A mother's eating habits can influence those of her daughter

February 26, 2002 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Women's Health

A mother's eating habits can influence those of her daughter

A mother's eating habits may influence whether or not her daughter is a finicky eater, new research from Penn State University suggests.

In a study of 193 seven-year-old girls and their parents, about one third of girls were described as either being "picky eaters," who disliked the taste of many familiar foods, or didn't like to try new foods (called food neophobia). These same girls were less likely than their peers to eat vegetables. Girls who were picky eaters or had food neophobia consumed less than one vegetable serving a day on average, compared with 1.2 servings among those who were less discriminating about their meals. Though the difference was not dramatic, over time it adds up to a lot of missed vitamins and minerals, the researchers say.

When the researchers examined the factors behind the girls' behaviors, they found that the youngsters were most likely to be picky eaters if their mothers themselves didn't consume a wide variety of foods, particularly vegetables, or if the mothers didn't feel that the family had time to eat healthfully.

Girls who were most likely to have food neophobia tended to be those who were anxious or had mothers who also were reluctant to try new foods. However, fathers' food behaviors did not seem to affect the girls, the study found.

Mothers may be very important influencers of healthy eating habits because so many do most of the food preparation and also tend to be the ones supervising children's food intake at the dinner table. This study suggests that if mothers aren't setting the proper example by eating their veggies, children may follow their lead.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.