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Want healthy kids? Change your diet, mom


In many households, parents get kids to eat their veggies using bribery or punishment tactics.

"If you eat your carrots, you get dessert."

"If you don't eat your carrots, you can kiss that birthday party goodbye."

And while the struggle to get children on board with a healthy diet can be tough--especially when they live in a culture that's addicted to sugar and saturated with messages about fast food--new research suggests it all starts with mom.

Encouragement more successful than punishment tactics

A Michigan State University study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed the eating habits of low-income families. The results found that moms who lead by example with healthy eating had kids with healthier diets. Sound obvious? The study also found that moms who persuaded and encouraged eating vegetables--not forcing, ordering or using punishment tactics--were more successful.

The findings highlighted other important habits about meal time, too. It appears that prohibiting a child from eating certain foods when others are enjoying them can lead to unhealthy eating habits. It's also important to have regularity with meals and snacks and allow children the freedom to control how much they eat, researchers said.

As for those children who don't seem to like anything?

"With picky eaters, it's best to coax and encourage them to eat rather than yell at them," said Sharon Hoerr, MSU professor of food science and human nutrition. "Other ways to get them interested in having a balanced diet is to take them to the grocery store or garden and help them select new foods to taste, as well as allow them to help cook at home."

Hoerr notes that setting children up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits should not be based on rigid rules or restrictions, and that mothers play an important role in shaping how their children will perceive what tastes good.

"They'd be better off providing a healthy food environment, adopting balanced eating habits themselves and covertly controlling their children's diet quality by not bringing less healthy foods into the house."

Source: Science Daily