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Kids Meal Portions Could Be Linked to Parent Consumption
Research conducted by five universities in Texas, USA, with African American and Hispanic families underscores the relation between portions offered by caregivers and the amounts children consume. The team of researchers performed an in-home observational study with 145 families in order to investigate how the amounts served and consumed by children might be associated with the amounts parents serve themselves.
Evidence from previous research suggests that parents can contribute to their children’s overconsumption when offering portions that exceed the appropriate size. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate in more detail whether and how the amount of food that parents serve themselves could be related to the amount they serve their children, and in turn to the amounts children consume at dinner time.
In total, 145 African-American and Hispanic families were recruited in 33 family centres in Houston, Texas. The study involved three in-home observations during a family’s dinner time. Families were asked to cook their regular meal of the day and serve it in standardised utensils that were provided to them. Researchers took standardised photos of the food that parents served themselves and their children. Two trained dietitians then visually estimated the amount that had been served, in grams. In addition, parents provided the researchers with detailed information on all menu items, recipes and preparation methods in order to facilitate estimation of dietary intake. Food intake was estimated by subtracting the amount of plate waste, minus the non-edible rubbish such as bones or corn cobs which was weighed after the dinner, from the estimated served amount.
Results showed that the amount of food served to the children was associated with the amount that parents served themselves – parents who served large portions to themselves in an eating occasion also served large portions to their children, compared to parents who served themselves smaller portions, regardless of the type of food consumed.
The more the children were served the more they ended up consuming, but no association could be observed between the amount served/consumed and the children’s weight status. The authors suggest that this may be explained by the fact that other factors, such as the energy expenditure, that were not measured in this study account for any compensatory effects on food intake. Further exploration of demographic data in the study population showed that African-American compared to Hispanic, and employed compared to unemployed parents served larger portions in general. It should be noted that the presence of researchers during observations could have biased some of the participants’ eating behaviours.
These findings, which apply to dinner time meals only, indicate that factors unrelated to the child, i.e. serving habits of parents, are strongly related to a child’s food consumption. As shown in this study, the relationship between what parents serve themselves and what they serve their children has important implications as larger portion sizes may translate into increased food intake.
The authors argue that the results of the study could be applied in interventions targeted at children to increase or reduce food intake. By consistently serving large portions, parents may impose a consumption norm onto their children that may lead them to eat more, in general. By serving smaller portions, however, parents could also prevent excess energy intake in overweight and obese children. Future interventions should aim at improving parents’ ability to estimate appropriate serving sizes in order to positively influence children’s growth outcomes. It should be noted, however, that due to the observational nature of the study, no conclusions can be made regarding the causal effect of the amounts served to children to their food intake.
For further information, see: Johnson SL, Hughes SO, Cui X, et al. (2014). Portion sizes for children are predicted by parental characteristics and the amounts parents serve themselves. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Published online ahead of print 29 Jan 2014. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.113.078311.
No Cause For Concern From Takeaway Transfats In Deprived Scotland
The results have been published of a study that investigated the levels of trans and saturated fats in fats/oils and foods from takeaways in deprived areas of Scotland. In summary, the levels of trans fats in the sampled takeaway foods were not found to be at a level of public health concern.
Whilst the results of this study are reassuring with respect to trans fats, it highlights the very high levels of saturated fats in many takeaway foods.
The Food Standards Agency in Scotland (FSAS) study investigated levels of trans and saturated fats in fats/oils and takeaway products from deprived areas of Scotland. It has previously been reported that those living in deprived areas may have higher intakes of trans fats due to consumption of takeaway foods and use of oils high in trans fats; this study of around 200 samples was carried out to investigate these claims.
The summary of findings include: The levels of trans fats in the deep fried food samples analysed were low; single food items averaged 1.0g trans fats per portion and full meals averaged 1.5g trans fats per portion. It should be noted that this study was not able to distinguish between naturally occurring (e.g. meat and animal fats) and industrially produced trans fats. The study showed a clear association between oil type and amount of saturated fats; foods fried in oils of animal origin provided significantly more saturated fat. Levels of saturated fats were high in many of the samples tested.
In contrast to the high levels of saturated fat found in the takeaway foods sampled, levels of trans fats were not sufficiently elevated to be of public health concern. However, many of the foods tested contained high levels of saturated fats. The dietary intake of saturated fat represents a significant health risk in relation to cardiovascular disease.
Current intakes of saturated fats (12.8%) exceed the Scottish Government’s maximum recommended intakes (dietary goal) of no more than 11% of food energy. The FSAS and Scottish Government are taking action to reduce saturated fats as part of the ‘out of home’ catering actions and are encouraging industry to reduce levels of saturated fats in food products.
Charles Milne, Director, Food Standards Agency in Scotland, said: "Whilst the results of this study are reassuring with respect to trans fats, it highlights the very high levels of saturated fats in many takeaway foods. The findings from this report will be used to inform out of home catering actions by FSAS and Scottish Government."
Trans fats are found in the food chain naturally in dairy products and meat/fat from ruminant animals (eg beef, lamb). They are also industrially produced in a process to harden fats. Industrially produced trans fats may be incorporated into manufactured foods. Trans fats are linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advises that population intake of trans fats should be no more than 2% daily food energy (see the SACN report via the link on this page). For a healthy weight female, with an average intake of 2,000 kcal, this would be equivalent to around 5g TFA per day.
The Scottish Government has a population level dietary goal for trans fats that recognises current intakes of around 0.7-0.8% food energy and therefore the Scottish Government sets a lower threshold of below 1% food energy. There is also a Scottish dietary goal for saturated fats to reduce to no more than 11% food energy.
A diet high in saturated fats can result in raised blood cholesterol levels which can increase the risk of developing heart disease. Currently data on food intakes in the UK and in Scotland indicate that average intakes of saturated fats are too high. The report of these findings can be found via the Foodbase link on this page.
Ready meals is expected to see 10% current value growth in 2013 over the previous year, due to increased demand for convenience food and an increasingly rapid pace of life in China.
While sales of eight-treasure congee within canned/preserved ready meals account for the largest share of sales, sales growth for these products is gradually declining as a result of maturity and consumers trading up. According to trade sources, the migration workers return home due to high living cost in developed areas, in the industrial zone in the Pearl River Delta for example, negatively affected ready meals sales, because the migration workers are one of the major consumption group to ready meals.
Xiamen Yinlu Food is expected to continue to lead ready meal sales in 2013. The company is expected to see 11% current value growth in the year and to account for almost 29% share. The company's Yinlu is a long-established brand in China and enjoys high brand awareness. The company was also acquired by Nestlé in late-2011. This acquisition boosted the company's sales performance, thanks to Nestlé's support in terms of production processes, management, distribution, new product development and financial backing.
Ready meals is expected to grow at a constant value CAGR of 7% over the forecast period, continuously attracting consumers by its convenience in consumption especially in hectic urban regions. However, maturity in canned/preserved ready meals will slow down overall sales growth. Chilled ready meals will meanwhile be the main driver for growth, as increasingly busy lifestyles in large cities will encourage buoyant growth in demand over the forecast period.
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