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Children's Eating Habits Decline When They Start School

Preschoolers more likely to eat well and eat together with a parent

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) -- School-aged children eat more snack foods, consume more sweetened drinks and watch more television than their preschool counterparts, according to a report published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Hollie A. Raynor, Ph.D., R.D., of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and colleagues used reports from parents to study the eating and leisure-time activity patterns of 174 children, of whom 49 percent were preschoolers, 54 percent were female and 34 percent were either overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.

Preschoolers had healthier habits than school-aged children, the data revealed. Only 14 percent of preschool children ate salty snack food on a daily basis, versus 26.1 percent of school-aged children, and the figures were similar for consumption of sweet snacks at 16.3 percent and 29.5 percent, respectively, the researchers report. Preschoolers watched an average 2.3 hours a day of weekend TV versus 2.7 hours for school-aged children, and whereas 93 percent of preschoolers regularly ate dinner with a parent, only 80.7 percent of school-aged children did so, the report indicates.

"Interventions for meeting recommendations should start with families with preschool-aged children," the authors write. "Future research should focus on identifying factors that might be contributing to increased reporting of problematic food and leisure-time activity patterns in school-aged children."

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