London - Children who are served dinner at the dining table are less likely to be overweight, according to new research.
Experts said children who serve themselves also eat less than those who are given pre-plated food.
Children learn to recognise when they are full quicker when sitting around a table and serving themselves than if given a plateful of food in front of the television.
The results emerged from a study of children aged between two and five in more than 100 childcare centres in the US.
Lead author Dr Brent McBride, director of the child development laboratory at the University of Illinois, 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 researchers added that children should not be pressurised into finishing a serving as this could encourage them to eat more than they need.
Dipti Dev, a graduate student in nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois, said: “Instead of asking ‘are you done?’ parents 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.”
She added: “If a child doesn’t eat at one meal, he’ll compensate for it over a 24-hour period.
“Making kids eat when they’re not hungry is probably the worst thing you can do. It teaches them not to pay attention to their body’s signals.”
The research was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The findings support recent research by Dr Brian Wansink, of Cornell University in the US, and Dr Ellen van Kleef, of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
They found that people who eat as a family around a table, instead of in front of the TV, are less likely to be overweight. – Daily Mail