- According to a study, young children eat 79 percent more calories when they are bored
- Researchers at Aston University surveyed 119 parents about feeding practices
Children as young as four eat more when they are bored, according to a new study.
A new study has shown that young children consume 79 percent more calories when bored than when they are in a neutral mood.
Researchers at Aston University in Birmingham surveyed 119 parents about the feeding practices they used with their child and their child’s temperament.
Children aged four and five took part in a series of everyday scenarios assessing their mood – one of which was boring.
They were given a standard meal and asked to indicate when they were full.
Children aged four and five took part in a series of everyday scenarios assessing their mood – one of which was boring
The analysis found that children who felt bored ate an additional 94 calories when they were already full, compared to children in a neutral mood who only ate an additional 53 calories.
They also found that when parents reported frequently using food to soothe their child’s emotions, and when their child was very emotional, the child ate five times more calories.
Dr. Rebecca Stone, who led the research, said: “For children to consume so many calories during a laboratory-induced boredom episode (over a four-minute period) is, given the fact that boredom is a commonly experienced emotion in children “Excessive caloric intake in response to boredom over a day, a week, or a year is potentially significant in a food-abundant environment.”
She said the experience of boredom is important in the development of a child’s self-confidence and creativity and does not recommend that children can or should avoid boredom.
Instead, she suggests that children need to learn to experience boredom without turning to food, and that parents might try to divert their child’s attention from food when they are bored.
Professor Claire Farrow, who also worked on the study, said: “It is generally believed that children tend to turn to food when bored and that some children are more likely to do this than others.”
“This is the first study to test this experimentally in the laboratory.” While there appear to be individual differences between children in their eating habits when bored, it is helpful to know that the nutritional practices adults use around eating can influence the likelihood of this happening.
“Although it’s tempting to use food as a means of comfort for children, research suggests that emotional feeding could lead to more emotional eating in the future.”
“It is important that parents and carers are aware that this short-term solution could create future challenges.”
The results were published in the journal Food Quality and Preference.
What should a balanced diet look like?
According to the NHS, meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains
• Eat at least 5 servings of different fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables count
• Basic meals are potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains
• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole-grain cereal cookies, 2 thick slices of whole-grain bread, and a large baked potato with skin on
• Consume some dairy products or milk alternatives (e.g. soy drinks) and choose low-fat and low-sugar options
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 servings of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume them in small quantities
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water daily
• Adults should consume less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women and 30g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide