In the realm of feeding children – does anyone know who came up with the “airplane” or “choo choo train” method? While it feels like something dad would do, we can’t prove it – two studies however suggest more verifiable ways father does contribute to a child’s health and diet – before and after conception.

The first study published in Fertility and Sterility took a closer look at expecting fathers’ diet and overall health. They found that men with conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, even depression were 19% more likely to have a preterm infant (more than three weeks before the due date) and 28% more likely to have a child born that needs intensive care. While only responsible for 50% of an offspring’s genes, this research is a powerful reminder that a man’s health is just as important as a woman’s when trying to conceive.

Another study from the University of Eastern Finland looked at the example set by parents when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables in both raw and cooked forms. In working with over 100 kindergarten families with 3-5 year old’s, they found that dad’s had a unique influence over getting children to eat more cooked vegetables. (Mom’s diet was more strongly associated with influencing raw and cooked vegetables as well as fruit.) Researchers also identified dinner as the greatest opportunity to teach children to eat vegetables in a variety of different forms, like in appetizers, mains and sides. So if getting kids to eat their roasted broccoli or sautéed spinach is the goal, dad should be front and center, leading with his fork!

What’s the takeaway? Teaching good eating habits and instilling good health is not a one parent job! Healthy routines take time to become common practice and both parents play important roles in making it happen!

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