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Parental control on the choice of foods in preschoolers shapes healthy eating behaviours

Posted:  Monday, November 17, 2014

The link between self-regulation, emotional eating, and obesity in adults and adolescents is a well- explored one. However, researchers from the University of Buffalo have found that preschoolers raised with parental rules regarding their food choices have better self regulation and are healthier in comparison to those raised with no such rules.

The study presented at The Obesity Week 2014 in Boston, used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) consisting of approximately 10,700 children born in the U.S. in 2001. The researchers looked at the ability of self-regulation in children aged 2 years of age, and the urge to eat foods such as fruit juices, soda, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fast food, salty snacks, and sweets at 4 years of age. They also asked parents to rate the frequency of emotional or behavioural responses exhibited by the child.

The researchers found that children who were able to self-regulate at 2 years and had parental control on food choices displayed healthy eating habits at 4 years of age. Surprisingly, in the absence of parental control, the ability to self regulate did not make much difference to their food choices, even later in life. The researchers also found that kids who faced no imposition on food and drinks from parents consumed 25% more soda in comparison to those who faced parental control.

Talking about this development, the researchers said, “It is amazing to see that a parental rule about which types of food a child can and cannot eat could have such a great impact on child eating habits. Without these boundaries set by caregivers, the benefits of high self-regulation on weight gain and childhood obesity could be diminished. This illustrates just how important parental involvement is in influencing child eating habits."

As shown by the study, without parental rules, children begin consuming unhealthy foodstuff early, thus exposing themselves to a wide spectrum of lifestyle conditions. It is hence important to instil healthy food values in children early on.

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