The 'clean plate club' may turn children into overeaters

Mar 06, 2009

"Finish your broccoli!" Although parents may have good intentions about forcing their kids to eat cold, mushy vegetables, this approach may backfire the very next day, according to new research from Cornell University.

"We found that the more controlling the parents were about telling their child to clean their plate, the more likely the kids, especially the boys, were to request larger portions of sweetened cereal at daycare," says lead author Brian Wansink at the keynote address of the Carolinas HealthCare System Obesity 2009 Conference in Charlotte, NC on Friday.

Researchers asked 63 mothers of preschool-age children the extent to which they tell their children to clean their plates at meals. The researchers then asked the children how many Fruit Loops they would like for their morning snack at day-care. Children were able to fill their bowl until they indicated they had received enough and the bowl of cereal was weighed.

"Parents who force their kids to clean their plates at meals, may be interfering with the development of self-control that children have around food," said co-author Collin Payne of New Mexico State University, "When children have little control over what they eat- or don't eat, they may react by acting out and overeating when away from home."

"Preschool-age children are at a vulnerable age, and are forming eating habits that will follow them throughout their life" says Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.

He recommends that parents provide moderate portions of a variety of foods, encouraging the child to at least try all of the foods, and let them decide whether they want additional servings.

The research extends a 2008 study, "Consequences of Belonging to the 'Clean Plate Club,'" in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Source: Cornell Food & Brand Lab

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Keter
1 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2009
"When children have little control over what they eat- or don't eat, they may react by acting out and overeating when away from home."

Don't be so quick to blame the child for behavior. Overfeeding parents might just be stretching out their children's stomachs by forcing them to eat beyond the point of fullness, so that over time, it takes more bulk to feel full.

As my pediatrician said when my son would have days when he would refuse to eat: "little children won't starve themselves." True, he'd eat almost nothing one day and then make up for it over the next couple of days. I didn't force food on him, tacitly balanced his diet by serving more vegetables, and kept the sugary stuff to a minimum, so he had no weight issues despite his father's side of the family, where everyone was very overweight. I was very much force fed as a child and while I have a good metabolism and can maintain a healthy weight with little effort, I'll never be skinny. Fat cells are for life.
axlmayhem
5 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2009
Fruit Loops are sooo much better than veggies.