Parents Teach Kids to Eat Apple not Chips

Photo: A plate with a fresh mixed salad

Whether this salad looks delicious
or not, depends on the nutrition in
the early childhood; © SXC

Providing fruits for snacks and serving vegetables at dinner can shape a preschooler's eating patterns for a lifetime. "When parents eat more fruits and vegetables, so do their children", says Debra Haire-Joshu, a professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work.

Haire-Joshu and researchers tested a programme that taught parents in their homes how to provide preschool children easy access to more fruits and vegetables. In the five-year study, 1,306 parents and children between the ages of two and five participating in “Parents As Teachers”, a national parent education programme, were randomly assigned to two groups. One group enrolled in the “High 5 for Kids” programme, and the other group received standard visits from “Parents as Teachers”.

In the “High 5 for Kids” group, parents completed a pretest interview about fruit and vegetable consumption. Parent educators visited the home four times, providing examples of parent-child activities around nutrition as well as informational handouts with suggestions for improving feeding practices and the food environment. Many of the materials were tailored to individual patterns. The children were given sing-along-stories with audiocassettes and colouring books.

The same parent interviewed before the intervention completed a telephone survey afterwards. The average time between the two surveys was seven months.

Parents and children in the “High 5 for Kids” group ate significantly more fruits and vegetables. An increase of one fruit or vegetable per day in a parent was associated with an increase of half a fruit or vegetable per day in his or her child.

Although the “High 5 for Kids” programme was effective in improving fruit and vegetable intake in children of normal weight, overweight children in this group did not eat more of these foods. "Overweight children have already been exposed to salty, sweet foods and learned to like them," says Haire-Joshu.; Source: Washington University in St. Louis