Keeping elbows off the table and mouths closed while chewing may do more for kids than pleasing their parents – it may end up having a positive effect on their overall health.
A new study out of Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital finds that how kids eat their food may turn out to be just as important as what they eat.
“We found a correlation between how children eat and cholesterol levels,” Dr. Nav Persaud, the family physician who led the study, told CityNews.
The study appeared online in the Canadian Medical Association Journal Monday.
Persaud found a significant correlation between poor eating habits in kids ages three to five and their levels of non-HDL – or “bad” – cholesterol, putting them at risk for cardiovascular disease later in life.
“The eating behaviours that we were interested in were whether or not children eat in front of the television and whether or not children were full at meal time because they’ve been snacking on fluids such as juice,” he said.
“There are studies that suggest, in older children and adults, that when you eating in front of the TV you don’t pay attention to your internal cues, which can lead to overeating, and you may also not value variety,” he said.
What’s more, eating in front of the TV and snacking on juice is correlated with higher cholesterol levels, Persaud said, which is dangerous because increased cholesterol levels lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The study also looked at allowing kids to decide for themselves when they wanted to eat. As a result, it recommends making healthy foods available whenever children want to eat — so they have some measure of control over their diet.
Persuad and his team looked at data from more than 1,000 preschoolers who were recruited through TARGet Kids!, a collaboration between children’s doctors and researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital, the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto.
Parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire on their child’s eating behaviour while researchers looked at the child’s height, weight and fat profile in their blood.