Child NutritionFamily nutritionGeneral Health & Well-being

How Healthy Is Your Home Food Environment?

 

How Healthy Is Your Home Food Environment?

The quality, availability and accessibility of foods in the home are of utmost importance in the development of healthy eating habits in children. Hence it is essential that families are made aware of the importance of bringing healthy foods into their homes and ensuring their children have access to them.

The home environment has an important role in affecting children’s habits, including eating behaviours. Around 65–72% of daily calories are consumed in the home; therefore, the quality of the foods and the nutrients that are available in the home are of great importance to the health of all family members. Many factors influence the quality and quantity of foods that are available and eaten in the home, including the cost of foods, how foods are prepared and served, and the emotional environment of the home.

Resources available to the family, including family income and education levels of parents, affect the home food environment. Cost is a major factor influencing the types of food parents bring into the home. The higher cost of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, stands in contrast to the lower cost of refined grains and foods with added sugars and fat. Income affects not only purchasing power but also food-related activities in the home. Lower income homes may have adults who are working in multiple jobs with less time to prepare foods.

The availability of foods in the home has a major impact on children’s dietary choices. The home food choices of children depend on the foods that are made available to them. Parents are therefore important gatekeepers for children’s food choices at home. The provision of healthy foods available at home increases children’s motivation to eat new foods and promotes greater enjoyment of healthier options.

It is essential that families are made aware of the importance of making healthy foods more available in the home.

The accessibility of foods in the home affects children’s dietary choices; this means providing healthy foods in places children can reach, as well as providing foods in forms that are easy for children to eat. For instance, cutting and peeling fruits and vegetables increases the chances that children will eat them – particularly if children are preparing their own snacks – and making water accessible for children has a positive impact on their water intake.

Promoting the accessibility of nutrient-dense foods to children, limiting the accessibility of caloricdense and nutrient-poor snacks and also adapting portion sizes to age (with smaller portions of unhealthy foods offered) will help minimise the harmful effects of less healthy treats.

Cues to eating that children receive in the home affect their dietary choices. The home environment provides many cues to eating that not only influence immediate food intake but also shape the establishment of habits and norms about when, what and how much to eat. In particular, parental eating behaviours provide powerful eating cues to children.

Television viewing offers another important set of cues for eating and includes cues to eat in the absence of hunger, as well as promotion of the types of food to eat. Reducing children’s access to television appears to be important in reducing obesity risk, likely due to the food advertisements, as well as television’s promotion of sedentary behaviour.

 

Source: Danone Institute International

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