New research reveals that a mother's own eating habits have a direct influence on her child's eating habits i.e less consumption of fruits and vegetables.
The study by professor Mildred Horodynski of Michigan State University's College of Nursing looked at nearly 400 low-income women (black and non-Hispanic white) with children ages 1-3 enrolled in Early Head Start programs.
Results show toddlers were less likely to consume fruits and vegetables four or more times a week if their mothers did not consume that amount or if their mothers viewed their children as picky eaters.
"What and how mothers eat is the most direct influence on what toddlers eat," Horodynski said. "Health professionals need to consider this when developing strategies to increase a child's consumption of healthy foods. Diets low in fruit and vegetables even at young ages pose increased risks for chronic diseases later in life."
When mothers viewed their children as picky eaters - unwilling to try nonfamiliar foods - a decrease also was seen in the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed.
"Perceptions of a toddler as a picky eater may be related to parenting style or culture," Horodynski said. "Mothers who viewed their children as picky eaters may be more lax in encouraging the consumption of fruits and vegetables."
The research was published recently in the journal Public Health Nursing.