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Kids' Diets Rarely Mimic Their Parents'

Study Concludes That Children, Particularly Tweens and Teens, Don’t Take Many Food Cues From Mom and Dad

Expert Opinions

But other nutrition experts said they were perplexed by the conclusions of the review.

“I’m a little surprised, actually,” says Susan H. Babey, PhD, a research scientist for the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California at Los Angeles. She published a policy brief in 2009 that found that teenagers were more likely to copy either the good or bad nutrition habits of their parents.

“It does make me wonder what’s causing the difference in these findings,” Babey says.

Her paper found, for instance, that adolescents whose parents drink soda daily were 40% more likely to drink it themselves compared to kids whose parents did not drink soda. And children whose parents ate at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables were at least 16% more likely get their recommended amounts, compared to children whose parents didn’t eat at least five servings of those foods.

“Our data suggests, and it’s my own personal belief as a parent that I have some control over what my kids eat. I’m not really sure how to reconcile the two,” she says.

And other experts cautioned that it is very difficult to make any assessments about how kids eat compared to their parents, largely because of the difficulty of getting kids to accurately remember the details of meals and snacks.

But even with questions about the reliability of the data, they say the study’s conclusions rang true.

“I’m doing a large childhood obesity study, and we were just talking about this the other day, how kids don’t eat like their parents,” says Kerri N. Boutelle, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California at San Diego, who was not involved with the study.

“My 9-year-old daughter is eating a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and I’m having a salad,” Boutelle says. “And kids eat the same things over and over again, while adults won’t. So I’d say no, kids don’t really eat like their parents, especially as they get older.”

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