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Parents Should Focus on Health, Not Fat, in Food Talks with Kids

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Thursday, June 27, 2013

Parents Should Focus on Health, Not Fat, in Food Talks with Kids

There's a right way and a wrong way to persuade your adolescent to eat healthy and help avoid obesity, a new study suggests.

Pointedly connecting food with fatness or talking about needed weight loss is the wrong way and could even encourage unhealthy eating habits, researchers report.

Instead, discussions that focus on simply eating healthfully are less likely to send kids down this road, the new study showed.

"A lot of parents are aware of the obesity problem in the U.S -- it's everywhere you turn -- but they wonder how to talk about it with their children," said study lead author Dr. Jerica Berge of the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis.

She advises that parents "tell kids to eat more fruits and vegetables because eating them will make them healthy and strong. Don't connect these conversations to weight and size."

Overall, the research showed, conversations about eating that focused on a child's supposed need to lose excess weight were linked to a higher risk of problem dieting and other unhealthy eating behaviors among adolescents.

On the other hand, parents who talked about healthy eating and living but did not focus on weight and size were less likely to have children who dieted or engaged in other unhealthy eating behaviors such as anorexia, binge eating or bulimia.

The study was published online in JAMA Pediatrics.

Source: U.S. News & World Report