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It’s not uncommon to hear parents urging their children to ‘eat up’ and to ‘clear their plates’, but new evidence has surfaced that shows that this well-meaning action could actually be damaging to children’s wellness. Parental attitudes to food have been shown to have a direct effect on children’s weight.
This also includes the practice when parents refuse certain types of foods to their children, which parents often do expressly to protect the wellbeing of their children. This can involve heavily restricting their intake of sugary food or junk food, and it may be a devastating blow for these well-intentioned parents to realise that rather than actually helping their children, they are putting them at greater risk of developing weight problems and associated health concerns later in life.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that children who had certain types of food restricted whilst they were growing up were more likely to be overweight or even obese. Similarly, parents who put pressure on their children to ‘eat up’ also caused their children problems in later life. This is because children have a natural ability to sense when they are full, and a ‘shut off’ mechanism in their stomach triggers cues in their brain that tell them to stop eating. If they then continue to eat, under parental pressure, they will over-ride this mechanism, and gradually lose the ability to tell when they are full, causing them to overeat in later life.
Researchers found that between 50 and 60 percent of parents required that their children eat everything that was on their plate at each meal, and between 30 and 40 percent confessed that they encourage their child to eat more food, even after their child has told them that they are full.