since WE BELIEVE it is easier to start with good habits rather than change bad ones, WE TARGET PARENTS OF TWO- TO FIVE-YEAR OLD CHILDREN.
We encourage authoritative parenting.
WHY? Children of parents that embrace an authoritative parenting style - emotional warmth and responsiveness combined with high behavioral expectations - are more likely to eat a quality diet (including more fruits and vegetables) and be a healthy weight compared to children of parents who use other parenting styles. Although associations do not prove causation, researchers increasingly feel that effective parenting is an integral part of promoting lifelong health and lowering chronic disease risk.
We recommend family meals.
WHY? Family meals - at which parents model healthy eating - are associated with better diet quality, healthy child body weights, and a higher child intake fruits and vegetables. Among the non-food benefits associated with family meals are better communication, stronger family bonds, lower risks of substance abuse, depression and teen pregnancy, better academic performance and higher self-esteem.
We teach parents to repeatedly expose their children to new foods.
WHY? Some parents believe that children will not eat what they don't like, and that if their child rejects a food once it means that they don’t like it. Consequently, parents won’t serve the food again to their child. These parents are unaware that children’s food preferences are learned through repeated exposures to foods, which allow them to overcome evolutionary and developmental food neophobia. Children are often suspicious of new foods, and initially reject foods with which they are unfamiliar. Experts believe that this trait evolved to protect children from eating poisonous or toxic plants or foods. To overcome this natural tendency, parents should expose their children to a food many times, eat the food in front of their child and encourage (but not pressure, push or force) the child to try it. Research shows that repeated exposures to a food, particularly when combined with parent role modeling, gentle encouragement to try and a small, non-food reward (like a sticker) increases fruit and vegetable consumption in children.
WE PROMOTE THE DIVISION OF RESPONSIBILITY IN FEEDING.
WHY? To protect children’s innate ability to self-regulate from the detrimental influences of the prevailing food environment, many national groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the USDA have adopted Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility approach to feeding. Satter assigns to parents the responsibility of the what, where and when of feeding, and to children the whether and how much of eating. Parents offer healthy, balanced “family style” meals and snacks to their children, provide structure and routine by consistently offering meals and snacks at about the same time every day, and eat with their children at the family table. Children decide which foods they want to eat from those on offer (parents don’t “short order cook” food that their children desire), and how much of those foods (other than dessert) they want to eat. This division of responsibility preserves young children’s ability to eat appropriate amounts of food based on their own hunger and satiety so that they do not overeat and gain weight inappropriately.
WE ENCOURAGE PARENTS TO PRAISE RATHER THAN PRESSURE THEIR CHILDREN.
WHY? Well-intentioned parents try to get their children to eat by pleading with them to eat their brussels sprouts or rewarding children with dessert for eating broccoli. Unfortunately most of these common practices usually backfire. What does work then? Research has shown that parents’ encouragement and praise of desired eating and activity behaviors in their children is associated with increased healthy eating and exercise by their children and better diet quality in three to five year old children.
WE HELP PARENTS STRUCTURE A HEALTHY HOME.
WHY? Parents are the gatekeepers for food’s availability and accessibility to their children. Food must be not only available in the home environment but also be made easily accessible. Children choose to eat, and develop a preference for, the foods that they are served most often and the foods that are easiest for them to access at home. Availability of fruits and vegetables in the home is an important predictor of child fruit and vegetable intake and diet quality. As importantly, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is also predicted by their (lack of) home availability.
WE MOTIVATE PARENTS TO MODEL THE HEALTHY BEHAVIORS THEY DESIRE FOR THEIR CHILDREN.
WHY? Children emulate their parents’ eating, activity and screen behavior. The more people children see eating a particular food, the more likely they are to try it. If parents eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, research shows that their children do also (the opposite is also true). Physically active children with the best diets tend to have more active parents with high quality diets themselves