Let’s Salute Nutrition Gatekeepers This Mother’s Day

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photo credit:  Axel Buhrmann on flickr

Mothers contribute so much to the world.  We have a lot to thank them for.  One contribution that is especially meaningful to me is the impact moms have as nutrition role models.

Research shows that a mother’s own food and beverage choices are the single greatest influence on what her child eats and drinks — more influential than any other attempt she tries to make.   So the idea of “do what I say, not what I do” won’t work when it comes to food.

Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell, talks about moms as nutrition gatekeepers. His research shows that nutrition gatekeepers influence over 70 percent of the foods we eat.  They impact the decisions of their children and spouse, both inside and outside the home. They’re the ones who purchase and prepare food, pack children’s lunches, select the snacks and choose the restaurants. That’s a huge amount of influence and a big responsibility!

A gatekeeper who struggles with unhealthy habits and eating choices will typically pass those problems on to family members. By the same token, gatekeepers who improve their habits can improve the health of the whole family.

Wansink describes moms’ role this way:

M = Manager:  Managing multiple appetites, food preferences and eating behaviors.

O = Official Observer:  Observing the eating habits of the family to determine which may need some adjusting.

M = Master Marketer:  Preparing and “marketing” healthy foods in the household.  Moms prepare nutritious meals and help make them appetizing and appealing to the family.

It’s been said that mothers may be the most important health care system in the world. I buy that.

Hope you’ll salute the nutrition gatekeepers in your life this Mother’s Day.

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  • http://www.brightonyourhealth.com Mary Brighton

    Hi! Loved this article. How true that moms really are a major gatekeeper with food! I’m a mom of 4 kids, 3 of which are girls. In addition to trying to be a good gatekeeper, it is important for me pass along the message to all my kids, in particular my girls, that food is just “food.” We eat healthy (I am also a RD) but I try not to label food. I don’t talk about weight, nor go on a scale, nor label food as “too fat, too unhealthy.” As moms, we are also gatekeepers to our attitude on food, weight, healthy mind, healthy body.
    We live in France, Mother’s Day here is at the end of May. Your article was an inspiration to think about how the French culture and French moms are also gatekeepers for kids here.
    Thanks for writing this article!
    Mary Brighton

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