Children who eat the same food as their parents have healthier diets, a recent study from the University of Edinburgh has found. Using a sample of over 2000 four-year-olds in Scotland, Dr Valeria Skafida who carried out the research, found that youngsters who are fed the same food as the rest of the family eat more fruit and vegetables, less fatty and salty foods and snack less.
This had the greatest impact on a young child’s health than any other factor – including eating together at mealtimes.
"Children are nutritionally better-off by eating the same food as their parents, and this holds independently of whether children eat meals together or not. Eating at the same time as the rest of the family or eating with parents, are not significantly associated with diet," she said.
In the study, Dr Skafida pointed to the fact that food geared especially to children, either in the home in restaurants, is not as nutritious as adult food.
"When children refuse to eat adult food during the family meal, it is a common coping strategy for parents to create separate and different child-friendly food alternatives often of inferior nutritional value to the family meal. This seems to be a widespread phenomenon, also reflected in child menus offered at restaurants which are typically of poorer nutritional value than adult equivalents," she said.
Scotland has one of the worst obesity records in the developed world. One third of Scottish children are overweight or obese and these figures are on the rise, according to a 2012 Scottish government report.