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Fussy children in poor families are not exposed to healthy food

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Posted April 26, 2019

Sadly, eating healthy is expensive. Counter intuitively, poor people are often the ones who are overweight, out of shape and suffer from diet-related conditions. Sadly, they are passing this behaviour to their children as well. Scientists from University of Queensland found that parents in low-income households could be inadvertently encouraging unhealthy eating habits in their children.

Offering children a more diverse food encourages healthier choices later in life. Image credit: Adam Jones via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When you are lacking money, you have to be somewhat thrifty. You have to save money on everything, including food. You also have to hustle and stay busy just to earn a living and a chance for a better life. All this means that parents in poorer families do not have necessary time and resources to provide healthy food for their families. However, scientists found another factor in effect in this story – attempts to limit wasting food. Parents are giving their children only what they like and will eat to avoid uneaten food. This means that children are not exposed to more diverse food from an early age, which results in poor food choices later in life.

Scientists analysed cases of several mothers of pre-school children aged two to five living in a low-income community. 11 % of mothers involved in this study reported being ‘food insecure’ – they have run out of money and food at some point in the last 12 months. In these families fruits were less common. Bigger emphasis was put on high-calorie food that children enjoy and finish. In these families children were also less exposed to a higher variety of food. In fact, these mothers, who were more food insecure, were more likely to prepare separate meals for fussy eaters, which further narrowed the children’s exposure to a variety of healthy foods.

Scientists say that this behaviour is likely to have a long-term effect on the child’s diet. Children learn to like different kinds of food if they are exposed to it in early years. Education about food is extremely important and it is commonly related to experience. Scientists say that parents should re-offer rejected healthy food to picky children. Professor Karen Thorpe, lead author of the study, said: “Our study highlights a need for more tailored advice from health professionals, researchers and policymakers to the parents of fussy eaters experiencing economic adversity and food insecurity”.

Providing for your families is very important. Everyone wants to put the food on the table. However, it is also important for your children to have a more diverse diet. Only in this way they can learn to eat healthier and pass this behaviour to their children later in life.

Source: University of Queensland

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