Do you have a kiddo who’s fussy about food? Researchers at Ashton University in the UK may have cracked the code on why that is.
They’ve pinpointed four unique eating habits in children and offered insights into how parents can adjust their approach to mealtime. This research aims to tackle the growing issue of childhood obesity by delving into the connections between eating tendencies, kids’ temperaments, parenting strategies, and food availability.
In the U.S., almost 20% of kids are dealing with weight issues, either being overweight or obese. To help fight this worrisome trajectory, scientists have been digging into eating habits to identify markers that could indicate which children are at a higher risk of weight gain. Their study breaks down children into four specific eating categories: “happy,” “avid,” “typical,” and “fussy.”
“Typical eaters made up 44% of the children in the study, while fussy eaters accounted for 16%. But of greatest interest to the team was that around one in five young children in the study were found to show ‘avid eating,’ including greater enjoyment of food, faster eating speed, and weaker sensitivity to internal clues of ‘fullness,'” according to a press release published by the university.
Kids who fall into the “avid” eating category not only have a greater love for food, but they also tend to eat more quickly and are less attuned to feeling full. When presented with appetizing food, whether by sight, smell, or taste, they’re more likely to eat larger portions.
They also show a tendency to emotionally overeat. These behaviors together create a recipe for overeating and, potentially, weight gain down the line.
Additionally, the research, a collaborative effort involving experts from Aston University, Loughborough University, Kings College London, and University College London (UCL), underscores notable variations in both kids’ temperaments and how caregivers handle feeding across the four eating styles.
For instance, parents of “avid” eaters are more prone to using food as an emotional tool or limiting food for health purposes. Also, kids with “avid” eating patterns usually have less stable access to food compared to those who fall into the “happy” or “typical” categories.
These findings have pushed the research team to stress the importance of creating targeted intervention strategies.