London - Passing bowls of food around the table at family or group meals can stop children becoming fat by teaching them about portion control, experts said this week.

They said the practice helps children learn to recognise when they are full.

The finding comes from a study of the feeding habits of children aged two to five in 118 US childcare centres. Its author, Brent McBride, said: “Family-style meals give kids a chance to learn about things like portion size and food preferences.

“When foods are pre-plated, children never develop the ability to read their body’s hunger cues. They don’t learn to say, ‘Okay, this is an appropriate portion size for me’.”

The research by McBride, director of the University of Illinois Child Development Laboratory, looked at successful ways to get young children into healthy eating habits.

It recommends that parents and carers eat with children to set a good example.

Researcher Dipti A Dev said adults should not force children to finish before another food is offered, adding: “Instead of asking, ‘Are you done?’, they should ask children, ‘Are you full?’. Or they should say, ‘If you’re hungry, you can have some more’.

“Asking the right questions can help children listen to their hunger and satiety signals.” - Daily Mail