How to be a positive eating role model

Staff Writer
Glen Rose Reporter
Making healthier food choices as a parent helps children making healtheir food choices as they grow older. [Photo by Steinsplitter (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]


Children learn a lot of what they know from mimicking their parents. From how to greet another person to how to eat with a fork, children watch their parents closely.

One area parents might not think about their children mimicking them is when it comes to eating - specifically eating healthy. According to a new study conducted by the University of Oregon, researchers have found that how parents view their own self-regulation of sugar and salt is a contributing factor in how children develop their own food preferences.

According to experts, food systems heavy in calories and light on recommended nutrition are a major factor contributing to global obesity and are a major challenge to parents of young children. The Oregon study showed "providing 3- to 5-year-old children with junk food influences their preferences for the same tastes." The study also showed that children are less willing to eat vegetables.

Here are a few ways to positively influence your children's eating habits and be a good role model, according to

1. Create a positive eating environment

- Have a regular meal and snack times: If children eat whenever they feel like it, they might not be hungry when it's time for a scheduled meal or snack.

- Eat together as a family: Children who eat meals with their family tend to eat healthier foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They are also at lower risk for becoming overweight.

- Avoid pressuring your children to eat: Insisting that your children eat certain foods may actually cause them to eat less. Your children should be allowed to decide how much to eat based on how hungry they feel.

- Avoid using food as a reward or punishment: Using food as a reward or punishment may lead to unhealthy eating habits.

- Have healthy foods at home: Make sure to buy healthy foods when you shop. The foods available in your fridge, freezer, cupboards and pantry are what your children will get used to eating.

2. Being a positive role model

- Make healthy foods the usual choice: When your children see you eating healthy foods, they are more likely to want to eat them too.

- Limit foods high in calories, fat, sugar and salt: Foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar and salt like cakes, chocolate, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, French fries, potato chips, pop, sports and energy drinks, and sweetened hot or cold drinks should be eaten less often. When you limit these foods yourself, your children will be less likely to eat them as well. It is important not to label these foods as "bad". They are simply foods to be eaten occasionally and in moderation.


Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Serves: 12


1 2/3 cup finely crushed pretzels

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

2 cups sliced strawberries

2 cups sugar

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip, plus more for serving

1 (15-ounce) can crushed pineapple in juice

1 (3-ounce) package strawberry Jell-O


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a second medium bowl, stir together the pretzels and butter. Press firmly into the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Bake until lightly browned and set, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

While the crust bakes and cools, stir together the sliced strawberries and 1 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until the strawberries have given off their juices, about 45 minutes.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the cream cheese and remaining cup of sugar until smooth. Fold in the Cool Whip. Spread across the cooled crust.

Drain the pineapple and the strawberries, reserving all of the juices. Pour the juices into a 2-cup measuring cup and add enough water to reach 2 cups. Transfer to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately remove from the heat and whisk in the strawberry Jell-O. Let cool until almost set. Stir in the pineapple and strawberries and pour over the cream cheese layer. Cover and refrigerate until set.

Serve topped with a dollop of Cool Whip.



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