Preschoolers whose parents set rules regarding food, eat healthier than the ones whose parents do not do so, a new study has revealed.
Pediatrics researchers at the University at Buffalo found that the 4-year-old's with no food rules drank soda about 25 percent more than children whose parents had food rules.
Xiaozhong Wen, senior author on the research said that they found that the combination of parental rules and young children's ability to self-regulate their behaviors works best in teaching young children to eat healthy.
The study was based on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), a federally funded, nationally representative sample conducted by the U.S. Department of Education of approximately 10,700 children born in the U.S. in 2001. Data was gathered from parents and teachers who completed surveys and phone interviews about children at various ages. It was designed to provide detailed information about children's early life experiences, including health, development, care and education.
The team focused on a subsample of 8,850 children and involved analysis of data on self-regulation behaviors of 2-year-olds and the diets and parental food rules of the same children when they reached 4 years of age. To determine how much the child could self-regulate, parents were asked to rate how frequently the child exhibited emotional/behavioral responses, including irritability and fussiness, whimpering and their ability to wait for something.
Wen said that the children who were able to self-regulate at 2 years old had healthy eating habits by the time they were 4 years old, so long as their parents also set rules about the right types of foods to eat. Self-regulation by itself, without parental food rules, made little difference in childrens' later eating habits.
Neha Sharma, a co-author of the study added that without the boundaries set by caregivers, the benefits of high self-regulation on weight gain and childhood obesity could be diminished. This illustrated how important parental involvement is in influencing child eating habits.
The research is being presented at ObesityWeek 2014 in Boston.