Here’s How Mums And Dads Can Prevent Their Little Ones From Becoming Emotional Eaters

Want to make your little one feel better when they’re upset? Maybe try giving them a hug instead of a treat to cheer them up, say scientists.

Little girl crying with bread holding on hand
Source: iStock

It seems like common sense right? But experts have revealed that parents may actually play a hand in their little ones emotional eating.

In fact, experts say parents who treat their upset baby with food are actually creating a negative link between food and feeling – which therefore can lead to a cycle of emotional eating.

Norwegian researchers studied 801 Norwegian kids, who were aged four, as part of an experiment – which was published in the Society for Research in Child Development – to look at what influences emotional eating.

Baby with ice cream
Source: iStock

Parents filled out questionnaires describing their children’s temperament and how well they could control their emotions. As it turns out, five per cent of the children displayed signs of emotional eating.

The same children were then analysed again at the age of six, eight and ten and the results showed that children whose parents offered them food as a way of comfort when they were four and six were more likely to develop emotional eating practices.

fat boy in cap eats a hamburger
Source: iStock

“Understanding where emotional eating comes from is important because such behaviour can increase the risk for being overweight and developing eating disorders,” says the study’s lead author, Silje Steinsbekk, who is an associate professor of psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

“If we can find out what influences the development of emotional eating in young children, parents can be given helpful advice about how to prevent it.”

The study co-author, Lars Wichstrøm, who is the professor of psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology says that when children eat to soothe their negative feelings, their food tends to be high in calories. And that emotional eating is more likely to lead to obesity.

Girl eating yogurt
Source: iStock

“We know that children who are more easily upset and have more difficulty controlling their emotions are more likely to eat emotionally than calmer children, perhaps because they experience more negative emotions and eating helps them calm down,” says 

Our research adds to this knowledge by showing that children who are more easily upset are at highest risk for becoming emotional eaters.”

So, the next time your little one is down or even throwing a tantrum – don’t hand them a treat – offer a big cuddle from mama bear!

mum and daughter cuddle
Source: Istock.

Here’s how to avoid emotional eating as an adult.

Find out how this mum lost 26kg with The Healthy Mummy and beat emotional eating.

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