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Parents are key in increasing children’s fruit and vegetable intake

March 4, 2013

A new international study says that children from families that encourage fruit and vegetable consumption are more likely to report eating fruits and vegetables each day, particularly where free school lunch is not provided.

The observational study involved 3020 girls and boys, 11 years old on average, from Finland, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, who were asked to completed questionnaires by themselves how often they eat fruit, salad, and raw and cooked vegetables (1). In addition, they were asked for existing general patterns of associations with fruit and vegetable intakes in the family environment (e.g., if their parents encourage them to eat fruits and vegetables every day, if they eat together with their family and if their parents usually cut up fruit for them as a snack). The study results highlighted the positive role of parents and the family setting in general in motivating children’s daily intake of fruits and vegetables. The many helpful actions included verbal encouragement, allowing children to eat as much fruit and vegetables as they like, being a role model and having family routines of eating fruits and vegetables together. The associations were stronger for vege-table intakes in countries providing no free school lunches (Germany and the Netherlands), suggesting that parental involvement is crucial when schools offer no vegetables.

The researchers commented that healthy school meals should be provided to all children, and the family environment should be considered in nutrition interventions. Children in Finland and Sweden seem to have interpreted questions of eating “vegetables” as referring mainly to raw vegetables, since eating raw vege-tables is quite common in these countries. German and Dutch children had a more frequent daily intake of fruits, probably due to frequent “fruit breaks” during morning breaks in school.

References

  1. Ray C. et al. Role of free school lunch in the associations between family environmental factors and children's fruit and vegetable intake in four European countries. Public Health Nutrition, Available on CJO 2012.