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Forbidding Foods May Have Unintended Consequences
 Weight Management Feature Story

Forbidding Foods May Have Unintended Consequences
Kids are more likely to be overweight when 'junk' is banned

Forbidding Foods May Have Unintended Consequences(HealthDay News) -- Many parents believe that the key to having a healthy-weight child is to restrict chips, cookies, candies and other "junk" foods. But, that strategy may backfire.

That's because kids who aren't allowed to eat certain foods may never learn self-control or how to eat those forbidden foods in moderation, suggests research published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

"Parental attempts to help children with lower self-control by restricting their access to favorite snack foods can make the forbidden foods more attractive, thereby exacerbating the problem," Stephanie Anzman, one of the study's authors, said in a news release from the journal's publisher.

The study included 197 non-Hispanic white girls who were 5 years old at the start of the study. The researchers then followed the dietary habits of these children for 10 years.

The investigators collected data on their parents' income and education and on the body mass index of the girls and their parents. Body mass index is an indicator of body fatness calculated from a persons weight and height. The parents were also asked if they restricted any foods, and mothers were asked about their daughters' ability to self-control.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those with little self-control were about twice as likely to be overweight at age 15 as were their peers with better self-monitoring skills. The researchers also found that the girls at highest risk for being overweight were those raised in households with significant parental food restriction and little self-control in the children.

The findings suggest that children need to be allowed to make food choices to learn self-control and maintain a healthy weight.

Still, with nearly one in three American kids overweight, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there's clearly room for improvement in children's diets.

It may help to understand how much a child needs to eat. Toddlers should receive about 3 cups of fruits and vegetables, 3 ounces of grains, 2 ounces of meat or beans and 2 cups of milk daily, according to the academy. As kids get a little older -- between 4 and 8 -- their food needs increase. Children this age should have up to 1 cups of fruits, 1 cups of veggies, 4 to 5 ounces of grains, 3 to 4 ounces of meat, fish, nuts or beans and 2 cups of milk.

As they approach the tween years, girls from 9 to 13 need 1 cups of fruit daily, along with 2 cups of vegetables, 5 ounces of grains, 5 ounces of meat, fish, nuts or beans and 3 cups of milk. Boys this age, and girls from 14 to 18 years old, should have an additional cup of vegetables and another ounce of grains. Teen males aged 14 to 18 need the most food daily: 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of veggies, 7 ounces of grains, 6 ounces of meat, fish, nuts or beans and 3 cups of milk, according to the pediatric academy.

And though constantly telling kids they can't have certain foods may not be helpful, Anzman does suggest that parents not keep unhealthy, tempting foods in the house.

"That way, it is not necessary to constantly tell children they cannot have the foods they want," Anzman said. Instead, she said, offer kids healthy options, such as choosing between an apple or a banana.

On the Web

To learn more about good nutrition, visit the U.S. National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Journal of Pediatrics, news release, Aug. 13, 2009; American Academy of Pediatrics (

Author: Serena Gordon

Publication Date: Sept. 30, 2010

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