Chicago Parent: Helping kids become socially responsible eaters

January 12, 2010. Retrieved online: February 10, 2010, from Rita Colorito, Chicago Parent

Take a look at your kid’s friends.

Chances are they influence each other’s behavior when they’re together, playing the same games, watching the same shows, listening to the same music. Apparently, they also eat the same amount when they eat together, according to a new study that looked at how much kids ate based on whether they ate with friends or unfamiliar peers.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo paired 65 kids, age 9-15, in a room for 45 minutes with puzzles, video games and their own bowls of chips, cookies, carrots and grapes. Whether and what they ate was up to them. The study, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that while all pairs snacked more with a friend than with a stranger, overweight children, paired with overweight friends, consumed the most, an average 738 calories versus the 500 calories consumed by normal-weight kids who ate with a friend, regardless of that friend’s weight.

Friends act like a “permission giver,” says Dr. Sarah-Jeanne Salvy, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the university’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “It kind of sets the norm for the appropriate amount of eating.”

…One thing to avoid at the family dinner table: Telling your children to clean their plate.

Similar to parents who restrict their child’s food intake when they are hungry, those who force their children to eat what’s before them when they’re not hungry may interfere with the development of self control that children have around food, according to new research by Cornell 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,” the 2009 study co-author, Collin Payne of New Mexico State University, told ScienceDaily.

Read the article.

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