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June 1, 2011

Like Mother, Like Daughter: What’s Your Health Legacy?

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

Pictured above, left to right: MilkPEP CEO Vivien Godfrey joins expert panelists Linda Fears, Editor-in-Chief of Family Circle, Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, Pediatrician Dr. Alanna Levine, former First Daughter Jenna Bush Hager and Early Childhood Expert Jeannette Torres-Alvarez, celebrating the importance of the mother daughter health legacy in Washington DC on April 27, 2011.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Like Mother, Like Daughter Health Legacy Summit at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

The event was sponsored by Family Circle magazine and the National Milk Mustache Got Milk? campaign.  My fellow speakers and panelists included former first daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, pediatrician Alanna Levine, MD, and early childhood health expert Jeannette Torres-Alvarez. Family Circle Magazine Editor In Chief Linda Fears moderated the session.

It was exciting to be in such esteemed company, and rewarding to have the opportunity to present research showing just how much moms influence their daughters' eating habits. 
There's no question that mothers and daughters are bonded in more ways than one.  But I'm not sure that most of us realize that a mom's own food and beverage choices may be more influential than anything else she does as far as affecting what her daughter eats and drinks.

Getting children to eat better means parents must eat well, too. Setting a good example makes it easier to get your kids to eat right. Pressuring them at the dinner table to drink their milk or eat their vegetables may work in the short-run, but it probably won't result in kids favoring healthier choices, long-term. In fact, it may do just the opposite.  

Moms must nourish their own bodies to show children that they should do the same. Studies show that parents who eat more fruit and vegetables have children who do, too, when compared to parents who eat less produce.  The same goes for milk-drinking habits. Being a positive role model may have lasting effects, too. Research shows that parents who drink more milk and ate more milk products had daughters with higher milk and milk product intake five years later.

If you think your child's not listening to what you say or paying attention to what you do, think again. It can be a daily challenge to eat right and to feed your family healthy foods, but it's worth the investment. When you consider all the physical and emotional needs that we tend to, mothers may be the most important health care system in the world.


Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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