Parent-child interactions pose significant influences on their child's dietary behaviors. Family priorities and routines may increase the child's healthy eating preferences. However, few studies analyze how family experience affects child dietary preferences.
To examine parents’ report of family priorities and routines in relation to their child's dietary preferences.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Seven families, including 12 parents and their children (n = 14), aged 2-11, participated in a 6-week family-focused intervention that incorporated parent-child interaction activities and healthy mealtime coaching. Participants were assessed at baseline and at post-intervention with validated questionnaires. Families were predominantly Hispanic/Latino (82%) with married parents (80%), and had 2 or more children (82%).
Parental program activities were used to assess family priorities and routines. Priorities were ranked from 1-16, ranging from most to least important. Family routines were assessed to indicate whether routine meal planning decisions were healthy/unhealthy. Children completed questionnaires selecting pictures of healthy/unhealthy foods to assess dietary preferences. Descriptive statistics, paired sample t-tests, and correlations tests were analyzed using SPSS version 26.0. Results were considered significant at P < .05.
At baseline, approximately 42% of parents scored 75% or higher for practicing “healthy” family routines during meal planning. Healthy child dietary preferences had significant negative correlations with parents who reported high priorities of “Completing HW” (r = −0.66, P = .026) and “Getting to school on time” (r = −0.85, P = .001). Healthy family routines such as “Having meals together”, “Stop eating when full”, and “Saving leftovers” had significant positive correlations to high-ranked, nutrition-related family priorities such as “Healthy dinner” (r = 0.67, P = .009), “Eating meals together” (r = 0.58, P = .028), and “Positive family food-interactions” (r = 0.72, P = .006).
Overall, most parents emphasized nutrition-related priorities for their families; however, less than 50% of parents currently practiced “healthy” family routines. Nutrition-related priorities and routines indicated healthier choices for the child. Positive parent-child interactions, including the practice of healthy, nutrition-related priorities and routines may significantly impact the child's dietary preferences. Further research is needed with larger sample sizes to confirm these findings.