Children who have a routine meal and snack pattern that includes breakfast are less likely to be overweight

A new study from East Finland University claims that children who have a routine meal and snack pattern that includes breakfast are less likely to be overweight.[i] Over 4,000 children were studied from the time their mothers were pregnant through to the age of 16 by experts from the university. The 16 year olds who said they regularly ate three meals and two snacks per day had a lower body mass index (BMI) than those with erratic eating patterns and those who skipped breakfast.

Judy More, Paediatric Dietitian and member of the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) said,
‘With so many of our children now overweight and obese even before they begin school, it is really important that parents organise a daily routine for their children of three meals and two planned snacks based on nutritious foods, rather than allowing them to graze on foods or eat unplanned snacks which are often high calorie low nutrient foods. Establishing good eating habits in early life and eating family meals with their children have both been shown to benefit the health of children. Planned meals and snacks usually provide a better range of nutrients, and a good daily meal and snack routine also limits the number of times that teeth are exposed to sugar and acid.”

For practical advice on developing a positive approach to food and feeding in the early years visit the ITF’s resources for parents

[i] Jääskeläinen A, Schwab U, Kolehmainen M, Kaakinen M, Savolainen M, Froguel P, Cauchi S, Järvelin M-R and Laitinen J. Meal frequencies modify the effect of common genetic variants on body mass index in adolescents of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986. PLOS ONE 8: e73802, 2013.

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Further Reading

  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist   Following his recent recovery from coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has publicly blamed excess weight for his need for intensive care. He has subsequently declared a war on the UK’s obesity crisis and is planning a post-pandemic public health drive to battle the growing problem.
  • Katie Fox, Primary School Teacher   Due to coronavirus, playgroups and nurseries are shut and those children due to start school in a few months will be out of routine and away from friends. It is understandable that many parents are worried about getting their children ready for September. Children learn and progress at different rates so there are no set criteria on what they need to be able to know or do when they first start nursery, but if they have had some experience learning at home it could help to make it a smoother transition. Turn taking games, imaginative play, reading, and developing fine and gross motor skills can promote independence, build confidence and help develop simple skills.
  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist Dr Maddy Harris, Clinical Psychologist   In times of crisis – such as the one we are currently living in – parents may find that the normal stresses of everyday life are magnified and additional worries and concerns emerge. Knowing how to cope may prove difficult, but an approach which has widely been discussed in the media and on social media is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).The premise of ACT is that fears and anxieties are seen as real and cannot be ‘challenged’ away, unlike with cognitive behavioural therapy. By concentrating on our actions we are able to work past our fears. This method may help those struggling with this new chaotic routine we find ourselves in. The Infant & Toddler Forum are here to help with our top tips on how to apply this intervention.