Parents can set standards for the kinds of foods their children are eating and help them develop healthy eating behaviors. "If there's a take-home message from this, it's that parents should provide healthier food at home," Dr. Salvy says.

Start helping your child eat better with Dr. Salvy's advice on how to improve your child's eating habits.

  • Provide healthier food at home. "Remove the bad foods from the house," Dr. Salvy says. "If you have them in the house, the kids will eat them. Expose them to a variety of healthier food options."
  • Work with the parents of your child's friends to create better eating habits for your child and his friends. "If the [eating habit] change occurred in one of the friends or in both of the friends, it's more likely to be maintained because they're going to reinforce each other in those behaviors," she says.
  • Get your child involved with other friends. "We know that they are more physically active when they are with other kids," Dr. Salvy says. "Children don't run on treadmills. They play with their friends; that's how they get their physical activities. Have them involved, but insist on healthy behavior like playing and being active and eating healthier options."

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