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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Transferring Eating Behaviors from Generation to Generation

By Michael McBurney

In opening remarks to attendees of the “International Maternal and Child Nutrition: Initiating Research Through Multistakeholder Collaboration” forum, DSM CEO Feike Sibjesma and Chair of the SUN Business Platform, said “3,000 children die around the world every day due to inadequate nutrient intake, while on the other hand, more than one billion people globally suffer from overweight and obesity.These are disturbing numbers. Why are so many children malnourished? Many reasons exist; poverty and war being two primary causes.

But even in developed countries, food insecurity exists.  Masters and colleagues examined the relationship of income (and race/ethnicity) on food availability, frequency of family and home cooked meals, and family food expenditures. The report differences in food availability when race/ethnicity was stratified by poverty income ratio (PIR). PIR is a means to adjust income level by considering local living costs and number of dependents.  High-income homes had greater access to fruit and fat-free/low-fat milk. Unfortunately fruit availability does not mean consumption.

In a school environment during out-of-school-programming, Beets and colleagues exposed children (5 to 10 y) to snack options of: 1) whole or sliced fruit; 2) whole/sliced fruit or cookies or tortilla chips;  3) whole/sliced fruit or pretzels over the course of 18 snack occasions. The children preferred sliced fruit over whole fruit.  However, students chose a cookie (58% of the time) or tortilla chips (38%) over sliced fruit (6%).  More children consumed 100% of the cookies and tortilla chips than fruit. And even when chosen, 15-47% of fruit was wasted.

Children are no different today. Throughout history children have liked cookies and yummy snacks. For those living in poverty, nutritional indulgences are limited by availability. For those in food-rich environments, adults need to help guide (constrain) selections by children. My mother and father would encourage me to try new foods. They would make certain that every food group was represented on my plate. If I was being too greedy, my grandmother would suggest my eyes might be bigger than my tummy.

Food and eating behaviors are cultural. Families and caregivers need to be involved in teaching children healthy eating and activity behaviors. What are you role modeling?

Main Citations

Masters MA, Krogstrand KLS, Eskridge KM, Albercht JA. Race/ethnicity and income in relation to the home food environment in US youth aged 6 to 19 years. 2014 JADA doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.04.023

Beets MW, Tilley F, Kyryliuk R, Weaver RG, Moore JB, Turne-McGrievy G. Children select unhealthy choices when given a choice among snack offerings. 2014 JADA doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.04.022