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Not just what children eat, but how they are fed may influence childhood obesity

Posted:  Monday, May 25, 2015

Children tipping on the wrong side of the weighing scale may have their parents to blame found a recent study. US researchers in their new study found that parental feeding style could be influenced by factors such as mother’s body mass index (BMI), ethnicity and personal eating habits. Excessive controlling feeding styles may result in children eating when not hungry and establishing a dysfunctional relationship with food later in life.

Published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, the study looked at the demographics and characteristics of mothers who engaged in restrictive feeding practices among children aged 2 to 5 years. They found that obese mothers were more likely to be concerned about their children’s eating habits and controlled them to prevent them from becoming obese.

Single, poor or divorced mothers were also seen indulging in controlling behaviour, egging their children to eat compared to women with partners. Caucasian mothers were less restrictive about their children’s eating habits in comparison to Asian or African American mothers.

On an average, the mothers exercised good behaviours such as providing nutritious meals, enforcing mealtime discipline, and maintaining a pleasant meal environment. However, they erred on some aspects such as allowing children to eat in front of the TV and rustling up some meals if the children didn’t like what was already prepared.

“The feeding dynamic between caregivers and their toddlers as a factor in childhood obesity is truly underestimated. We can begin to see how childhood obesity has to be addressed from multiple angles," said the lead author of the study. The researchers suggest the following tips to provide independence to children when it comes to food while controlling the stakes the better way.

 Dethrone desserts: Provide a small dessert as part of the regular meal rather than providing it as a reward for good behaviour. Although children might prefer eating it before the meal for a week but the authors say soon the attraction of desserts would wear off and they would be able to enjoy it post meal too.

 Serve smaller portions at first. This has dual benefits; it can help children get attuned to satiety and also open the door for a second serving, maybe a fruit or vegetable, if they are still hungry. "The child is learning about feeling full while having her opinion respected, and that grows trust -- a very positive emotion to have in relation to feeding," opined the lead author.

  Let children choose the snack timing.

  Serve food in the kitchen or dining area and not in front of the TV.

  Parents must not excessively discuss about eating healthy as it may create anxiety for children as well as parents

  Always serve one dish that you are sure the child will lap up. This will ensure that at least they are eating something heartily if not the entire plate.

  If kids refuse some vegetable, try reintroducing it with different flavours and presentation.

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