Parental choices influence childhood eating habits

The choices made by parents about their own diet can directly influence the eating habits of their children. This is the suggestion of new research published in the journal Obesity, which found the ability of a mother or father to lose weight can play an important role in whether or not a young person is able to do the same.

Indeed, investigators from the University of California (UC), San Diego School of Medicine and the University of Minnesota - which was founded in 1851 - discovered shedding the pounds is the number one way in which mums and dads can help their offspring become thinner.

Kerri Boutelle, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at UC San Diego and Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego, noted such action is the number one predictor of weight loss.

She said of parents: "This study confirms the importance of their example in establishing healthy eating and exercise behaviours for their kids."

Dr Gillian Harris, Chartered Psychologist, from the University of Birmingham, commented: "This research confirms the experience of many professionals working in the field - children will not lose weight unless the entire family are involved in the intervention programme.

"Children's eating habits are based upon exposure to foods and imitation of others. If parents only expose their children to high calorie foods then they are the foods for which children will form a preference, and will want at mealtimes.

"If children see their parents eating high calorie foods then they will be the foods that they want to eat. This imitation and exposure learning occurs from a very early age. 

"Successful weight reduction programmes for children entail an entire restructuring of the family eating habits."