An only child in a family is always more at risk of “eating up” extra pounds than peers growing up with brothers and sisters.
A new study by the University of Oklahoma Health Science Centre (USA), published by the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour, showed that children who grow up alone in a family show much less healthy eating and drinking habits.
The researchers conducted a statistical analysis of 68 mother-child pairs, in 27 of which there was one child in the family, and in 41 – two or more children. The age of the children under study was in the range of 5-7 years old, and their brothers or sisters were 2-4 years old. For three days (two days in the middle of the week and one day off), mothers kept a journal of the child’s nutrition and filled out a special questionnaire in which they noted children’s physical activity and their choice of food and drinks. At the request of the parents, the nutrition of the children at school was described by the teacher. Based on the results of the analysis of questionnaires and magazines, the Healthy Eating Index was calculated for each child.
It turned out that one-child-mothers are also more prone to obesity than mothers of two or more children. This is projected onto the children as well: the mother’s habits of eating empty calories are carried over to the family. Children adopt the parents’ pattern of eating behaviour. For single children, the Healthy Eating Index scores were lower than those of children from large families in several categories.
As for large families, here parents are becoming more organized, less likely to eat fast food, and tend to be more rational in planning meals.
The authors of the study emphasize that children’s nutrition should be regular and balanced, and it is the direct responsibility of parents.
As the study showed, children are practically not affected by the eating behaviour of their peers. It all comes from the family: if the parents eat in front of the TV and wash down the food with sweet soda, the children will do the same. Remember that healthy eating habits are to be built up at an early age. Don’t miss the moment and do not ignore the importance of a personal model.
* Empty calories are high-calorie foods with low bioavailability and high in fat and sugar.