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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 12/13/2010

Relax, parents. Your kids don't care what you eat.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

A few years ago I faced some pushback when I proposed writing an article questioning the notion that parents' modeling healthful behaviors prompts kids to follow their lead. (In my experience, they don't.) I was cautioned that I would look foolish, as my premise -- that kids don't necessarily mimic their parents' healthy habits -- was so contrary to the canon.

Now I feel vindicated. A new study released last week found that parents' influence over kids' eating habits isn't all that strong after all. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the findings from 24 studies exploring the link between parental eating behaviors and those of their children; the results were quite mixed, and ultimately they showed a weak association at best. Moreover, the resemblance between parents' eating habits and their kids' has weakened over time. (The studies covered the years from 1980 to 2009.)

The authors posit that other influences -- everything from media and peers to schools and government dietary guidelines -- have assumed increased influence over young people's eating habits.

So what's a parent to do?

Well, the study didn't show that we have no influence whatsoever over what our kids eat and when. So we should probably keep doing our best to model healthful approaches to fueling our bodies, enjoying our meals and getting our exercise. And then we should cross our fingers and hope that some of it sticks.

What's the dynamic in your family? Please vote in today's poll and leave a comment below.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | December 13, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Childhood obesity, Kids' health, Nutrition and Fitness, Parenting, Teens  
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