Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the U.S. It has more than doubled over the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But very little research has been done on the origination of eating habits that lead to overweight kids.
One studylooked at the start of healthy choices, and it found making some junk food off-limits to your children in their early years could keep them eating that way in the long-term.
University of Buffalo pediatricians looked at how established food rules work with self-regulation — the ability to override natural inclinations to reach long-term goals — to protect children from obesity.
First, the researchers quizzed parents on their rules about food and how their child behaved if they had to wait for something, among other behaviors.
Then they observed children’s eating habits with a variety of junk food, soda and produce at age 2 and age 4. The 2-year-olds who were more likely to self-regulate and had rules were able to maintain healthy eating habits when they turned 4, the researchers found.
The rules are crucial, according to the researchers — having a child that understands that potato chips aren’t good for your health isn’t enough to keep their eating on track. It has to be against the rules to eat the chips.
The rules have particularly significant influence when it comes to soda, according to the study. Preschoolers who had no food guidance were 25 percent more likely to drink soda, which shows the important role parents play in preventing early attachment to junk food.