2 simple ways parents can help prevent childhood obesity

2 simple ways parents can help prevent childhood obesity

Overeating can be a problem for people of all ages, but new research suggests there may be a solution for children: Use smaller dishes and eat more often.

Researchers tracked 42 elementary school children who were able to serve themselves lunch. They found that children using smaller plates ate less food, according to the study, published online April 8 in the journal Pediatrics. In fact, they consumed an average of 90 calories less per meal.

“If your children are used to filling up and clearing their plates, this is a simple approach to cutting calories,” says Jenylle Rys, the supervisor for child and older adult services at Good Samaritan Health and Wellness Center. “Serving meals on smaller plates makes sense. Most adults should not be piling food onto our current plate sizes in America, [let alone children].”

Courtney Southwood, a registered dietician at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill, echoed Rys’s assessment. The study’s small sample size and its focus on African-American children means the results likely cannot be generalized. But Southwood says the logic makes sense.

“Portion distortion is a common problem. Portion sizes have nearly tripled in the last 30 to 40 years,” she explains. “Many individuals do not realize how many calories they are consuming because they often are not sticking to recommended serving sizes.”

Another study, also published April 8 in Pediatrics found that eating more often can help control kids’ weight. Researchers examined at the results of 21 studies about eating frequency for nearly 19,000 young people, ages 2 to 19. The ones who ate meals more frequently most often had a lower body weight.

These strategies are among parents’ best bets for curbing childhood obesity trends, say Southwood and Rys. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of kids and teens in the U.S. are obese. That amounts to twice as many obese children and three times as many obese teens than there were 30 years ago.

“Children today often skip breakfast, dislike school lunch, and then overeat after school and at dinner to compensate for the calories missed during the day,” Southwood explains. “Smaller, more frequent meals consisting of portion-controlled healthy choices, while increasing physical activity are the best practices for healthy living. Eating more frequently assists individuals in keeping their metabolisms active, never getting so hungry that they end up making poor eating decisions later.”

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  1. Ok, this article is fine and good. However, if you have a smaller plate and your still piling on mac n cheese on it, that's not going to do any good. Seriously? It's the plate size fault now??!! Come on, portion less.. have 60% veg, 20% meat and 20% or less carbs. This isn't quantum physics…
    I have a very simple solution: Keep the crap from entering your house at all. No pop, no buying Hostess because it was 2 for $5 and because"they like that in their lunches", make them eat *something* for breakfast. My son doesn't like eating breakfast either, but he will not leave the house unless he at least has a banana and some water. End of story.

  2. Start a healthy diet while still pregnant, breastfeed, and keep the healthy food coming all during childhood. If they have only crap in the house, then crap is all they're going to have to choose from! Yes, I have kids. My son is 11 and my daughter's 13. And yes, I've tested this out on them. I hear most parents say, "They just won't eat that". Well, that's because you're 1.) only introducing healthy food to them when they've already established a taste for what they like and get most often (MacDonalds ring a bell?), and/or 2.) waiting until they're old enough to argue with you when you try and force them to change their diet. Start health in-utero and you help yourself and your kids. If they're over 1 it's going to be a bit more of a challenge. If they're over 7… well, I wish you good luck.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.