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Plate-cleaning can backfire


Newly released research talks about the implications of forcing kids to clean their plates as they grow.

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Telling your child to eat all the food on his or her plate may work when he or she is a young kid, but the practice can lead to obesity as the child grows.

This is according to a new University of Minnesota report, which found that up to two-thirds of parents still encourage teens to clean their plates—even if the child is overweight. The research is set to be published in the May issue of Pediatrics, and involved two separate studies that were conducted a few years back.

The study found that parents of adolescents still use controlling food behaviors, telling some to eat more and others to eat less. Examples of controlling statements included saying things like “I have to be sure that my child does not eat too many sweets,” or “If I did not guide or regulate my child’s eating, he or she would eat too much of his or her favorite food.”

Restrictive actions were more common in parents of children who were overweight, while parents pressured children to eat who were not overweight. Parents who pushed kids to eat responded with statements such as “If my child says, ‘I am not hungry,’ I try to get him or her to eat anyway.”

Researchers say that children of parents who restricted foods were more likely to be overweight or obese.

“Parents do use high levels of control, such as restriction and pressure to eat,” noted study author Katie Loth, a registered dietician, doctoral candidate and research assistant at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

“I was surprised at some of the parent behaviors, like feeling that their children should clean their plates and not waste food,” Loth added. “In the 1950s, cleaning your plate meant something different. Portion sizes have gotten bigger over time, and if you encourage kids to rely on environmental indicators, like how much food is on their plates or the time of day, they’ll lose the ability to rely on internal cues to know whether they’re hungry or full.”

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