Nutrition Thumbs Up for Dad!

by Karen Ansel, MS RD

Nutrition Thumbs Up for Dad!

For years, moms have been the unofficial point person in the kitchen, serving up healthy meals and teaching kids to eat right. But today, many dads are getting in on the action too. And that can have big benefits for the whole family. "Because children model the behavior of both of their parents, fathers play an important role in their kids' nutrition," says Judy Caplan, MS, RD. "When both parents are involved it delivers a powerful message that eating healthy food is an important part of a happy, healthful life."

Here are five easy ways dads can make a difference:

  1. Set a great example.
    You may not know it, but your child is watching the foods you choose – and following in your footsteps. A 2011 Journal of the American Dietetic Association study found that kids are likely to mirror their father's intake of many snack foods. Given that children get about a third of their calories from solid fats and added sugars, teaching them to choose smarter snacks can give them a big nutritional boost. If you want your kids to reach for fruit instead of cookies, show them how it's done by leading the way.
  2. Start in the supermarket.
    Food shopping isn't just mom's job anymore. Considering that kids eat two-thirds of their meals and snacks at home why not take them to the supermarket to load up on healthy eats. They'll love the fact that you have a completely different perspective than mom.
  3. Get cooking!
    Fathers who rank family meals as an important event are less likely to have kids who favor fast food restaurants according to a 2011 Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior study. But getting those healthy eats on the table isn't always easy, unless dad steps in too. When both parents take turns cooking in the kitchen the likelihood of a home cooked meal doubles. That's not the only reason dad should don his chef's hat. When kids see dad whipping out pots and pans or chopping vegetables in the kitchen they develop a broader, more flexible view of gender roles.
  4. Take it outside.
    Outdoor activities are the ideal environment for dads to get on board with a healthier lifestyle. Plant a garden, fire up the grill, or go fishing suggests Caplan. Given that 64 percent of parents and kids play video games or watch TV together at least three days a week, the great outdoors is the ideal place for dads to help step up the whole family's physical activity. Instead of reaching for the remote, round up the family for a bike ride or recruit them for a game of soccer.
  5. Stand united.
    To raise a family of healthy eaters both parents have to walk the walk and talk the talk. This means that parents have to follow the same rules and consume the same nutritious foods that they want their kids to eat. "For optimal success both parents should agree on nutritional guidelines and be willing to stick to them."
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About the author:

Karen M Ansel MS RD

Karen Ansel, MS RD




  • Cook healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of all meals. Even a snack can be healthy.

  • Eat right

    Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day's experiences with one another.

  • Shop smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

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