Research shows food restriction is counter productive

gumballRecently the New York Times’ wellness blog, “The Lure of Forbidden Food”  focused on research conducted at The Penn State University to determine whether parental restriction of foods or basic genetics has an effect on a child’s desire for that food.   The research results were published in the February issue of the journal Appetite. The results of the study published in Appetite suggest that both genetics and “too many food rules and restrictive eating practices at home” can cause children to  desire certain foods.

According to researcher and lead author of the study,  Brandi Wells, “The message is that restriction is counterproductive — it just doesn’t work very well.  Restriction just increases a child’s focus and intake of the food that the parent is trying to restrict.” The blog notes, of course that  “While restrictive feeding practices can backfire, that doesn’t mean children should have unfettered access to all foods. Instead, parents should be aware that tight control over food can set off overeating in some children. The solution is to control the quality of the food in the home.” But treats, like ice cream or candy a couple of times a week are just fine, according to senior author and professor LeeAnn Birch.  “Occasional treats outside the home are fine. Take the kid out for ice cream once or twice a week, but don’t keep it in the house,” Dr. Birch said.

Fortunately USDA research shows that in most cases candy is less than 3 percent of the calories in a child’s diet, often consumed on special  occasions like birthdays, holidays and special treat days. Still have some jelly beans leftover from Easter? Go ahead let your child have a handful. This research says it’s okay!