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Fighting the battle of the bulge in children

ST. LOUIS - A parent who encourages a preschool child to clean his plate before leaving the table or before getting dessert may be contributing to a problem that has grown to epidemic proportions in the United States-obesity among preschool children. These controlling feeding practices negatively affect a young child's innate ability to regulate food intake and contribute to the estimated 30 to 50 percent of preschoolers who are overweight or obese.

In an attempt to decrease the incidence of obesity, as well as establish a diet that is protective against cancer, the National Cancer Institute has awarded researchers at Saint Louis University School of Public Health a four-year, $2,406,828 grant to implement "High 5-Kids"-a program the researchers designed to help parents identify normal childhood eating patterns and encourage healthy eating habits among 3 to 5 year olds. High 5 refers to the minimum five daily servings of fruits and vegetables recommended for healthy growth and lower risk of cancer in adulthood.

"Preschool children have a natural ability to know when to eat and what to eat," said Debra Haire-Joshu, Ph.D., professor of behavioral sciences and health education and director of the school's Obesity Prevention Program. "But parents unintentionally eliminate that ability by trying to force children to eat or try new foods. It can take seven to ten times of introducing a new food before a child will incorporate it into his diet. That's perfectly normal, but not widely understood by parents who are concerned that their child is not eating enough."

The School of Public Health will implement High 5-Kids in Missouri's bootheel region with the help of Parents As Teachers (PAT). PAT is a national program that trains and certifies parent educators who provide parents with information on what to expect during each stage of their child's pre-kindergarten development. Parent educators will use the High 5-Kids program to teach parents how t
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Contact: Bree Owens
owensbc@slu.edu
314-977-8014
Saint Louis University
29-Nov-2001


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