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Kids eat less on small plates

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Smaller dishes, ample sleep can thwart childhood obesity

New research offers tips on how parents can help kids fight childhood obesity.

child eating

If you’re keeping an eye on your child’s weight, you may want to change up your dinner plates.

According to research published in the journal Pediatrics, kids that serve themselves may consume less if you use smaller dishes.

Temple University researchers wanted to see if children would eat less using smaller plates—a notion brought on by previous research that found adults pile on more food the bigger their plates are.

Over eight days, 42 students participated in a self-serve buffet. On half of those days, they used plates 7 ¼ inches in diameter and on the other days, they used large dinner plates 10 ¼-inches in diameter.

The researchers observed that children put additional 90 calories worth of food on their plates when they used the larger plates. Though they left about half of those calories uneaten, they still ate more than they did on days when they used the smaller plates.

“Studies show that when kids serve themselves more, they are going to eat more,” said Jennifer Orlet Fisher, a study author who said that switching plates may not be the answer to control eating. The study does show, however, that it is easier to change eating habits in kids than it is in adults, she says.

“Kids are much less complicated eaters than adults are,” Fisher added.

What else can parents do other than use salad plates to serve dinner? According to another study published in the same issue of the medical journal, getting enough rest may curb weight gain.

Researchers say that children who get 10 hours of sleep per day as compared to those who get 7.5 hours may be less likely to pack on pounds. Getting more sleep can lower the proportion of teens with a BMI at or above 25 (classified as overweight) by 3 percent at age 14 and by 4- 6 percent at age 18, the study showed.

Parents can only do so much, though. Another recent study identified four genes associated with severe childhood obesity.

But just because genes may be a factor in a child's weight doesn’t mean that parents can’t have a positive impact — another current study says that self-help counseling from your pediatrician may help.

Related topics

Eat, move, nurture: Raising healthy kids

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