It is no secret that obesity is on the rise in the west, with a new study finding that 10 percent of UK parents are giving their toddlers adult-sized portions instead of those appropriate to their age. Needless to say, this is likely a contributing factor in the increasing waistlines of children across the western world.
The results came after the Institute and Toddler Forum (ITF) spent time surveying 1000 UK parents. The parents were given pictures of portion sizes of food and asked to select which size they felt were most appropriate for their child. Parents were also asked which foods they serve their children and how often they do so.
Researchers found that 10 percent of adults feed their child an adult-size portion of traditional English snacks and meals like spaghetti bolognese and cheese sandwiches. About 73 percent of the parents surveyed were worried that their child is not eating enough, despite the survey findings that 79 to nearly 80 percent are actually eating far too much.
Gill Harris, a child psychologist and member of the ITF, said:
“It’s never too early to start promoting healthy eating habits. Most toddlers are naturally better than older children and adults at regulating their food intake. They usually only eat what they need and don’t overeat. However, portion size is critical. It’s one of the main ways in which, as parents, we can inadvertently override children’s self-regulation systems.
Larger portions form our acceptance about what is an appropriate amount to eat and this becomes the “norm”. In other words, how much you offer often determines how much your child will eat and habits learned in early life generally tend to persist.”
The survey also found that food was a highly emotional issue and that around 36 percent of parents used food to pacify or placate a whining or fussy child. Those involved in the survey say that this promotes unhealthy habits by teaching children to rely on food to soothe negative emotions.
In the wake of the study, the ITF has created a website that allows parents to see appropriately-sized portions for their toddlers and children.
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.