Why children have too much on their plates
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’