Parents who want their preschoolers to eat their vegetables may need to take a hard look at their own eating habits, new research suggests.
In a study of 120 young children who were allowed to “buy” food from a play grocery store, researchers found that even 2-year-olds tended to mirror their parents’ usual food choices.
Children who stocked up on sweets, sugary drinks and salty snacks generally had parents whose typical grocery list featured such items.
Similarly, children with the healthiest shopping habits seemed to be following their parents’ lead as well.
The findings suggest that even very young children do not indiscriminately reach for candy when given the chance.
Instead, they seem to already be forming food preferences — potentially lasting ones — based on their parents’ shopping carts.
“The data suggest that children begin to assimilate and mimic their parents’ food choices at a very young age, even before they are able to fully appreciate the implications of these choices,” write the researchers, led by Dr. Lisa A. Sutherland of Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
That, the researchers say, means that the grocery store can be like a classroom, where parents teach their children that foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains take priority over snacks and desserts.
Read more at Yahoo News