A recent study has revealed that sitting with parents and eating the same food has a bigger impact on children's health than any other eating habits.
According to research carried out by the Centre for Population Health Sciences at Edinburgh University, children who eat the same meals as their parents are more likely to have healthy diets than those who eat separately.
Dr Valeria Skafida (one of the study's leaders) also discovered that firstborn children typically have healthier diets than the second or third born. The study itself looked into the eating habits of over 2,000 five-year-olds and recommends that any government advice to families should be simple to help develop healthy eating habits early.
Skafida has said that Britain is almost entirely alone in Europe with the 'dumbing down' of children's meals (both at home and at restaurants) and that instead, we should be encouraging our children to eat what the adults are eating. Doing this encourages a varied diet and eliminates the possibility of eating nutritionally void ready meals.
Deficiencies in iron, vitamin D and zinc have become commonplace amongst children and this could be due to the way they are fed.
"If children were eating what their parents eat – and, like the French, eating round the table – then we wouldn't have the iron deficiency problem we have," said Dr Colin Michie, chair of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health's nutrition committee.
Michie has also noticed that problem or fussy eaters tend to be those who are fed alone. This is mostly down to the way children copy behaviours. By eating alongside the family, children watch their parents eating the same food without issue and copy this.
If you want to learn more about what nutrients your family needs at different life stages, seeing a qualified nutritionist could help. For more information, please see our Life Stages page.
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