Study Finds That Using Food As Reward With Kids Could Cause 'Emotional Eating'
"If you’re really well behaved, you’ll get a [insert sweet treat of choice here]." "Don't you dare eat that!" These are common phrases in the parental dictionary.
But while it might seem like a simple way to introduce your kids to the concept that good behaviour brings nice rewards and eating treats should be a rare occurrence, it may actually do them more harm than good in the long run.
New research has found that parents who are overly controlling when it comes to their children’s diets, including the use of food as a treat, could make them turn to food when they’re feeling emotional in later life.
For the experiment, experts looked at the feeding practices of parents when their little ones were aged 3-5. They then looked at how likely the kids were to eat snack foods when they were not hungry but mildly stressed aged 5-7.
Dr. Claire Farrow, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Aston University, explained: “As a parent, there is often a natural instinct to try and protect our young children from eating ‘bad’ foods: those high in fat, sugar or salt.
“Instead, we often use these food types as a treat or a reward, or even as a response to ease pain if children are upset.
“The evidence from our initial research shows that in doing this, we may be teaching children to use these foods to cope with their different emotions, and in turn unintentionally teaching them to emotionally eat later in life.”
She added: “Often when people 'emotionally eat' they are using high calorie, high fat, energy dense foods which are not conducive to health… if we can learn more about the development of emotional eating in childhood, we can hopefully develop resources and advice to help prevent the development of emotional eating in children.”
The research was carried out by Dr. Claire Farrow from Aston University and her colleagues at Loughborough and Birmingham University.