Parents are Role Models for Healthy Eating - Even for Teens
A study in Appetite reveals that teens’ eating of fruit and vegetables highly depends on their parents’ eating behavior. Teenagers eat more fruits and veggies when their parents do so, or when they think their parents do so. Teens also eat more fruit and vegetables when they perceive it as easy and when they feel it has benefits.
- Teens consume more fruits and veggies when their parents do so or when they think their parents do so.
- Teens consumption of fruits and veggies is not dependent on what they think their friends do or think with regard to fruit and vegetables.
- Teens eat more fruit and vegetables when they feel it is easy, and when they see the benefits (getting more energy, be in better shape, lose some weight).
- Parents should be aware of their influence on their teenage children’s healthy eating.
- For healthy eating interventions it seems beneficial to take the family context into account.
What kind of individual and social factors are related to teens’ eating of fruit and vegetables?
757 children from two different grades (453 fifth graders aged 10 and 11 years, and 304 ninth graders aged 14 and 15 years) and their parents.
The researchers asked all children and parents how often they ate fruit and vegetables. The children were also asked how often their parents and friends ate fruit and vegetables, and whether they had the feeling that their parents and friends thought they should eat more fruit and vegetables. Finally, the researchers assessed children’s beliefs in their own capacity to eat fruit and vegetables, as well as their expected benefits of the healthy behaviors.
Facts and findings
- Teens’ fruit and vegetable consumption depended on the actual eating of their parents and teens' perception of parents' eating behavior:
- the more fruit and vegetables their parents actually ate, the more teens consumed as well;
- the more fruit and vegetables teens thought their parents ate, the more they consumed.
- Teens’ thoughts on what their parents expected them to eat did not predict teens’ fruit and vegetable intake.
- Surprisingly, teens’ fruit and vegetable intake did not depend on what they thought their friends ate or what they thought their friends expected them to eat either.
- Teens’ fruit and vegetable consumption also depended on the expected benefits (e.g., gaining a better look, better shape, or more energy), and their belief in their own capacity to eat fruit and vegetables (e.g., being sure about eating it during a school break, when watching TV, when bored).
- Critical note: Peers actual intake of fruit and vegetables was not measured, only teens’ perception of their friends’ intake. Therefore, it remains unclear whether friends and classmates can serve as role models with their healthy behaviors, in addition to parents.
- Critical note: The study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (parent behavior) and effect (teens' behavior). The results only show that parents' consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with teens' consumption