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Parents Bribe Fussy Eaters with Sweets, Turning Them into Junk Food Addicts

Update Date: Dec 28, 2012 06:40 AM EST

While many children are peaceful eaters, others are very fussy with food and parents may have a tough time just ensuring they eat proper meals. Hence, it is not uncommon for parents to bribe their children with some treats. However, the problem arises when these bribes turn into a habit and the children get hooked on to chocolates and sweets.

According to experts, about 60 percent toddlers are hooked on chocolate and sweets and it is none other than their parents who are to be blamed.

A new survey suggests that one in three parents deal with their fussy children by bribing them with sweets.

The survey also revealed that 58 percent of mothers believe that by the time their children are 3 years old, they are already craving for sweets on a regular basis.

For the study, the researchers spoke to more than 2,000 mothers of children aged between 1 and 5 years.

The researchers found that 26 percent of mothers gave their babies chocolate to taste before they turned 9-months-old and about half of the mothers gave the sweet bar to their babies by the time they turned 12 months. Also, 61 percent mothers admitted to giving their toddlers a sweet treat every day, Mail Online reported.

"The research is certainly concerning and reflects what I see in my nutritional practice. Parents are introducing chocolate and sweets into their babies and toddlers diets too early.  It is predicted that by 2030 half the UK will be obese, if we don't act now. Obesity matters, since it is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and osteoarthritis. The need to prevent obesity from the start is becoming clear," nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston was quoted as saying by the report.

"The dietary patterns we lay down from when we wean children may well have an impact on their future food choices and health. Occasional sweet foods are of course fine but foods with lots of added sugar such as chocolate should be avoided on a regular basis and ideally not offered at home where they can easily become part of daily habits," she added.

According to the study, the main problem lies in the fact that parents use sweets and chocolate to bribe fussy eaters.

While more than half of the parents thought that fussy eating is just a phase that their child is going through, about a quarter of the parents think their child will grow out of it.

"This result confirms that fussy eating is a common problem at this age, probably because this is the time when children begin to assert themselves by expressing specific eating preferences.  The key way to deal with fussy eating is by not making a meal of it. In other words, stay calm and don't overreact," child psychologist Richard Woolfson said.

"Allow a certain amount of time for the meal, and if your child is still playing around with his food after that, take it away and end mealtime.  Don't worry - he won't starve.  Rest assured that this phase usually passes." 

"The danger is that if you start to make a big deal out of his fussy eating habits, he'll quickly learn that picky eating is a great way to get your attention and you'll find it even harder to encourage proper eating," he added.

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