Sitting down to the same meals as Mum and Dad found to have a bigger impact on health than class or snacking habits
Children who eat the same meals as their parents are far more likely to have healthy diets than those who do not, according to research.
Eating the same food had a greater impact on a young child’s health than any other factor, including social background and snacking between meals.
Dr Valeria Skafida, at the Centre for Population Health Sciences at Edinburgh University, also found that firstborn children had healthier diets than second or third born. In light of the study, which looked at 2,000 five-year-olds, the paper recommends that government advice to families should be kept simple to help establish good eating habits early.
Skafida said Britain was almost alone in Europe in “dumbing down” with children’s meals in restaurants and at home, rather than encouraging them to eat what the adults were eating.
There is growing concern about the rise of ready meals marketed at young children, and about children being overfed with foods that often lack key nutrients.
“If children were eating what their parents eat – and, like the French, eating round the table – then we wouldn’t have the iron deficiency problem we have,” said Dr Colin Michie, chair of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s nutrition committee. He said children could have problems with deficiencies in iron, vitamin D and to a lesser extent zinc, and he was seeing lots of children with eating difficulties who were fed “sitting alone” by busy parents, and parents who made two or three different meals for adults and faddy children.
“If they sat together there are less chances of the kids manipulating the parent over food, as is quite common. Eating the same food as the adults is about behaviour, children copying the behaviour of the adults. There are particular issues in different parts of the population. For example, the Asian adult diet is a brilliant diet, yet many Asian mothers will fill their children full of milk, meaning they eat less because they are full of milk, which is great stuff but designed for baby cows and has absolutely no iron.
“Then we have the population covering themselves with UVB blockers very efficiently, and covering up their children. But so much that there’s a serious vitamin D deficiency problem. Especially for black children, whose skins already struggle with the climate here.
“But we have a rising tide of obesity so we are trying hard to reduce energy intakes, and then we have a problem with the overfeeding of a lot of our babies. But where the deficiencies are in the micro nutrients, vitamin D and iron and zinc, these things are deficiencies which build up over time.”
A lack of iron will hinder children’s performance at school, for example.
Parents’ busy lives were reflected in too many ready meals and takeaways in children’s diets, said Judy More, a paediatric dietitian and member of the Infant & Toddler Forum, who is also concerned that a lot of under-fives drink too much milk: “It’s critical up until 12 months, but then it’s stopping children eating. Iron is a critical nutrient and children have a poor dietary intake of it.” She said a big advantage of children eating with adults was that they were more likely to be exposed to a wider range of foods, key to keeping their diet balanced and healthy.
“The thing about ready meals is that a child will like one or two and that’s what the parents will buy, so they are confining the children to a narrow range of foods. The whole thing about eating together is that children, especially under-fives, learn a lot by copying. They watch and see adults eating and learn to be less fussy.”
The Infant & Toddler Forum has developed an initiative called Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers.
Skafida said: “I don’t want to stigmatise parents, they really have a hard time. Children the world over are picky and difficult at certain ages with food, and it becomes a catch-22 that you feed children what they will eat rather than struggle on. Unfortunately, the foods that are generally the most palatable are usually not too high in the lists of food that are the most nutritious.”
[“Young Mother and Daughters preparing salad in the kitchen together” via Shutterstock]
WATCH: John Oliver exposes Trump’s lies about vote-by-mail — and the Fox News ‘cult’ claiming the election is already ‘rigged’
"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver's main story Sunday refuted President Donald Trump's latest crusade against vote-by-mail. Trump announced on Twitter that the more people who vote in an election, the more Republicans tend to lose. So, he wants fewer people to have access to the ballot in November, even if people are too scared to go out during the coronavirus crisis.
Oliver called out Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R-MO), who outright told people not to vote if they were too afraid to vote in the local elections next week.
"Well, hold on there," Oliver interjected. "Voting is a right. It has to be easy to understand and accessible to anyone."
John Oliver rips Fox News’ Tucker Carlson for urging ‘order’ from people of color — but never demanding it of police
John Oliver opened his Sunday show, shredding Fox News host Tucker Carlson for uring "order" among protesters, but refusing to urge "order" to police and "wannabe police" who can't stop killing people.
It's a lot, Oliver explained. "How these protests are a response to a legacy of police misconduct, both in Minneapolis and the nation at large and how that misconduct is, itself, built on a legacy of white supremacy that prioritizes the comfort of white Americans over the safety of people of color."
While some of it is complicated, Oliver conceded, most of it is "all too clear."
Cars set on fire blocks from White House as DC protests turn violent
The Washington, D.C. protests turned violent as the city approached the 11 p.m. curfew the mayor instituted Sunday afternoon.
The policy of D.C. police is that when they are attacked, they advance forward. So, when fireworks were fired, the line of officers began pushing the protesters back further from the White House. Behind the line of police officers also stand a line of National Guard troops that President Donald Trump has demanded stand watch in the city.
Lights that normally shine on the White House have also been turned off, reporters revealed.