You are What Your Mother Ate

Mothers' eating habits and view of children as 'picky eaters' affect kids' fruit and vegetable consumption

(RxWiki News) Mom's eating habits and whether or not she considers her kid a "picky eater" play significant roles in whether a child consumes enough fruits and vegetables, according to a new study.

"What and how mothers eat is the most direct influence on what toddlers eat," said professor Mildred Horodynski. "Health professionals need to consider this when developing strategies to increase a child's consumption of healthy foods."

Diets low in fruit and vegetables even at young ages pose increased risks for chronic diseases later in life, Horodynski said.

Toddlers in the study toddlers were less likely to consume fruits and vegetables four or more times a week if their mothers did not consume the same amount. Mothers who viewed their children as a picky eaters who are unwilling to try nonfamiliar foods also correlated with a decrease in kids' fruit-and-vegetable consumption.

The study also yielded racial disparities. African-American mothers were less likely to consume fruits and vegetables, but both blacks and non-Hispanic whites in the study fell below U.S. recommended guidelines.

Horodynski and cohorts looked at nearly 400 low-income women with children ages 1 to 3 enrolled in Early Head Start programs.

Early repeated exposure (up to 15 times) to different types of foods may be needed before a child likes or dislikes a food, according to previous research.

"Special attention must be given to family-based approaches to incorporating fruits and vegetables into daily eating habits," she said. "Efforts to increase mothers' fruit and vegetable intake would result in more positive role modeling."

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Review Date: 
December 15, 2010