“You are not leaving the table until you’ve finished your food!”
If you heard this growing up, you’re not alone. Many parents have used this tactic to get their kids, especially the picky eaters, to finish off their meal and confirm their membership in the “clean plate club.”
Many parents have also been known to demand complete control over what their children ingest in order to protect them from eating too many sweets and too much junk food.
But is all the protection really needed after children mature into teenagers?
According to a study at the University of Minnesota, both of these types of food-policing tactics are not helping adolescents lead healthier lives. In fact, research finds them to be counterproductive.
The study, which will be published in the May issue of Pediatrics, combined data from two different studies, Project EAT (Eating and Activity in Teens) and Project F-EAT (Families and Eating and Activity Among Teens). The surveys collected dietary and activity habits from more than 2,200 teenagers and 3,400 parents in Minnesota.
“Parents do use high levels of control, such as restriction and pressure to eat,” said lead author Katie Loth, M.P.H., a registered dietician, doctoral candidate and research assistant at the U of M. “In the 1950s, cleaning your plate meant something different. Portion sizes have gotten bigger over time, and if you encourage kids to rely on environmental indicators, like how much food is on their plates or the time of day, they’ll lose the ability to rely on internal cues to know whether they’re hungry or full.”
The researchers hope the study will lead to pinpointing the root causes of childhood obesity, which has been on the rise for over two decades.
Read the full story on TIME’s website.