A new research has revealed that a mother's eating habits and behavior at the dinner table can influence her preschooler's obesity risk.
As a biology major and student fitness instructor, Washington State University alumna Halley Morrison knew that she wanted to focus on health and the human body.
She learned about the childhood obesity and prevention research of Tom Power, chair of the WSU Department of Human Development.
Together, they analyzed surveys of 222 low-income African-American and Latino Head Start preschoolers and caregivers in a US Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service Children's Nutrition Research Center study.
"The problem is no longer food scarcity, but too much food. It doesn't cost families extra to change their behavior," Morrison said.
Morrison found that moms who eat when they are already full and also show a high level of control when feeding their kids - for example, by pushing children to finish what's on their plate or withholding food until the next meal - tend to produce picky eaters.
Meanwhile, moms who eat in response to their emotions or who are easily tempted by the sight, scent or taste of food had children with a strong desire to eat.
"Like mother, like child," Morrison said. "This is especially true when kids are so young their environment is primarily based on what their parents are doing."
Nearly 17 percent of US children between ages 2 and 19 are obese.
While past research has focused mainly on middle-class European-American families, Morrison said the demographic focus on low-income families made this particular study unique.
Obesity rates among preschoolers are highest in African-American and Latino populations: 21 and 22 percent, respectively.
The findings are published in the journal Appetite.