Family meals boost healthy eating

Parents have the ability to influence their children to eat healthily, despite young people being highly impressionable with regard to direct advertising. This is the finding of new research to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics, which showed kids often choose the food products they see in commercials.

Despite this, mothers and fathers are not powerless when it comes to encouraging their offspring to eat a more balanced diet.

Dr Christopher Ferguson and colleagues at Texas A&M International University - which dates back to 1970 and the formulation of Texas A&I University at Laredo - found the message of television advertisements can be undone somewhat when mums and dads take a proactive approach.

"Parents have an advantage if they are consistent with their long-term messages about healthy eating," Dr Ferguson noted.

The authors concluded that food producers, politicians and advocates should all focus on ways to improve the promotion of healthy meals to children.

Dr Jennifer Leonard, a Chartered Psychologist, of UK Parent Coaching, commented: "I agree that children are influenced by what they see their parents eating. It is important to set them a good example.

"I would recommend that parents make an effort to have family meals together as much as possible, seated around the table, with all distractions such as TVs computers and mobile phones turned off.

"This allows some quality time to talk together. Children are influenced by what they see their parents do. So when a parent reaches for a snack, choosing something healthy such as fruit, nuts, rice or oat cake, or toasted seeds will eventually pay off.

"My own children who have now grown up have a good awareness of what healthy eating is all about and I feel sure that this is because what was modelled to them during childhood."