(NaturalNews) Parents can increase the amount of fruits and vegetables that their children eat simply by eating more plant foods themselves, according to a study conducted by researchers from the St. Louis University School of Public Health and published in the journal Preventive Medicine.
"When parents eat more fruits and vegetables, so do their children," lead researcher Dr. Debra Haire-Joshu said. "When parents eat and give their children high fat snacks or soft drinks, children learn these eating patterns instead."
Researchers studied 1,306 parents enrolled in the national Parents As Teachers program. In addition to the regular parenting skills taught by the program, just under half of the parents also took part in the High 5 for Kids program. This program involved four home visits in which parents received education on nutrition and on ways to get their young children to eat more fruits and vegetables. Methods taught included eating fruits and vegetables in front of children and letting kids select their own food from among several fruit and vegetable options.
They found that parents who participated in the High 5 for Kids program increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables relative to those who did not. Furthermore, the amount by which parents increased their fruit and vegetable intake correlated directly with how much their children's intake increased. For every extra fruit or vegetable serving per day that a parent ate, their child ate an extra half serving.
"This research shows that it's important to communicate with parents in real world settings," Haire-Joshu said. "They control the food environment for their young child. This environment is key to not only what children eat today but how they will eat in the future."
Increased vegetable intake among parents of obese children, however, did not have any same effect.
"Overweight children have already been exposed to salty, sweet foods and learned to like them," Haire-Joshu said. "To keep a child from becoming overweight, parents need to expose them early to a variety of health foods and offer the foods many times."