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Laissez faire at the dining table?

Well, perhaps not for us adults, but it seems to work okay for the kids. Researchers at the University of Illinois recently offered a group of children ages two to five a variety of healthy foods at each meal, with no restrictions on how much or little they ate. They report in the New England Journal of Medicine that each of the youngsters consumed the same amount of food each day, however erratic their eating patterns from meal to meal. If they ate almost nothing at breakfast, for example, they were likely to make up for it at lunch.

In other words, although erratic eating habits may drive Mom up the wall, Junior will eventually get what he needs for the day. Other studies have shown that kids who are consistently forced to clean their plates may end up with eating disorders or obesity.

The operative term here is "healthy foods." An expert panel, including delegates from the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, warns that heart disease begins in childhood. The panel recommends a low fat diet for all children older than age two. Like parents, children should be restricted to 30 percent of total calories from fat, no more than one-third of which should be from saturated fat. And no one should consume more than 300 mg of cholesterol daily.

Children under two, on the other hand, should not have restricted fat intakes. These little ones need a high calorie diet for proper development of all bodily systems, and fat is a concentrated source of calories.

In addition, family history of heart disease in parents or grandparents younger than age 55 calls for testing to determine if the child needs a special diet or drug therapy. The same goes for a parent with a blood cholesterol level above 240 mg per deciliter. A blood cholesterol test should be done on the child whose parent has too much cholesterol. A family history of premature heart disease calls for a lipoprotein analysis. Such a procedure tests not only for total cholesterol, but for the level of "good" HDL-cholesterol.

Achieving the recommended fat limitation requires a change in one's eating habits, with a diet of low fat dairy products, skinless poultry, fish, lean meat, and plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
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Title Annotation:research shows young children should be allowed to follow their own eating habits
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jul 1, 1991
Words:384
Previous Article:Is thin really in?
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