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Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Dec;94(6 Suppl):2006S-2011S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.001685. Epub 2011 Nov 16.

Determinants of children's eating behavior.

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  • 1Pediatric Department, San Paolo Hospital, University of Milan, Milan, Italy. silvia.scaglioni@unimi.it

Abstract

Parents have a high degree of control over the environments and experiences of their children. Food preferences are shaped by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. This article is a review of current data on effective determinants of children's eating habits. The development of children's food preferences involves a complex interplay of genetic, familial, and environmental factors. There is evidence of a strong genetic influence on appetite traits in children, but environment plays an important role in modeling children's eating behaviors. Parents use a variety of strategies to influence children's eating habits, some of which are counterproductive. Overcontrol, restriction, pressure to eat, and a promise of rewards have negative effects on children's food acceptance. Parents' food preferences and eating behaviors provide an opportunity to model good eating habits. Satiety is closely related to diet composition, and foods with low energy density contribute to prevent overeating. Parents should be informed about the consequences of an unhealthy diet and lifestyle and motivated to change their nutritional habits. Parents should be the target of prevention programs because children model themselves on their parents' eating behaviors, lifestyles, eating-related attitudes, and dissatisfaction regarding body image. Pediatricians can have an important role in the prevention of diet-related diseases. Informed and motivated parents can become a model for children by offering a healthy, high-satiety, low-energy-dense diet and promoting self-regulation from the first years of life.

PMID:
22089441
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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