Help-yourself meals could stop children getting fat

Letting children decide themselves when they're full up leads to healthier eating habits (and probably lots of leftovers!)

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Buffet-style meals could help curb child obesity, nutritional experts claim.

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Putting bowls of food on the table and letting children serve themselves makes them learn about portion control and how to recognise when they are full, according to the new study from the University of Illinois.

“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,” says Brent McBride, director of the U of I Child Development Laboratory and lead author of the study.

Parents have also been advised to stop pressuring children into clearing their plates.

“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,” says Dipti A. Dev, a University of Illinois graduate student in nutritional sciences.

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