The Power of You
It’s hard enough to figure out why one day a child will eat her carrots and the next, they are “icky,” but we parents get a lot of extra “help” feeding our children, too.
For instance, we never know quite what to say when our first-grader’s lunchbox comes home still full because her friend shared the chips and candy in her lunch. As our child reminds us, sharing is supposed to be good, right?
If moments like these sound familiar, relax. There’s good news.
When it comes to what your kids eat, you are a superhero!
Maybe you aren’t leaping tall buildings while holding a stalk of broccoli, but you have far more influence on your child’s diet than it feels like — enough to help overcome some food fights over time.
Here are just a few of your super powers that can help win over other influences, not just for today’s lunch, but at every stage of your child’s life:
You can help your kids love veggies before they are even born!
A current study published in Pediatrics showed that babies’ taste preferences are influenced by the foods their mothers eat during pregnancy1. In the study, babies born from moms who ate carrots every day preferred cereal made with carrot juice instead of water. Think of pregnancy as the one time in our children’s lives where we can get them to try all the vegetables we want them to — without any struggle!
If you eat your vegetables, your young kids could eat more of them, too.
Research published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concludes that how many fruits and vegetables you consume is the strongest predictor of how many fruits and vegetables your child will eat when he is aged two to six2. This does mean you have to eat your vegetables, too!
Your influence still counts when your child is a teenager.
We parents may suddenly become totally uncool in these years, but the same IOM research showed that if we eat more healthy foods, our teens still do, too2. Just don’t tell them that.
On average, we parents directly influence at least 72 percent of our kids’ diets throughout their childhoods into adulthood3.
For those of us who cook and eat healthy, our “nutritional gatekeeper” influence averages higher, up to 87 percent, according to Brian Wansink’s research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association3. The portion of our children’s diets that others influence, according to the research, tends to be preferences for snack foods and treats, not the core of children’s daily meals.
All in all, you actually do leap some pretty tall obstacles, even armed with broccoli. The key is remembering your super powers and keeping an eye on the long-term goal of raising a mostly healthy adult eater, allowing for those “sometimes foods” along the way.
1. Beauchamp GK, Mennella JA, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA, “Flavor programming during infancy.” Pediatrics. 2004 Apr;113(4):840-5.
2. Committee on Food Marketing and the Diets of Children and Youth, J. Michael McGinnis, Jennifer Appleton Gootman, Vivica I. Kraak, Editors, Food Marketing to Children and Youth, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
3. Wansink, Brian, “Nutritional Gatekeepers and the 72% Solution,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 106:9 (September), 1324-6.