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.
Childhood: a decisive formative period for sustainable healthy eating patterns
Nurturing healthy habits in our children offers a fantastic opportunity to make inroads into important public health concerns such as tackling the worldwide epidemic of overweight and obesity, and their associated health consequences. Childhood is a decisive formative period in which to build the foundations for sustainable healthy eating patterns. That’s why global health begins with the family. In millions of homes around the world, children are learning their eating habits, as well as their education and social behaviour, from their parents, grandparents and siblings. The home environment is a critical source of positive influence as the family shapes both what and how children eat from the time they are born.
A traditional family model under pressure
However, the traditional family model has come under intense pressure from the challenges of the modern world, with busy parents struggling to balance work and family life, and children becoming increasingly engrossed in smartphones, tablets, televisions and other electronic devices. The result is often less time to prepare and share mealtimes together as a family, and less time to enjoy quality moments together.
Three key pillars to support the role of the family nurturing healthy eating in children
Dietitians, nutritionists, paediatricians, psychologists, sociologists, and public health professionals have come together to review existing evidence and discuss innovative strategies, to empower families and parents to make positive decisions for nurturing healthy eating in their children. The outcome? In order to achieve a positive impact on children’s healthy eating, it is essential to shift the emphasis from “nutrition” to “eating habits” and to consider not only what we eat but also how we eat. This involves adopting a multi-faceted approach, with the aim of nurturing and instilling positive changes, to support families in creating healthy eating habits.
Three key pillars were identified as supporting the role of the family in nurturing healthy eating in children:
- Positive parental feeding, shaping and building healthy eating habits
- Eating together, a key element of health promotion in children
- Healthy home food environment , creating the setting for healthy eating