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Clean Your Plate Perils

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Despite increasing evidence that a growing number of American teenagers are overweight, some parents are still putting pressure on their kids to clean their plates, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota say this “clean your plate” message doesn’t seem to dissipate once early childhood ends, with some parents — especially fathers — still insisting that their teens eat all the food that is set before them, even when their child might actually benefit from calorie restriction and portion control. Interestingly, researchers found this “eat up” pressure was most often directed by fathers toward boys. Girls of any weight category were less likely to be pressured to clean their plates.

The researchers, who recently reported their findings in the journal Pediatrics, suggest their data showed that parents and adolescents alike need more education on appropriate portion size and weights for teens. They noted it’s actually metabolically normal for teens to be lean and gangly, but that some parents may feel the social need to bulk up their skinny kids — particularly their sons, possibly because of concerns about athletic prowess.

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