Role Modeling Summit Explores Crucial Link Between Mothers, Daughters, Food and Health

Role Modeling Summit Explores Crucial Link Between Mothers, Daughters, Food and Health

Dr. Aliza Lifshitz advises Hispanic moms to become role models to their daughters on healthy eating habits


New York City–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–September 27, 2006-While mothers pass down genetic traits of body shape, hair and eye color to their daughters, they influence their daughters’ eating habits, physical activity, dieting behaviors and body image more than they may realize, according to a panel of experts speaking at the Mother-Daughter Role Modeling Summit, hosted by the Milk Processor Education Program.

The Summit was the first-ever scientific meeting to explore the collective research behind a mother’s impact as a “healthy behaviors” role model. The evidence suggests that mothers model both positive and negative behaviors, often unintentionally, which are in turn learned by impressionable daughters through the “daughter see, daughter do” phenomenon.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is estimated that more than 1/3 of Hispanics are considered obese. Doctor Aliza Lifshitz remarks: “Given the high index of obesity among Hispanics, it is important that Hispanic moms focus on demonstrating healthy behaviors to their children. I would advise them to role model healthy habits such as drinking 3 glasses of low-fat or fat-free milk everyday, eating more vegetables, whole grain foods, and to exercise. Their example will make their kids follow suit and do the same and that is the point”, she concluded.

The got milk? campaign is throwing the spotlight on the importance of healthy role-modeling, and unveiled a new ad featuring designer Tina Knowles and her superstar daughter Beyonce. The celebrity mother-daughter duo are partners in the House of Dereon clothing line who strongly believe in passing down good habits from generation to generation.

“While I was growing up, my mother set a good example for me, which included eating right and drinking milk,” said Tina. “I have passed that on to my daughters, and now my grandson. Keeping ourselves busy with the clothing line and Beyonce’s new movie, we manage our weight by watching what we eat and drinking milk is a big part of that.”

Daughter See, Daughter Do

“The often overlooked link between mothers, daughters, dieting, and health is a key to driving a healthier generation of daughters,” said panel member Debra Waterhouse, MPH, RD, internationally renowned women’s nutrition expert and author of Outsmarting the Mother-Daughter Food Trap. “Once mothers become aware of both their spoken and unspoken influence, they are usually highly motivated to become healthier, role models for their daughters.”

Key findings from the Summit include:

— Children’s food preferences/likes and dislikes are more strongly correlated with the mother than the father, with the strongest association between mothers and daughters.(1) In fact, studies have found that mothers’ own food choices may be more influential than any other attempt to control their daughters’ food intake.(2)

— Mothers who are preoccupied with weight and dieting and who try to influence their daughters’ eating habits may actually cause the opposite desired effect and could be placing their daughters at risk for becoming highly concerned with weight and becoming a constant dieter.(3)

— On the positive side, a mother’s decision to eat more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and more calcium-rich milk is likely to influence her daughter’s choices.(4)

— While mothers have a profound influence on their daughters’ overall eating habits, they have an especially strong influence on their daughters’ dairy and milk consumption.(5) That’s important because drinking the recommended 3 servings of lowfat or fat-free milk instead of sugary soft drinks is not only good for children’s bones; some research suggests it may also contribute toward maintaining a healthy weight.(6)

According to research presented at the Summit by Leann Birch, PhD, distinguished professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State University, “the bottom line is that if a mother wants her daughter to eat nutritious foods, drink milk instead of sugary sodas and avoid fad diets, she needs to do the same.”

While it is clear that mothers play an important role in helping shape a daughter’s eating habits, also significant is creating a family environment that encourages physical activity. Research suggests that both mothers and fathers are models for physical activity. “The benefits of exercise for developing girls include healthy weight control, positive body image, and enhanced bone health,” said panel member Christina Economos, PhD, assistant professor and New Balance Chair in Childhood Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University. “However, studies also show a parent’s influence on a daughter’s physical activity can mean more than leading by example. Some parents may not actually play soccer, but they can still be a positive role model by driving her to athletic practices, cheering for her from the sidelines or volunteering to coach.”

Celebrity Mother-Daughter Team Gets Candid on Role Modeling

Former Milk Mustache celebrity Joan Lunden and her daughter Jamie joined Summit presenters to share their own experience with healthy role-modeling. “When my children were first born I always understood that they needed a good foundation for growth and development, but at that time I didn’t have one myself,” said Lunden. “It wasn’t until I was almost 40 that I started paying closer attention to my own fitness and nutrition. And so, I began an exercise program; I changed the way I ate; I lost 50 pounds; and I probably added 20 years to my life. Most of all, I could see what a wonderful healthy influence it had on my daughters.”

Joan challenged mothers across the nation to pass on a new legacy of making better food and beverage choices, promoting positive self-esteem and supporting physical activity to give our children the best shot at growing up healthy and circumventing adult diseases.

Recommendations for Mothers

The panel of leading nutrition and weight loss experts closed the Summit by developing recommendations for transforming the future of mother-daughter role modeling. Below are four of the many ways media, health professionals, schools systems, and especially moms, can make a difference:

— Channel well-intentioned efforts to prevent child obesity into teaching and modeling moderate eating, balanced food choices, and regular exercise

— Encourage consuming low fat or fat free milk at every meal instead of soft drinks that may be replacing nutrient-dense milk in the diets of their daughters

— Make every effort to have family meals, in which parents serve as role models, and make those meals full of enjoyment and free of criticism

— Foster positive body images and high self-esteems in daughters by complimenting qualities other than appearance, and refrain from making negative comments about dieting or their own bodies

For a complete list of recommendations and more information on role modeling healthy behaviors, including the Top Ten Dos and Don’ts of Role Modeling and research on the importance of milk to promote a healthy weight, visit

The Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), Washington, D.C., is funded by the nation’s milk processors, who are committed to increasing fluid milk consumption. Together with dairy farmers, the MilkPEP Board runs the National “got milk?” Milk Mustache Campaign, a multi-faceted campaign designed to educate consumers on the benefits of milk. For more information, go to

The tagline “got milk?”(R) was created for the California Milk Processor Board by Goodby Silverstein & Partners and is licensed by the national milk processor and dairy producer groups.

1. Kies, C. et al. Family pattern similarities and differences among family members. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 1992; Supplement 92, A-53

2. Lee Y, Birch LL. Diet quality, nutrient intake, weight status, and feeding environments of girls meeting or exceeding the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for total dietary fat. Minerva Pediatrica.2002;54:179-186.

3. Field AE, Camargo CA, Taylor B, Berkey CS, Roberts SB, Colditz GA. Peer, parent, and media influences on the development of weight concerns and frequent dieting among preadolescent and adolescent girls and boys. Pediatrics 2001;107:54-60.

Cutting T.M, Fisher JO, Grimm-Thomas K, Birch LL. Like mother, like daughter: Familial patterns of overweight are mediated by mothers’ dietary disinhibition. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999;69:608-613.

4. Galloway AT, Fiorito LM, Francis LA, Birch LL. Finish Your Soup: Counterproductive effects of pressuring children to eat on intake and affect. In press, 2006.

Johnson RK, Panely CV, Wang MQ. Associations between the milk mothers drink and the milk consumed by their school-aged children. Family Economy and Nutrition Review 2001;13:27-36.

Birch LL, Lee Y. Family Influences: Mothers’ and daughters’ use of multivitamin-mineral supplements. Nutrition Today. 2002;37:173-174.

5. Grove TM, Douglass JS, Heimbach JT, DiRienzo, Miller GD. Evaluation of maternal consumption of dairy products and its influence upon daughters’ diets. FASEB Journal 1999;13:A549

6. Moore LL, Singer M, Bradlee LM, Gao DI, Hood M, Ellison RC. Low intakes of dairy products in early childhood may increase body fat acquisition. Obesity Research. 2003;11(S): Abstract No.130.

Novotny R, Daida YG, Acharya S, Grove JS, Vogt TM. Dairy intake is associated with lower body fat and soda intake with greater weight in adolescent girls. Journal of Nutrition. 2004;134(8):1905-1909.

Phillips SM, Bandini LG, Cyr H, Colclough-Douglas S, Naumava E, Must A. Dairy food consumption and body weight and fatness studied longitudinally over the adolescent period. International Journal of Obesity. 2003;27(9):1106-1113.

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Role Modeling Summit Explores Crucial Link Between Mothers, Daughters, Food and Health