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When Both Parents Eat Veggies, Kids More Likely to Follow Their Example

When both parents set a positive example by eating vegetables, fruits and berries, their young children are more likely to follow their lead, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland.

The findings are published in the journal Food Quality and Preference.

Dietary habits track from childhood to adulthood, and the period of early childhood is critical for adapting to a diet rich in greens. Unfortunately, many children consume inadequate amounts of vegetables and fruits.

The study looked at 114 kindergarten-aged children and their parents (100) in Finland. Through a parental survey, the researchers analyzed the family’s home food environment and their consumption of vegetables, fruit and berries. Raw and cooked vegetables and fruit and berries were each analyzed separately.

The results show that to a certain degree, the consumption of vegetables is influenced by different factors than that of fruit and berries. For instance, maternal example was linked to the consumption of raw and cooked vegetables and fruits and berries. Paternal example, however, was the strongest for cooked vegetables.

“This shows that teaching children to eat their greens is not something mothers should be doing alone. A positive example set by both parents is important, as is their encouragement of the child,” said nutritionist Kaisa Kähkönen from the University of Eastern Finland.

The researchers also found that dinner is the most important meal at home when it comes to teaching children to eat vegetables. The families participating in the study often ate dinner together, highlighting the role of parental influence on the development of children’s dietary choices and preferences.

Eating dinner together offers a daily opportunity to experience vegetables in a variety of forms: as the main course, as a side dish, and as salad.

“Variation can be created by serving raw vegetables, such as the ever-popular cucumber and tomato, accompanied by cooked ones. In fact, many root vegetables, cabbages and squashes are best served cooked,” Kähkönen says.

When it comes to eating fruit, evening snacks were the most important meal.

The researchers found that many families still eat fewer vegetables, fruit and berries on average than would be beneficial for their health. Cooked vegetables and berries were the least eaten food items among the study participants.

The newly published study was carried out in collaboration between researchers from the Universities of Eastern Finland, Jyväskylä and Turku.

Source: University of Eastern Finland

When Both Parents Eat Veggies, Kids More Likely to Follow Their Example

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). When Both Parents Eat Veggies, Kids More Likely to Follow Their Example. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/02/21/when-both-parents-eat-veggies-kids-more-likely-to-follow-their-example/154381.html
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Feb 2020 (Originally: 21 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 21 Feb 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.