How to be a positive eating role model

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine
Baystateparent Magazine

Children learn a lot of what they know from mimicking their parents. From how to greet another person to how to eat with a fork, children watch their parents closely.

One area parents might not think about their children mimicking them is when it comes to eating - specifically eating healthy. According to a new study conducted by the University of Oregon, researchers have found that how parents view their own self-regulation of sugar and salt is a contributing factor in how children develop their own food preferences.

According to experts, food systems heavy in calories and light on recommended nutrition are a major factor contributing to global obesity and are a major challenge to parents of young children. The Oregon study showed “providing 3- to 5-year-old children with junk food influences their preferences for the same tastes.” The study also showed that children are less willing to eat vegetables.

Here are a few ways to positively influence your children’s eating habits and be a good role model, according to Unlockfood.ca.

1. Create a positive eating environment

- Have a regular meal and snack times: If children eat whenever they feel like it, they might not be hungry when it’s time for a scheduled meal or snack.

- Eat together as a family: Children who eat meals with their family tend to eat healthier foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They are also at lower risk for becoming overweight.

- Avoid pressuring your children to eat: Insisting that your children eat certain foods may actually cause them to eat less. Your children should be allowed to decide how much to eat based on how hungry they feel.

- Avoid using food as a reward or punishment: Using food as a reward or punishment may lead to unhealthy eating habits.

- Have healthy foods at home: Make sure to buy healthy foods when you shop. The foods available in your fridge, freezer, cupboards and pantry are what your children will get used to eating.

2. Being a positive role model

- Make healthy foods the usual choice: When your children see you eating healthy foods, they are more likely to want to eat them too.

- Limit foods high in calories, fat, sugar and salt: Foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar and salt like cakes, chocolate, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, French fries, potato chips, pop, sports and energy drinks, and sweetened hot or cold drinks should be eaten less often. When you limit these foods yourself, your children will be less likely to eat them as well. It is important not to label these foods as “bad”. They are simply foods to be eaten occasionally and in moderation.