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Nutritionist in yesterday's Observer suggests we should go back to the methods of the past to combat rising rates of obesity in children (17% of all 2-8 now obese)

(96 Posts)
harpsichordcarrier Mon 03-Sep-07 12:53:16

Anita Bean says "A common mistake for parents is to give the child too much choice. The old-fashioned rule of just eating what was put in front of you seems to havewaned.The children chouldn't get into the habit of rejecting food, which gives them power and control. Don't let them demand food."

this seems to me to be really crappy advice and massively missing the point. I sort of see what she means, but surely giving choice is not the problem, it is whether the choices and the diet is healthy enough...
and surely giving children power and control over their intake is exactly the point, so they can make good choices when we no longer have power and control over what they eat.

but what do I know, I am not a registered nutritionist hmm

LittleBella Mon 03-Sep-07 12:56:09

It's not the food we're eating that's the main issue anyway, it's the level of exercise we're getting.

All studies show that calorie intake has actually gone down since the 1950's. As has exercise.

Sounds really crap advice tbh. Especially as that was done in a context where there wasn't lots of other foods available.

puddle Mon 03-Sep-07 12:58:52

Not sure what she means by too much choice. Parents asking the child what it wants to eat before cooking the meal? Serving up too many different options at one meal all of which the child rejects?

harpsichordcarrier Mon 03-Sep-07 13:00:38

I don't know, it's just a soundbite isn't it? her website is a bit more sensible but anyone readin g and following that would be going down quite the wrong path imo.

sandyballs Mon 03-Sep-07 13:03:15

God, that name rings a bell. I'm sure she used to go my gym in Epsom many years ago. I wouldn't exactly think her body weight was healthy for a woman, no fat at all, just very muscular, must have a very very low BMI. Not healthy at all, IMO.

puddle Mon 03-Sep-07 13:05:39

We have also lost all sense of what is a sensible portion size. So "the old-fashioned rule of just eating what was put in front of you" may not be the best method to adopt.
I see some friends loading their children's plates and then wondering why food gets left.

NineUnlikelyTales Mon 03-Sep-07 13:06:24

Oh yes, having to eat everything put in front of me was a great start to my lifetime of healthy eating. Apart from the anorexia of coursehmm

Surely it's more unhealthy to eat everything put in front of you regardless of whether you like/want it?

EscapeFrom Mon 03-Sep-07 13:07:56

I always had to eat what was in front of me, and I am still too fat.

The issue is that there is too much crap available.

The cry o0f "I'm hungry" used to get the response "Have an apple or a yoghurt. there's nothing else"

now there is so much choice - a child could have crisps or sweets or chocs, or cheese strings, or frubes, or those wierd chicken bites...

You go into a shop for a newspaper and you are met by 30 different types of crisp, over 100 different types of chocolate, dippy sweets, sucky sweets, sweets that look like phones, sweets that are shaped like jewelry, pastry and sandwiches in the fridge, packets of cakes and flapjack ... and I am sure there was just not so much crap in shops when I was a kid, and parents were not as willing to buy it either! When I was allowed sweets I had a financial limit.

Strangly, I never overeat sweets and snacks. Only 'real food'. The stuff I had no control over as a child.hmm

Kathyis6incheshigh Mon 03-Sep-07 13:08:29

Does it mean having to eat everything, or just not consulting the child on what they would like?
The former would seem like a bad idea but the latter seems reasonable.

TheArmadillo Mon 03-Sep-07 13:08:37

I would question the level of obesity rates tbh.

NOw using weight for age, but not taking height into account, means tall children even if very skinny can be recorded as overweight. NOt saying that no children are obese, just that it's probably not as many as they numbers state.

I think she has a point for some obese children, but not for all. Remembering the news stories on obese children some of the parents say that their child just won't eat healthy food. MAybe some of them are giving too much choice.

FrannyandZooey Mon 03-Sep-07 13:10:21

Yes I saw that HC and also went hmm

I admire a friend of mine who eats exactly what she wants in restaurants - she orders extra things to go with the meal, and then eats just as much as she wants and leaves the rest. It struck me when I first saw her do it, that this is a really really unusual thing for adults to do, with any food, but particularly food they are paying for. Why? It's no more of a waste in the bin than stored on your arse for the next 3 years.

Clary Mon 03-Sep-07 13:17:06

F&Z lol at storing it in your arse.

I too was always told to clear my plate and it's taken me a long time to stop doing that.

I guess the nutritionist is thinking of parents whose children don't eat their dinner but then let them have a pack of crisps or a bar of choc to fill up on. Agree the soudnbit is badly use tho and I bet she is fuming about it too. Journalists eh!

I also think obese is misleading - from watching various TV shows etc it seems that those kids who a a bit chubby are classed as "obese" which hardly seems helpful to anyone.

BrownSuga Mon 03-Sep-07 13:19:38

perhaps she means houses where the parents eat an "adult" dinner and the children get a "kids" meal, eg nuggets, mini pizza etc.... rather than just eating what the parents eat for dinner.

jk63 Mon 03-Sep-07 13:50:16

I don't think the advice is that bad actually.

I used to load my DS's plate with all sorts of things hoping he'd like at least something but it didn't work like that. Now I put a normal plate of food in front of him he is far more likely to eat it. Whenever I give him choice he chops & changes his mind. When I make the choice for him he just sits down & eats it.

When I was a kid I just ate what was put in front of me, same as my parents.

I know there are certain foods DS likes more than others so I don't force him to eat food I know he really doesn't like but I will put a small portion of a less liked food on his plate & expect him to try it.

If he decides he doesn't want to eat what I've cooked I'm afraid that's tough for him, there's no way I'm going to be cooking him something different from what his dad & I are eating.

My friend gave her boys alot of choice, sometimes she had one meal, her DH another, one DS something else, the other DS something else still! At the age of 13 they hardly eat anything & never have had much variety cos she always offered them too much choice (her words, not mine).

I really think mealtimes are such a potential flash point that children having too much 'control & power' is a recipe for picky eating.

fridayschild Mon 03-Sep-07 13:57:06

DS1 gets asked what he would like for his meal (in a "would you like this or that?" sort of choice) but then is expected to eat it. He's 4. But sometimes he does ask for a specific meal, and generally gets it. This seems fair enough to me.

rebelmum1 Mon 03-Sep-07 13:59:30

I give my dd a choice for breakfast but not meals, I make the food and she eats it, if she doesn't I encourage her or we try later. I encourage her to try new things and of she doesn't like it I don't push it. I personally think that snacking is the problem, if they have too much snacks too close to meal-times they wont eat it and become picky as they're not hungry.

Pruners Mon 03-Sep-07 14:00:44

Message withdrawn

rebelmum1 Mon 03-Sep-07 14:02:23

if dd had a choice she'd say pasta every day - and she doesn't know the level of nutrition she requires.

rebelmum1 Mon 03-Sep-07 14:03:29

Perhaps it's aimed at the 'do you want pizza or chips' or a 'burger king' choices..

pipsqueeke Mon 03-Sep-07 14:08:57

haven't read all of the responces but agree with rebel - is it the 'do you want fast food or this micro meal' both high in fat, and salt.

I do give DS choices - he can have a choice red peppers or green, tomatos or cuecumbers. peach or apple you get the drift - he seems to like feeling grown up - if he picks neither he has neither - not a 3rd option.

think it's the portions as well, children need children sizes not mini adult sizes iycwim. (a small plate is more than enough I feel)

also we don't allow snacking too close to tea as I refuse to let him have a buscuit or something and then not eat his tea (althou he does sometimes have his fruit first instead of the meal part then the meal) in this house thou it's one meal only or no meal.

Lilymaid Mon 03-Sep-07 14:10:38

Well, if she meant healthy home cooked meals with plenty of veg in sensible portions that seems reasonable. Lots of parents have no idea of what is good food nutritionally and also have no idea of how much to serve. A reduction in plate size would help them!

Gudgeon Mon 03-Sep-07 14:14:03

To be quite honest I think that a lot of the food that was served up in the past was so basic and boring that it would have been hard to overeat on it.

For example, we lived on potatoes - the standard Donegal three-course meal being potatoes, butter and salt, washed down with milk/buttermilk. One step up was mince stew with, guess what, potatoes.

Like I say, it was hard to consume enough of that gear to be fattening!

pipsqueeke Mon 03-Sep-07 14:23:15

lily - I agree with that, my cousins DC's have those little choc fudge sticks on a lunch time - and if they don't eat their sandwich it's trown away (tbh they've not eaten one whilst i've been there - always had the choccy thou). cousin then says - well they don't eat fresh fruit and veg - and I think well if you'd stop giving them chocolate all the time and offer then fruit and veg (or buy it first) then maybe they would eat it.

DS does have choc - but only a little (not even a fun sized amount - i'm mean! lol) and only after he's eaten all of his dinner (not every day either)

exercise is another big thing - as kids we were always out somewhere or other never in always out playing up the street on our bikes etc now a days I don't think kids get out there and play as much as they did.

Lazycow Mon 03-Sep-07 14:45:25

I think having TOO much variety of choice at any particular meal can possibly lead to over-eating in that there are too many choices so that it becomes about trying everything and maybe ending up eating too much. I personally think no-one would be obese if they 'always stopped eating when they were full regardless of the type of food they ate.

I have observed that most of the people I know who are slim naturally usually have one of more of the following characteristics:

By naturally slim his I mean the handful of people I know who don't really seem to think much about their weight and pretty much seem to eat whatever they want without doing that much, if any exercise.

1 - food is really just fuel to them and they often forget to eat for several meals in a row.

2 They are naturally active, fidgety types (though by no means necessarily active in sport and exercise), often quite driven and not what I would describe as laid back at all.

3 They pretty much eat what they want. Suger in tea/coffee, full fat and full sugar stuff whenever they want it, unhealthy pies and chips etc. The key being that they either rarely want this sort of thing or only a couple of mouthfuls is enough to satify them.

4 They rarely if ever comfort eat or use food as a reward to themsleves (this is sort of related to point 3)

Maybe for most of the rest of us having less choice can make us eat more consiously and to be less tempted to eat more than we need and may make it easier for us to eat like this.

The reduction in exercise we do nowadays definitely plays a part for most of us but I think that some people just learn very early to regulate their food intake so they don't overeat. I think this is THE key skill to learn in childhood to prevent obesity.

The problem is that many people will be genetically pre-disposed to overeat a bit so learning that skill is incredibly difficult for some children and easier for others.

In times when most people exercise a lot as part of their lives and food is not so widely available then it is much less of a problem for those who find this skill difficult and haven't learned it but in the times we have now obesity is an almost inevitable outcome for them.

I think though the choice should refer to the number and variety of food on offer at any particular time not the choice about whether to eat it or not.

SauerKraut Mon 03-Sep-07 15:00:45

It also depends on what you put in front of them and how you do it. Children could still have control over the amount they eat, for example if you dish up small amounts of good healthy food you know they like with the option of more if they are still hungry.

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