Submitted to: Pediatric Basics
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: March 1, 2003
Publication Date: April 1, 2003
Citation: Nicklas, T., Fisher, J. 2003. To each his own: family influences on children's food preferences. Pediatric Basics. 102:13-16. Interpretive Summary: Eating patterns emerge in childhood and may set the stage for the healthfulness of eating patterns as adults. Parents are important in shaping young children's eating patterns because they select foods of the family diet, serve as an example through their own behavior and provide direct instruction about when, what, and how much to eat. Studies over the past two decades have shown that children acquire preferences for foods to which they are routinely exposed. As a result, children choose to eat foods that they are served most often, and prefer what is available and acceptable in the home. Because eating habits are difficult to modify once established, it is important that parents and practitioners understand how healthful patterns of eating can be encouraged. Establishing a pattern of good choices in childhood is likely to carry over into healthier habits in later life.
Technical Abstract: Lifelong eating patterns are established in childhood, when the family provides the first and perhaps most fundamental context in which children's relationship with food is formed. So how do children develop a preference for one food over another? It appears that exposure - actually tasting - is key. Children choose to eat foods that they are served most often, and prefer what is available and acceptable in the home. Because diet plays such an influential role in shaping the child's future health status, it is important that parents and practitioners understand how food choices develop. The feeding context in early childhood is widely assumed to be critical to the establishment of lifelong healthy eating habits. Establishing a pattern of healthier choices in childhood is likely to carry over into healthier habits in later life.