Setting Rules Around Food Sets Kids Up For Healthier Eating

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Over the years there has been research underlining the link between impulse control and obesity in adults. A recent study, however, explores the theory that our ability to resist or not resist our impulses may in fact begin at a very young age.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo wanted to know if a child’s ability to self-regulate their behavior (as well as their emotions) at age two might affect their impulse control two years later at age four. They measured this by asking parents to record and measure their child’s reactions (whining, sulking, whimpering, tantrums) when asked to wait for something such as food.

The two-year-old children that demonstrated self-control and whose parents set rules about healthy foods, also showed better eating habits at age four. This was in contrast to the two year olds that were given no parental guidance or guidelines in regards to what’s consumed. In fact, the toddlers without food rules were found to drink 25 percent more soda.

In an article written in, Medical News Today, co-author of the study Neha Sharma explained the significance of this finding saying,

It is amazing to see that a parental rule about which types of food a child can and cannot eat could have such a great impact on child eating habits," says Sharma. "Without these boundaries set by caregivers, the benefits of high self-regulation on weight gain and childhood obesity could be diminished. This illustrates just how important parental involvement is in influencing child eating habits."

It’s an important reminder that the kind of boundaries we lay out for our toddlers can oftentimes set them up for a lifetime of good or bad habits. Learning to wait or abstain from eating certain foods is a learned skill, and one that no matter how difficult it may seem during that tantrum, will ultimately be to their own benefit.

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Read all articles by Juniper Briggs

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