Practise what you preach: Mothers who want their children to eat healthy food 'must lead by example'
The children of mothers who binge on junk food are more likely to adopt their own unhealthy eating
habitsParents should encourage children to eat healthilyThose that use force, rewards or punishments are far less successful, researchers said
09:47 GMT, 31 May 2012
Mothers who binge on junk food are closely watched by their children who go on to adopt unhealthy eating habits of their own, according to a study.
Those who eat a healthy diet at home set the best example for children who subconsciously monitor every mouthful, according to researchers at Michigan State University.
The scientists studied the eating habits of low-income families.
Taking the lead: Mothers who eat a healthy diet at home set the best example for children who monitor every mouthful, according to researchers
They found that mothers who want their children to eat well should adopt healthy eating habits themselves and
encourage their children to eat decent foods.
Those that use force, rewards or punishments in a bid to encourage their children to eat vegetables were far less successful.
Lead researcher and nutrition expert Professor Sharon Hoerr said: 'Mothers should stop forcing or restricting their kids' eating.
be better off providing a healthy food environment, adopting balanced
eating habits themselves and covertly controlling their children's diet
quality by not bringing less healthy foods into the house.'
Overtly restricting certain foods from a child when others are eating them at meal times can lead to unhealthy eating, she added.
Additional parental tips include
maintaining regular meal and snack times, offering smaller portions of
healthy foods and allowing the children to decide how much they will
'With picky eaters, it's best to coax and encourage them to eat rather than yell at them'
Children who would rather play with their food or consume only junk food should be gently coaxed and not shouted at.
Professor Hoerr said: 'With picky eaters, it's best to coax and encourage them to eat rather than yell at them.
'Other ways to get them interested in having a balanced diet is to take them to the grocery store or garden, and help them select new foods to taste as well as allow them to help cook at home.'
The study appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.