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Parents who bribe fussy eaters are turning their children into junk food addicts by the age of three
One in three parents deal with fussy eaters by bribing them with sweetsSixty per cent of parents confessed their child regularly craved sweet treats by the age of threeTwo million schoolchildren are overweight



17:41 GMT, 27 December 2012

Sixty per cent of toddlers are hooked on chocolate and sweets and their parents are to blame, say experts.

One in three admitted to dealing with fussy eaters by bribing them with a sweet treat, a new survey has revealed.

It also found that 58 per cent of mothers believe that by the age of three, their child was already craving sugary snacks on a regular basis.

The research has fuelled the debate about who is to blame for the obesity crisis facing the next generation.

Sixty per cent of toddlers are hooked on sweets and it could be because parents are giving in to their fussy eating habits

Sixty per cent of toddlers are hooked on sweets and it could be because parents are giving in to their fussy eating habits

It comes at a time when there are two million overweight schoolchildren in the UK and 700,000 of those are obese.

The researchers spoke to 2,002 mothers of children aged between 12 months old and five-years-old.

They discovered that 26 per cent of mothers let their baby taste chocolate before the age of nine months and over half give their baby the treat by the age of 12 months.

They also found that 61 per cent of mothers give their toddler a sweet treat every day.

Nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston said: ‘The research is certainly concerning and reflects what I see in my nutritional practice.


90 per cent of parents are confused about how to properly nourish their children

89 per cent think there is a lack of public information about how to give babies a good nutritional foundation

93 per cent of mothers think there should be classes available on weaning and feeding babies

87 per cent of parents are not aware of which vitamins their child needs

81 per cent feel there is a limited selection of healthy meals available on children’s menus

26 per cent of parents add salt to their children’s food before they turn three

‘Parents are introducing chocolate
and sweets into their babies and toddlers diets too early. It is
predicted that by 2030 half the UK will be obese, if we don’t act now.

matters, since it is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer
and osteoarthritis. The need to prevent obesity from the start is
becoming clear.’

She added: ‘The dietary patterns we lay down from when we wean children may well have an impact on their future food choices and health.

‘Occasional sweet foods are of course fine but foods with lots of added sugar such as chocolate should be avoided on a regular basis and ideally not offered at home where they can easily become part of daily habits.’

The research, conducted by Vitabiotics WellKid Baby Drops, suggests that a key cause of the problem is that parents are using sweets and chocolate to bribe fussy eaters.

It found that 56 per cent of parents think their child is going through a fussy phase and that 23 per cent give into their child’s fussy eating as they think they will grow out of it.

Child psychologist Richard Woolfson said: ‘This result confirms that fussy eating is a common problem at this age, probably because this is the time when children begin to assert themselves by expressing specific eating preferences.

‘The key way to deal with fussy eating is by not making a meal of it. In other words, stay calm and don’t overreact.

One in three parents admitted to dealing with fussy eaters by bribing them with a sweet treat

One in three parents admitted to dealing with fussy eaters by bribing them with a sweet treat

‘Allow a certain amount of time for the meal, and if your child is still playing around with his food after that, take it away and end mealtime. Don’t worry – he won’t starve. Rest assured that this phase usually passes.

He added: ‘The danger is that if you start to make a big deal out of his fussy eating habits, he’ll quickly learn that picky eating is a great way to get your attention and you’ll find it even harder to encourage proper eating.’

The Vitabiotics Wellkid Baby Drops researchers also discovered that as a result of their child’s sweet tooth, more than one in five parents worry that their baby or toddler is too chubby.

Consequently, 29 per cent restrict their child’s diet to avoid chubbiness.

Dr Woolfson said: ‘It’s not surprising that so many parents admit they worry about their children because the world of childhood is becoming increasingly complex.

‘However parental awareness of the challenges their child might face is actually quite positive because it means they can help their child anticipate and overcome them.

‘Of course, it’s important that parents don’t convey their own anxiety to their child, and that instead, they adopt a supportive and helpful approach.’