Sci­en­tists cook up a bite-sized recipe to help cut Scot­land’s child­hood obe­sity prob­lem

Re­search re­veals tiny pieces fool young­sters

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - NEWS - By Toby Mcdon­ald TM­C­DON­[email protected]

Tech­niques to dis­guise re­duced por­tion size can be help­ful

Sci­en­tists have found the se­cret recipe to cut­ting Scot­land’s child obe­sity cri­sis – smaller pieces.

Re­searchers cut the size of cheese sand­wiches given to nurs­ery chil­dren in Fife and Tay­side by 40% with a side order of veg­eta­bles.

To help fool the chil­dren into think­ing their sand­wiches were the same size, they would be cut into eight pieces.

Dur­ing the trial, chil­dren ate up to a fifth more greens, and their con­sump­tion of their desserts did not in­crease.

The 21-month long project was car­ried out on pre- school­ers – among those most at risk of obe­sity.

In 2017, a quar­ter of Scots chil­dren aged 2 to 15 were at risk of be­ing over­weight and 13% were verg­ing on obe­sity.

Since 1998, the pro­por­tion of chil­dren at risk of be­ing over­weight and obese has fluc­tu­ated be­tween 26% and 33%.

A study by the Br itish Hear t Foun­da­tion found that por­tion sizes of ev­ery­day foods, in­clud­ing ready meals and junk snacks had ex­panded by 50% in the pre­vi­ous 20 years.

The study led by Dr Sharon Carstairs from St An­drews Uni­ver­sity, said that how food is pre­sented on a plate in­flu­ences what and how much peo­ple eat. The size of por­tions and how many pieces of food are on a plate all have a bear­ing on how a per­son re­gards the meal.

The study sug­gested that if the num­ber of items on a plate re­mained the same, the chil­dren would be­lieve they were eat­ing nor­mally while con­sum­ing more veg­eta­bles.

The re­port added: “Down­siz­ing and va­ri­ety are sim­ple, ef­fec­tive strate­gies that can be in­di­vid­u­ally em­ployed by par­ents and those work­ing in child­care set­tings to achieve ap­pro­pri­ate por­tion sizes and in­crease veg­etable con­sump­tion in chil­dren.”

The re­searchers said en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren to eat more veg­eta­bles is cru­cial be­cause their likes, dis­likes and eat­ing habits are formed at a young age.

In the study 43 three- to five- year- old pre-school­ers were served lunch in their nurs­ery.

The meal in­cluded a cheese sand­wich, veg­eta­bles, grapes and yo­gurt.

Over sev­eral months the size of the cheese por­tion was cut by al­most two fifths, and the raw veg­eta­bles of cu­cum­ber, cherry toma­toes, and car­rots in­creased from just a sin­gle type to all three.

They found that the chil­dren did not re­port feel­ing more hun­gry as the por­tion size shrank, and there was “a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect” on the ap­petite for veg­eta­bles as the types in­creased.

– Dr Ian Camp­bell, Obe­sity ex­pert

The re­searchers found “of­fer­ing a va­ri­ety of veg­eta­bles com­pared with a sin­gle veg­etable op­tion did in­crease veg­etable in­take”. Psy­chol­o­gist Cyn­thia Mcvey, for­merly of Glas­gow Cale­do­nian Uni­ver­sity, said: “When sweet man­u­fac­tur­ers re­duce the size of choco­late bars, or bis­cuits, it may seem like a very small thing, but peo­ple don’t no­tice un­til their at­ten­tion is drawn to it – be­cause they tend to keep the same num­ber of pieces where pos­si­ble, just slightly smaller, or keep the pack­ag­ing the same.

“It is quite a clever thing to be able to ma­nip­u­late the size of the por­tion with­out it be­ing ev­i­dent to your sight.

“But what it doesn’t do is train you to re­alise por­tion sizes are too big.”

Dr Ian Camp­bell, first Pres­i­dent of the National Obe­sity Fo­rum, said: “Us­ing tech­niques to dis­guise re­duced por­tion size can be help­ful.

“An­other help­ful tech­nique is us­ing smaller plates: the av­er­age UK din­ner plate has grown from a 9” to an 11” di­am­e­ter. Any­thing which makes it eas­ier for the in­di­vid­ual is worth hav­ing a look at.”

Study blames por­tions

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