In a nation where "more is better," children learn from a young age that taking more than necessary is the norm. Unfortunately, this trend plays a major role in childhood obesity, as many children are unaware of the proper amount of food they should be consuming. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that children using large, adult-sized plates served themselves 90 to 104.2 calories more than children using small plates, depending on whether or not they enjoyed the meal available.
The study was conducted on 41 first-graders who were given large plates and bowls. The children given these plates and bowls served themselves larger portions of food, and tended to consume nearly 50 percent of the extra food. Other research has shown that obese and overweight individuals, including children, may be more likely to suffer from bad breath. Although there are a variety of reasons, bad breath in children is often caused by unhealthy foods. For example, many of the students involved in the study took a larger portion of a fruit side dish, but did not take more vegetables.
The research found that the child's liking for the food played the biggest role, as well as their environment and the opportunity to serve his or her own food. The differences in calorie intake were not astonishing; however, continuing this trend on a daily basis could negatively contribute to a child's overall energy and weight.
Study co-author Jennifer Orlet Fisher, an associate professor of public health at Temple University, told USA Today that using smaller plates for children may have a positive effect on keeping portion size in check. Similarly, parents can make an effort to include healthy side dishes such as steamed vegetables or a side salad that are more filling than fried or fatty foods.
Decreasing the plate size for children is helpful because there is less space to fill. Many children fill their plates, no matter the size. Although they might get full before the food is gone, once it is on the plate in front of them, it may be challenging to stop eating.
Childhood obesity and oral health
Childhood obesity plays a role in the oral health of a child, and can create more problems down the line. Anaerobic bacteria that accumulate in the mouth are balanced by the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables. According to the U.S. Department of Health, parents should fill half their child's plate with vegetable or fruit dishes. Since this and other studies show that when children are allowed to serve themselves, they tend to eat more, parents may want to take on that role until children are old enough to gauge an appropriate food portion. Parents can also have kids drink a glass of water before and after each meal which will help them not eat as much, as well as rinse away anaerobic bacteria that stick around in the mouth.
Parents may not have enough time to research the best and worst foods to feed children, so including a vegetable or fruit side dish into every meal can help. However, switching to smaller plates is an easy and quick solution to help with portion control for both children and adults.