By A. Pawlowski, TODAY contributor
You want them to eat food that can be peeled, chopped or juiced. They want something with sprinkles, sugar and enough fat to make it gooey and rich.
Most every household wages the parent vs. child battle over junk food. But it doesn’t have to be that way, experts say.
Charlotte Markey,a health psychology professor at Rutgers University, believes it’s better for parents to let children occasionally eat potato chips, candy and other calorie-laden salty and sweet snacks rather than trying to eliminate them from their diets all together.
“I’m certainly not saying that we should load our kids up on junk food,” Markey, author of “Smart People Don't Diet: How Psychology, Common Sense, and the Latest Science Can Help You Lose Weight Permanently,” told TODAY Parents.
“But we don’t want to make it so off limits that it starts to have sort of a mystique or appeal.”
As a grad student at The Children’s Eating Lab at Penn State University, Markey saw first-hand the results of what happened when families banned junk food at home. Researchers first asked parents whether they allowed certain snacks, then brought their children into a room filled with those temptations as part of an experiment. The researchers then made an excuse to leave the room and watched what happened.
Time and again, the kids whose parents were very restrictive with snacks ate more treats than other kids and tried to “make up for lost time” as soon as they had access to the “forbidden foods,” Markey recently wrote in Psychology Today.
The lesson for parents is that tight restrictions on junk food seem to backfire, Markey noted.
“It’s well intentioned, I understand,” she said. “What we really want to work on is… navigating (food choices) in a way that doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding all junk food or making it a battle.”
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