Can my eating habits influence my children's eating habits?

Marilyn Ricci, M.S., R.D.
Nutrition & Dietetics
Children model the adults around them. They repeat everything you say and mimic what you do. Eating a wide variety of foods yourself introduces your children to all kinds of tastes and textures. They may not like them all at first, but gradually they will try the foods that you eat. If you never eat vegetables, for example, they will have little opportunity to learn to like them. Eating should be enjoyable, so sit with your children at meals and enjoy the time together.     
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
You betcha. Even as early as pregnancy, you influencing your children’s eating habits. As fetuses, they develop a sense of taste through the foods that you eat, the flavors of which get passed to the amniotic fluid. Breast milk can also transmit flavors that influence your baby’s developing sense of taste. Once they’re older, your kids will start to crave foods that they are familiar with. So, by avoiding high-sugar, salt, and fat foods from the beginning, your child won’t develop a taste for it and you won’t have to hear the “Pleeeeeeeeeeeease, Mommmmyyy or Daddddddyyyy!” all day long.
Dominique Adair
Yes. Absolutely. But keep in mind that the best reason to make lifestyle changes is for YOU. Our food, activity, and stress management behaviors can act as models for our children, but I’d like to encourage you to make these changes for you and consider one of the added benefits that children who are surrounded by healthy, balanced eating have a better probability of eating that way themselves than children who do not.
Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics
Parent's eating habits directly influence their children's eating likes and dislikes. In my practice as a registered dietitian, I frequently see that parents who regularly eat and expose their kids to a variety of foods have an smoother time at dinner time.

I always recommend parents to be role models for eating nutritious foods. If they never touch a vegetable, it is hard to expect their kids to try them.
Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

The best way to guide your child to eat a nutritious diet is by offering and role modeling the same healthy habits yourself. Keep your kitchen cupboards stocked with nutrient dense foods for meals and snacks including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil, proteins including lean meat, poultry, fish, nuts, legumes, beans, soy or dairy and reduced saturated fat, sodium and sugar in processed and packaged foods. Drink water or non-caloric teas for beverages. Include more physical activity and less sedentary television, computer and video game viewing in your leisure time. Try new foods and experiment with cooking. Make eating enjoyable, and carefree.

Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

Never underestimate the role you can have in influencing those around you, particularly children. If you have kids, realize that the lifestyle they see you living is, for the most part, the kind of lifestyle they will adopt. Think about the habits you yourself grew up with. Although there are exceptions to this, for the most part, people tend to grow up emulating their parents' health habits. So whether in the realm of nutrition or exercise or simply the way you handle stress or balance in your life, understand that if you have kids, the health habits you show them by your example can affect them just as much as they affect you.

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Your eating habits will be the most important influence on your children's eating habits. Children learn slowly by repetition. Day by day they learn how to eat by watching you. They learn to eat fast or slow. They learn to respect the food they eat from watching you. They learn how to cook from watching you. You have eighteen years to teach them and most of whatever you teach your children will come from them watching what you do. And that is in all areas of their lives. Our children imprint just like ducks!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.