Role-modelling: Does it matter what your child sees YOU eat?

Is your child more likely to eat vegetables if they see YOU eating them? Are they less likely to eat fish if they know YOU hate it? Does it matter if they see YOU grabbing a chocolate bar for breakfast?!!!

The answer is YES, YES, YES, BUT…! And it’s a mighty big BUT! Let me explain.

Role-modelling is hugely powerful. In the early years, a child is entirely programmed to watch and copy you. Your behaviour is contagious! That’s how they learn about life and develop the skills they need. That’s why they want to ‘help’ you wash the car, push the buggy instead of sit in it, put your lipstick on, use a big knife and fork like you or eat anchovies off you pizza!


Role-modelling happy, healthy eating won’t make a scrap of difference if you encourage, pester, nag, negotiate, cajole or bribe your child to eat things! If you do that, it will destroy all the good that role-modelling can do!

You have to let the role-modelling work its magic all on its won. As if by osmosis! Here’s how you do that.

⭐ Never draw attention to what you’re eating. Don’t say things like “Look, mummy’s eating her broccoli. Mummy loves it. It’s yummy!”

⭐ Keep your dislikes to yourself. Even the unfussiest of us have one, two or a few foods we have a natural, in-born aversion to – but no need to shout about them! Don’t discuss what foods you don’t like with your children. Neither, actually, should you discuss what foods you like (find out why here!).

⭐ If you find yourself in a situation where there’s something on your plate you don’t want, say nothing. Maybe you can’t stand beetroot and it’s in your salad. Just leave it aside quietly!

⭐ Eat happily and healthily (ish – you don’t have to be perfect!) in front of your children most of the time. Maybe you’ll have cake for breakfast on your birthday or a packet of crisps this afternoon – but call it a ‘treat’ and let your child join in too.

If you like this, you might like The best way to talk to your child about healthy eating.