Do Kids Follow Parents' Dietary Habits? Maybe Not So Much.
When I wrote last year about the fact that my modeling healthful eating and exercise behaviors didn't seem to be making much of an impression on my kids, then ages 14 and 11, I didn't find much in the parenting literature to back me up.
But a new study in the journal Social Science & Medicine seems to support my experience. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at a national survey of families' eating habits, comparing what parents (about 2,300 of them, ages 20 to 65) and their kids (about 2,700, ages 2-18) reported having eaten over two separate 24-hour periods. Their conclusion: Parents' and kids' eating patterns had little in common.
The overall lack of correlation held up when researchers controlled for such influences as parents' income and education status. Similarities between child and parent diets in general was stronger among older children, except among families whose overall diet was the very most healthful. In those diet-wise families, the younger kids' food intake most closely matched parents'. Girls' diets were more like their parents' than were boys', a connection that was particularly strong when it came to mothers' consuming calcium and dairy products. On the flip side, soft-drink consumption was more common among non-Hispanic whites and black kids whose parents also drank the stuff.
There's lots of food for thought here. First, these were just two days' reported diets. The data was collected way back in the mid-1990s. And the study only looked at simultaneous eating habits; it didn't predict whether behaviors parents model for young children might influence those children's diets once they became adults.
Still, the study expands the discussion beyond the old you-model-it, they'll-do-it saw. And it offers some solace to those of us who've felt we must be doing something wrong because our kids don't eat the way we do. The authors posit -- without providing supporting evidence -- that other influences, from peers to TV, might exert more influence over kids' eating habits than parents do.
Tell me how this works in your family. Do your kids follow your lead in their dietary habits? Or are you just hoping that the behaviors you're modeling today will be adopted by your kids later?
Yesterday's Poll Results: And the winner is.... romaine and other leaf lettuce, which 56 percent of the 1,033 people who voted chose as their favorite leafy green. Next up: spinach, with 18 percent of the vote; butterhead, Boston and other open-head varieties with 10 percent. Iceberg lettuce, with 6 percent of the vote, only beat mache greens (4 percent) and "other" (3 percent). Thanks for your input!
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