Why chil­dren have too much on their plates

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Toby McDon­ald

SCI­eN­TISTS have found a sim­ple recipe for slic­ing Scot­land’s child obe­sity cri­sis – smaller por­tions.

Re­searchers cut the size of cheese sand­wiches served to preschool­ers for lunch by around 40 per cent while adding more veg­eta­bles to their plates.

But in­stead of tuck­ing into tempt­ing sweet treats to fill up, the study found the chil­dren ate up to a fifth more greens – as their con­sump­tion of desserts did not in­crease.

To stop the young­sters from Fife and Tay­side re­al­is­ing they were eat­ing less, re­searchers cut the sand­wiches into eight and the veg­eta­bles into 18 pieces.

The 21-month long trial by aca­demics at the Univer­sity of St An­drews was car­ried out on chil­dren aged three to five years old – among those most at risk of de­vel­op­ing the lifethreat­en­ing con­di­tion.

In 2017, a quar­ter of Scots chil­dren aged two to 15 were found to be at risk of be­ing over­weight, of whom 13 per cent were on the verge of obe­sity.

Mean­while a British Heart Foun­da­tion study found por­tion sizes of every­day foods have risen by 50 per cent in 20 years.

Dr Sharon Carstairs, who led the St An­drews study, said: ‘Vis- ual cues such as the shape of food and how it is pre­sented on a plate, to­gether with so­cial norms, con­trib­ute a role in how much an in­di­vid­ual con­sumes.

‘The “por­tion size ef­fect” is ap­par­ent within chil­dren. It high­lights that down­siz­ing a liked, high-en­ergy, dense main com­po­nent of a lunchtime meal can be achieved with­out a com­pen­satory in­crease in in­take from other foods, namely a highly palat­able dessert.’

In the study 43 pre-school­ers were given a lunch of a cheese sand­wich, veg­eta­bles, grapes and yo­gurt. Over sev­eral months the size of the cheese por­tion was cut by al­most two-fifths as re­search- ers added a greater va­ri­ety of raw veg­eta­bles.

They found the chil­dren did not re­port feel­ing hun­grier as the por­tion size shrank and there was ‘a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect’ on the ap­petite for veg­eta­bles.

The re­searchers said: ‘Down­siz­ing and va­ri­ety are sim­ple, ef­fec­tive strate­gies that can be em­ployed by par­ents and those work­ing in child­care set­tings to achieve ap­pro­pri­ate por­tion sizes and in­crease veg­etable con­sump­tion in chil­dren.’

Pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Obe­sity Fo­rum Dr Ian Camp­bell said: ‘Us­ing tech­niques to dis­guise re­duced por­tion size can be help­ful. In­no­va­tive ways such as cut­ting sand­wiches into small pieces is in­ter­est­ing.

‘An­other help­ful tech­nique is us­ing smaller plates. The di­am­e­ter of the av­er­age din­ner plate has grown from 9in to 11in.’

‘Boosted ap­petite for veg­eta­bles’

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