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Pushing Children to 'Clean Your Plate' May Lead to Obesity Later in Adulthood

Update Date: Apr 22, 2013 11:03 PM EDT

Telling your child to "clean their plate" seems to be something that many parents don't stop doing, even if the child is a teenager and overweight.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that up to two-thirds of parents still encourage teenagers to finish all the food on their plates.The study found that the use of controlling food behaviors was common in parents of adolescents, with some parents pressuring their kids to eat more and others pressuring their kids to eat less. Not surprisingly, restrictive behaviors were more common in parents of children who were overweight or obese, while pressure-to-eat behaviors were more common in children who weren't overweight.

"I was surprised at some of the parent behaviors, like feeling that their children should clean their plates and not waste food," study author Katie Loth, a registered dietician, doctoral candidate and research assistant at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said to HealthDay.

"In the 1950s, cleaning your plate meant something different. Portion sizes have gotten bigger over time, and if you encourage kids to rely on environmental indicators, like how much food is on their plates or the time of day, they'll lose the ability to rely on internal cues to know whether they're hungry or full."

The study found that most of the children asked to "clean their plates" by their parents were of normal weight, however, the mentality did stick with them and had a negative impact on them when they were older. Researchers recommend eating regular family meals, having nutritious snacks at home and for parents to model healthy eating by eating a well-balanced diet.

Researchers looked at a study conducted in 2010 and another study conducted during 2009 to 2010 to obtain data. More than 2,200 teen and almost 3,500 parents from Minnesota were included in the studies; the average age of the teen was 14.4 years old.

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