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Parents shape whether their children learn to eat fruits and vegetables
Date:8/11/2008

Providing fruits for snacks and serving vegetables at dinner can shape a preschooler's eating patterns for his or her lifetime.

To combat the increasing problem of childhood obesity, researchers are studying how to get preschoolers to eat more fruits and vegetables. According to researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, one way is early home interventions teaching parents how to create an environment where children reach for a banana instead of potato chips.

"We know that parents have tremendous influence over how many fruits and vegetables their children eat," says Debra Haire-Joshu, Ph.D., a professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work. "When parents eat more fruits and vegetables, so do their children. When parents eat and give their children high fat snacks or soft drinks, children learn these eating patterns instead."

Haire-Joshu and researchers at Saint Louis University School of Public Health tested a program that taught parents in their homes how to provide preschool children easy access to more fruits and vegetables and examined whether changes in what the parents ate affected what their children consumed. The study was published in the July issue of the journal Preventive Medicine.

"This research shows that it's important to communicate with parents in real world settings," Haire-Joshu says. "They control the food environment for their young child. This environment is key to not only what children eat today but how they will eat in the future."

Past research has shown that diets high in fruits and vegetables are associated with a lower risk of obesity. Previous studies also have established that children learn to like and eat vegetables at a young age before they turn five years old.

In this five-year study in rural, southeast Missouri, 1,306 parents and children between the ages of two and five participating in Parents As Teachers, a national parent education progra
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Contact: Diane Duke Williams
williamsdia@wustl.edu
314-286-0111
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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