Many studies have reported increasing levels of obesity and overweight in children. Recent policy developments have examined a range of influences on children's eating habits but have left largely unexamined the role of parents in general and mothers in particular. In this study we examined mothers' understandings of healthy eating and of their influence on their children's eating patterns. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine mothers of children aged between 4 and 12 years of age. Interviewees displayed knowledge of recommended eating practices for their children but distinguished this knowledge from actual eating practices. Avoidance of negative social perceptions, pleasure in eating and opportunities for fast food were regarded as more important than eating in accordance with recommended nutritional guidelines. Moreover, the food choices made were viewed as positive alternatives to eating based on nutritional balance. These views pose a challenge for policy initiatives to address obesity and excess weight in children. Future initiatives should have increased regard for the everyday contexts within which children's eating patterns are understood and justified
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