cupboard to find something else, but i think that is part of the problem, she cries until she gets something she wants! How can i handle this? I already have a fussy 3 yo and i’m worried she will end up the same way! She has quite a lot of intolerances too so its hard to find things she can eat. Any advice is appreciated 🙂

    • Hi Vikki, I really feel for you, it’s a tough situation. If she has multiple intolerance’s I’d urge you to consider really addressing her digestion (lots of ideas under the health blogs tab). Poor digestion drives food intolerance and nutritional deficiency which contributes to food fussiness. Personally I never give up on any food (I offered salad leaves to both my kids for 2 years before they both decided they would eat them). Once you have introduced a wide variety of foods, she should be eating together with you as a family as much as possible. Let her choose off a plate or platter what she wants – shared meals are so important. Also try cooking meat/ vegetables different ways and work out what appeals the most. I had a friend with a 1 year old stay recently. He was rejecting most foods that weren’t perfectly smooth and really wasn’t much interested in eating anything but fruit or yogurt. I happened to be writing an article about baby food and had roasted sweet potato for a recipe. His mum said he wouldn’t eat it but we gave him a few pieces. He loved it and it seems he 1. Likes finger food and only feeding himself 2. Only roast/baked sweet potato (not steamed or mashed). I also put a little cinnamon on it which he really loved. Try dipping steamed or roasted vegetables into things like natural yogurt (plain or with tahini or cinnamon mixed in if tolerated). Kids often love dipping stuff. Offer lots of choice, but only healthy choice and avoid falling into the sugar trap. The fructose (even in fruit) is addictive and doesn’t serve her well. Sounds like you have a determined girl (I have one too). Remember as well, that their appetite fluctuates a lot when they are little. Sometimes she will be hungry, sometimes not. She won’t starve! Persistence and praise are your friends here. What you do now will shape her eating habits in the future. Good luck, G x

      • Vikki

        Thanks for your good advice. I will try the dipping things. We always eat together I believe that is important, but she either looks at the food and throws it on the floor without trying it, or takes it in her mouth and spits it out. I wonder if she has sensory issues…who knows, its so hard!

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