Family meals help children try new foods

A study has found that eating together as a family may encourage children to be more open to trying new types of food.

Faye Powell, from Loughborough University and member of the British Psychological Society, observed over 75 families during mealtimes to determine the factors linked with the development of fussy eating behaviour among children.

Miss Powell is presenting the results at the Developmental Psychology Section Annual Conference in Newcastle upon Tyne. They show that friendly interaction between mother and child instead of coercive strategies, like pressure and physical prompting, may encourage young children to try different foods. 

These findings are the first stage of a longitudinal study. The children involved will be re-visited next year to see how different feeding practices impact on their eating behaviour.

Miss Powell said: “The dietary habits and eating behaviours of young children are a top priority amongst governing bodies, healthcare professionals and parents alike.

“As many as one in four parents express concern about their child’s eating during routine paediatric checkups. Child feeding problems are an important concern which can create a great deal of stress and anxiety for families.

“In order to prevent feeding problems and improve child diet, a thorough understanding is needed of the early life risk factors and how to modify them.”