Research performed by the nutrition program at Pennsylvania State University in the U.S. has shown that parents have a strong influence on the eating preferences of children.
Firstly, individuals are genetically predisposed to prefer certain types of flavors and secondly, the eating habits of parents influence the education and eating habits of their children.
Based on this information, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends game playing as a basic educational tool for children. They describe this as an essential part of developing their social, emotional, cognitive and physical skills. With nutrition, including games as a way to establish eating habits opens up a world of opportunities for parents to educate their children on healthy eating.
It is crucial for parents to practice healthy eating and to also motivate their children to do so. Some tips recommended by the international company Sodexo, include:
- Engaging in active participation: Have children play chef. Have them beat the eggs, add ingredients or involve them in any other activity to keep them interested in cooking and to learn about the food they are preparing.
- Playing with smell: The smell of cilantro, the pink color of salmon or watermelon, the smooth texture of butter or the course skin of a cantaloupe… As humans, we are moved by our senses and children have a greater connection with what stimulates them.
- Storytelling, with food: Make cooking a complete experience; tell children stories with the food you are cooking or have them make up stories using their imagination.
- Providing healthy alternatives: Greasy and unhealthy foods such as candy, pizza or hamburgers are some of children’s favorite foods, but they do not provide children with the nutritional value they need. Modify some of their ingredients and take advantage of these foods.
- Presentation is everything: Making your meals appealing or making figurines or people out of food will make children want to eat more and leave their plate clean.
Both children and parents should take the time to focus on these moments, to savor and truly experience everything they are eating. This will be reflected in the child’s quality of life as healthy development.