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Healthy eating habits in children: family matters!

YINI - nurturing healthy eathing habits in children: the role of families

Childhood is a decisive period for laying the foundations of positive and life-long healthy eating habits. A report from a group of experts, Nurturing Children’s healthy eating, shows the key role of families to build good eating habits in children. Every month, we will bring you a synthetic post, highlighting some of the key messages taken from this report, in order to help families nurture healthier eating habits.

Around the World, millions of children learn by imitating their parents and family members, who become role models. Families play a crucial role in giving healthy behaviours to their children including eating habits, in order to raise them with strong learnings for a healthy future.

“Future global health depends on the health of today’s children. Those children who establish healthy eating and activity behaviours early in life are well-equipped to maintain their good health far into adult life.

Why families are crucial?

Families shape eating behaviours of children from conception to adolescence: they decide what to eat, but also how, with who and when to eat.

Families and the home environment could be fantastic sources of positive influences for children by showing them healthy habits and determining their food choices. A strong body of evidences showed that weight, BMI and eating behaviors are greatly influenced by the parents and the family.

It is important to communicate to families that the challenge of instilling healthy eating habits in children is not only about what to eat but also about how, when and how much to eat. Families have a pivotal role in promoting and supporting healthy eating!

Family can promote the pleasure of well eating

A family-centered approach is a key opportunity to improve not only eating habits but also the pleasure to eat healthy foods.

Eating is a social experience, parents and family members can transmit values to children to help them develop and keep these healthy eating habits in the future. Families can also convey the idea that healthy foods is not only good for health but also good to eat.

Family can contribute to build a positive image of healthy foods by associating healthy foods with tasty and enjoyable foods and moments.

A challenging balance to find in a speedy life

However, even knowing how to act, experts pinpoint the fact of a difficult context. The main difficulty is to find a balance between work and family, leisure times, children more and more engrossed by screens… modern life has changed the organisation of families and their time management. Families are busy and spend less time preparing meals and eating together. However, experts insist on the necessity to combine education to healthy foods with busy schedules.

3 pillars to help families establish healthy habits:

The group of experts identified three key pillars to support families when nurturing healthy eating :

  • Positive parental feeding : Parents behaviour influences the development of children’s’ eating habits. For example, the children whose parents have adopted a supportive and informative approach to feeding are more likely to have good energy intake regulation and avoid under- and over-eating.
  • Eating together: Eating together is associated with many positive outcomes for children, including the establishment of healthy eating habits. Even if modern life has been associated with a decline of family meals, family meals are recognised as an important component of health promotion.
  • Proposing a healthy home environment: At home, parents decide what, how, how much and when to eat. They are in charge of the availability and the accessibility of healthy foods by buying them and making the meals. Therefore, the home environment can be a powerful source of positive influences.

Today’s family education determines future individual and global health, this is why families have such a great role to play!

Next month topic: The influence of parent’s behaviour and feeding practices… stay tuned !

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