The study, published in the journal Appetite, showed that parents and other adult caregivers such as babysitters tended to make better food choices for themselves if they accommodated the youngster's request for a particular snack whether that snack was healthy or not.
Caregivers who listened to their children's preferences ate a lower number of unhealthy foods themselves. In one experiment, participants who granted a child's snack request ate on average 2.7 fewer unhealthy snacks and 1.9 more healthy snacks than those who imposed their own preferences on the child.
The reason likely lies in how the caregivers feel about their decision, the researchers said. "Our theory is that moms who accommodate the child's preferences against their better judgment would end up feeling less powerful, compared to moms who successfully impose their own food choices on their children," Akkoc said.