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.
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.