A seemingly innocent habit may be contributing to childhood obesity.
We probably all remember a time when we were told to eat all the food on our plates before we could leave the table or have dessert. Perhaps you were told that you had to do so because children in other countries were starving.
If that sounds familiar, you are not alone. In fact, you are probably a member of a very popular club -- the "clean plate club."
Tragically, there are children starving in other countries and the United States, but making children clean their plates will not prevent the hunger of others.
Health experts suggest membership in the clean plate club sets up a lifetime pattern of overeating that leads to obesity, and ultimately, to chronic health problems.
Health experts say adults should not force a child to eat. Instead, provide children with a wide variety of nutritious, kid-appealing meals and snacks.
Children generally eat the amount of food that their bodies need. If forced to eat, children will learn to overeat, and eventually tune out their body's natural hunger instincts.
Parents can keep a child out of the clean plate club by following these tips:
* Serve smaller portions.
* Establish regular meal and snack times so a child comes to the table hungry and ready to eat.
* Teach a child to eat slowly and enjoy the taste of food.
* Remove candy dishes or cookie jars from the eating area since they can distract from the meal.
Parents who are charter members of the clean plate club can give up their membership, too.
Start by eating slowly, drinking plenty of liquids with meals, and asking yourself every few minutes during the meal, "Am I hungry?" or "Am I just eating to be eating?"
The key to getting out of the club is to relearn when you are hungry and eat just until you are satisfied, not stuffed.
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