Are Parents Contributing to Unhealthy Teen Eating?
Do you tell your teen, that he or she is eating too much, when they take a second helping?
Do you criticize their food choices?
Do you tell your teen to eat everything on their plate?
A new study identifies which parents of teens are more likely to use unhealthy feeding patterns that may result in unhealthy outcomes in their teens. You may not even realize that you’re doing it. Maybe your teen is gaining weight or overweight and you nit-pick how much they’re eating or the choices they are making, on a regular basis. Or maybe your teen is athletic or very lean and you constantly implore them to eat more or to have more frequent snacks and meals. These kinds of parent behaviors can raise the risk that your child will become overweight or struggle with obesity or an eating disorder.
The data in the study was compiled from two separate studies that recruited 3000 parents and approximately 2000 teens. Teens had baseline height and weight measurements done by trained professionals at their schools. Parents filled out questionnaires at home, also self-reporting their own height and weight. The questionnaires had specific questions about how often they encouraged their kids to eat more at mealtimes, and how often they restricted treats and sweets at snack-time, high fat foods at snack-time, or their teens favorite (less healthy) foods. Some of the findings included:
Parents were more likely to push their kids to eat more when both parties (teens, parents) were not overweight, compared to overweight pairs or pairs that had differing height/weight statistics (meaning one was overweight and the other was not)
Parents were likely to enforce food restrictions when both were overweight or obese, compare to pairs that were not struggling with weight issues or when weight differed between teen and parent.
There are some take away messages to be learned. If parents stock the home with mostly healthy food and beverage options, then teens should be able to self-regulate their food choices and portions. You can control the contents of the pantry and refrigerator on the home front. You can also choose to only serve fruit and vegetables “family style” on the table, and plate out meals. If a child or teen wants more, they will be more likely to take it from the salad or fruit platter on the table, rather than get up and go into the kitchen to get more food. Involving your teen in food shopping, preparation and cooking will also allow organic discussions about nutrition and weight to occur.
Keeping unhealthy food in your home and telling a kid not to eat it is a sure recipe for food fights. They have ample opportunities to make their own decisions outside the home.