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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What family behaviours protect against childhood obesity?

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  • With over 25 years experience in clinical nutrition and dietetics I can help you achieve your health goals. I practice a client centered approach-I will … View Profile

    Children learn from parents, so they mirror their parent’s behavior. Studies will show that children actually mirror the father's FOOD CHOICES as much as the mother's. If Dad's not eating veggies and fruits it’s likely the child is not really going to be keen on veggies and fruit.

    CHILDREN also mirror the mother’s food behavious. So if Mom is constantly on a diet, not eating carbs, wanting to choose diet foods all the time, fair chance the children are going to do the same.

    OTHER behaviors such as eating together as family ARE ASLO VERY IMPORTANT-, lots of families are busy these days and don’t sit down to have a family meal. two out of three families rarely have a family dinner together, and we know that eating as a family certainly encourages good food choices and food behaviors.

    Having regular meal times, not skipping meals, eating breakfast, again these are behaviours that can be mirrored by the parents that can certainly improve children’s behaviors, and certainly encouraging children to make healthy choices as well. So having on-hand fresh produce for them, getting them involved in cooking and preparation, and really just encouraging healthy eating choices, but also healthy eating habits, stemming from what the parents do.

  • Mel Haynes


    Chef, Scientist and Nutritionist. I specialise culinary nutrition and disease prevention with plant based diets. View Profile

    Okay, so two things, first one would be food type behaviors. I would suggest always having fresh fruits and vegetables available in the house. I think encouraging children that snack times are times to have fruits and vegetables, and other foods tend to be more for mealtime. I don't encourage families with children to have many of those sort of processed junk foods in the house because it becomes a bit of a battle of wills, so to speak. Also I think that one of the main habits that is good for a family with children is to have a sit-down, traditional dinner at the kitchen table - using cutlery. That's a good way to ensure that they're getting the right amount of vegetables. Basically, any child who's eating the required servings of fruits and vegetables every day is not going to have problem with obesity, because many children will not be able to eat the amount of other foods after they've eaten their vegetables in order to get overweight in the first place.

    Then, probably my second aspect for behaviors would be around physical education and physical activity. So, I think it's really important that children are involved in both structured and unstructured activities, so often things like school sports or after school sports or weekend sports. But also to involve them in the family activities that are outside of the house.

    So whether that's going for a hike, or going down the beach, even just playing a bit of cricket in the backyard, something that's getting them up and moving. So I think, a good balance between healthy food behaviors and healthy exercise behaviors and obviously having parents’ role modeling both of these is a great start.

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