Family Rules Help Kids Learn to Eat Healthy, Stay Active

New research provides timely suggestions to help parents guide their children to a healthy lifestyle.

Indiana University investigators found that setting specific family rules about healthy eating and sedentary behavior actually leads to healthier practices in children.

Alyssa M. Lederer, doctoral candidate and associate instructor in the Department of Applied Health Science at the School of Public Health-Bloomington reviewed a data set that was originally used to evaluate a K-12 obesity prevention initiative.

She was able to use the data to look further into the connection between family rules and sedentary behavior and eating behavior, as well as family rules and weight status.

Childhood obesity has really become a health crisis, so as researchers we’re trying to see what we can do to lessen the toll,” Lederer said.

Data for the study was collected from a sample of nearly 3,000 Midwest participants from fourth through eighth grade. The family rules that were specifically analyzed related to time spent watching television, playing video games and on the computer, and what children were or were not allowed to eat.

Researchers discovered students coming from households with healthy behavioral guidelines tended to make healthier choices for themselves. For example, the children with set family rules for what they could or could not eat were less likely to consume fast food and were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables than students without guidelines.

A similar outcome was associated for time spent with television, video games, and computer use. Moreover, the study revealed a profile of the demographics of children most likely to have family rules.

Investigators discovered that students coming from families that had eating and sedentary rules were more likely to be younger, female, white, and of lower socioeconomic status.

Researchers did not find a direct link between family rules and weight status but did discover a positive correlation between the healthy behaviors shown and weight status. Lederer said this means that the family rules may play more of an intermediary role in this regard —¬†family health rules lead to behavioral change, and behavioral change leads to weight-loss.

“As we try to figure out ways to tackle childhood obesity, this is something that families can do very easily,” Lederer said.

“It doesn’t involve money or policy change, and it can make a very important change in their children’s health.”

Lederer presented the study at the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans.

Source: Indiana University/EurekAlert

Mother cooking healthy food with her daughters photo by shutterstock.