(NaturalNews) Children as young as two years old notice what foods their parents are bringing into the house and tend to mimic those food choices, according to a study conducted by researchers from Dartmouth Medical School and published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
"The data suggest that children begin to assimilate and mimic their parents' food choices at a very young age, even before they are able to fully appreciate the implications of these choices," the researchers wrote.
Researchers had 120 children between the ages of two and six take part in a grocery store shopping game, where they were asked to pick anything they wanted from 133 food items including fruits, vegetables, bread, milk, candy, potato chips, soda, desserts and sugary or whole grain cereals. Meanwhile, the children's parents filled out questionnaires about how often they purchased each of the foods and whether their children accompanied them on shopping trips.
The researchers found that children's food choices were similar to those reflected by the parental questionnaire. The healthier a parent's shopping choices, the healthier the child's.
Most parents reported that they took their children along while grocery shopping.
"Nutrition interventions for children most often begin with school-aged children," the researchers wrote. "This study suggests that preschool children are already forming food preferences and are attentive to food choices made by their parents."
The researchers suggested that parents might view a trip to the store as an educational experience, where children can learn to emphasize healthier foods over junk food and snacks.
The study refutes the assumption that children are inherently predisposed to prefer sweet, high-fat and salty snacks over healthier food. The majority of children in the study selected an even mix of healthy and unhealthy foods, while 35 (nearly 30 percent) chose significantly more healthy than unhealthy foods.