The family food environment: Promoting healthy eating in children

The characteristics of a child’s home life that affect the child’s dietary behavior is referred to as: the family food environment. The family food environment can include everything from the nutritional knowledge of a parent, to family income, and even to food availability in the home. Lower income families with less access to healthy foods end up promoting an environment for obese children who consume mainly high-calorie and high-fat foods. In a recent study, parents were provided with nutritional information and encouraged to purchase low fat food products. The participants were given private meetings with a dietician to make the correct changes. Some of the research showed that TV distractions, parents’ eating habits, and parents’ teaching of nutrition all play a role in their children’s current weight status. Increased knowledge in nutrition and perceived responsibility were correlated with a decrease in saturated fat intake. Increased TV viewing was associated with increased index of energy intake, increased sweet and snack and high energy drink consumption, along with decreased vegetable intake. The study was able to quantify changes in the family food environment and discover many factors were associated with a decrease in saturated fat intake. This finding supports the idea that eating dinner together as a family was associated with healthful dietary intake patterns, including the consumption of more fruits and vegetables and provided the opportunity for parents to set eating habit examples for their children. It is probable that children will want to eat, and learn to like vegetables if they see their parents eating them. Promoting healthy eating practices at home will avoid getting your kids used to snacks and junk food. Children who do not eat an evening meal with parents have fewer opportunities to have adults model positive food consumption and therefore be less likely to eat healthy foods.

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