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Fight Childhood Obesity with Smaller Plates

Update Date: Apr 08, 2013 12:54 PM EDT

Childhood obesity continues to afflict millions of kids despite more research on how to combat the condition. Studies and common knowledge have revealed that more exercise and diets that are low in fat can help prevent obesity; yet, some children and parents seem to have a hard time avoiding it. According to a new study, something as easy as giving young children smaller plates can influence how much they eat. If children are taught the right proportions early on with smaller plate sizes, they might stop overeating into adulthood. The study, conducted by researchers from Temple University, evaluated the eating behaviors of children when they were required to serve themselves with two different plate sizes.

The research team, headed by Jennifer Orlet Fisher who is an associate professor of public health at the college's Center for Obesity Research and Education evaluated the eating habits of two groups of first graders from separate classes at a private school in Philadelphia, PA. The group of 42 children was observed over the span of eight days and was given a buffet consisting of penne, chicken nuggets, applesauce and mixed vegetables. The seven-year-old children were required to serve themselves with two different kinds of plates. For the first four days of the experiment, the children were given plates with diameters that measured at seven and a quarter inches, and the plates given at the end of experiments were three inches longer.

The researchers found that children tended to serve themselves 90 calories more when they were using bigger plates. Although the children did not finish the food on their larger plates, they still ate more than they did when they used smaller plates. The researchers stated that despite their findings, simply switching plate sizes does not mean that obesity and overeating would not happen. Other factors, such as the types of food and drinks available play a huge factor as well.

"Studies show that when kids serve themselves more, they are going to eat more," Fisher explained.

However, the researchers are optimistic that changing how much children serve

themselves at an early stage of life can influence their appetites later on. Since children only eat when they are hungry, by learning the right proportions, they might have a lower chance of overeating in the future.

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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