Parents Eat Better When Their Kids Eat Healthy Food, Says Study

updated Sep 30, 2020
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When you live in the same household as someone, it’s a not a surprise that you would all eat similarly. Unless someone is making specific meals for every individual — which would be too much work — everyone is going to be eating that pizza, or salad, or whatever you’re having for meals. So it’s generally accepted that children eat how their parents do. But a new study found that managing a child’s diet can also impact the parent’s.

Specifically, parents who actively monitor their children’s food eat better foods than caregivers who don’t manage the diets of their children. The longitudinal study, called the Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project, took place over the course of two decades in two parts.

The first part of the study took place from 1989 to 1992 and involved 1,107 infants and their parents. Half were given nutritional directions at least once a year that advised children to eat more unsaturated fats, while the other half were given no dietary counseling. This part of the study found that kids who received nutritional advice ate less saturated fat and had better cardiovascular health.

The second part of the study looked at the parents’ food journals for 10 years and measurements of weight, height, blood pressure, serum lipids, glucose, and insulin. The researchers found parents who were following the nutritional advice for their children were eating better and, in turn, were in a better state of health.

“The child-oriented dietary intervention contributed advantageously to the parental diet in the long-term and tended to reflect lipid concentrations, particularly in mothers,” Johanna Jaakkola, lead author of the study and postdoctoral researcher at Finland’s University of Turku, says in a statement. “Presumably all family members eat the same foods and thus child-oriented dietary counseling also affects parents’ diets.”

The findings of this study suggest that healthful eating can be impacted in more ways than one in a family dynamic.

“Our study emphasizes that long-term dietary counseling directed at children may be an efficient way to also improve the diets of parents,” Jaakkola says. “These findings could be used to plan public health counseling programs.”