Children's eating habits 'could lead to obesity and sleep problems'

27 September 2011

Food can have a large effect on a child's behaviour and can mould future attitudes towards food, according to an expert.

Researcher, life coach and author Joanne Mallon commented that a parent's choice of food for their child and the time of day that meals or snacks are given can alter a child's perceptions and habits.

Ms Mallon said: "Children are pretty good at regulating themselves food-wise and many will prefer a bigger breakfast and need less at tea time. I think that level of activity is more of a factor when it comes to sleep."

She added that sleep patterns can also be affected by food. She suggested that children should not be given anything containing caffeine late in the afternoon or evening and if they wake up during the night because of hunger to give them a banana or a slice of toast.

However, Ms Mallon warned that this could lead to increased toilet visits, which could also disrupt sleep.

In a study by the University of Michigan, researchers found that children in families with obese parents tend to be obese themselves. The report said that if one parent is obese or overweight, their teen has an 80 per cent chance of being overweight, which could require drastic action such as weight loss surgery.

By Philip Briggs

Boyse, K,. Reviewed by Clark, K., " From one of our pediatricians: What research tells us about how parents can fight the obesity epidemic", University of Michigan health systems, updated August 2011.

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