Why Nagging Children About Food Can Contribute to Obesity

In a nation of poor diets and high obesity rates, it only makes sense that we want our children to eat healthier foods.  In fact, many parents go so far as to nag and push their children, either banning all junk food from the house, denying requests for fast food, pushing children towards vegetarianism, or rationing the food they serve for dinner. 


The question, however, is whether denying all unhealthy foods and strictly controlling their diets may actually make children pickier in the long run.

Studies conducted on this have shown mixed results.  There is certainly evidence that imposing healthy-food-only rules on children can make them fussy eaters when they are later given more options.  Research also shows that exerting too much control over what your young children eat may lead them to become over-eaters later in life.

While food is certainly selected by parents to provide good nutrition, meals should also be an enjoyable time.  Studies show that when children are forced to eat things that they do not like or to eat less than they want, they often perceive meals as being unpleasant and unenjoyable.  The result of this is children start to dread meal times.  This may foster a life-long guilt about eating, which can lead to binge eating in later life. 


Bulimia and anorexia are two physical illnesses that some studies show can be sparked by an over-zealous or over-controlling parent, who planted the seed that there is something ‘wrong’ with taking in calories and gaining weight (which should be normal for a rapidly growing child).  Some children may also over-eat and gain weight later on in life as a subconscious effort to achieve independence from their parents.


Believe it or not, the key to healthier children may lie in taking a slightly more relaxed approach.  Keeping only healthy snacks and foods in the house and encouraging your children to try healthy options can certainly be a good idea, but food choice should never be forced or attached to a guilt trip.  If your child hates broccoli with a passion, don’t force them to eat it or they will only grow to hate it even more (and maybe you along with it).  Instead, regularly introduce different vegetables until you find something healthy they will eat.


Visit health food stores and farmer’s markets regularly, take the kids and encourage them to help you pick bright, attractive looking fruits and vegetables.  Make sure you eat these foods yourself and appear to enjoy them (even if you don’t), or you can’t blame your children for copying you and avoiding fruit and veg like the plague.


With the right approach, you can help your child develop healthier eating habits.

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