Toddlers who prefer to munch on sweet treats rather than salty food are more likely to be obese, a new study has found.

While the popular saying tells that there is always room for dessert, it may not be a good habit in reality, especially when it is started at an early age.

The risk of body fat increase and subsequent unhealthy weight gain were higher among toddlers who choose cookies over chips in an experiment conducted by University of Michigan researchers.

Senior researcher Julie C. Lumen says they discovered that kids who eat sweet, not salty, food after an adequate meal are more likely to face weight gain risks.

Finding Out What Tots Prefer

The study involved a total of 209 mothers whose incomes are considered low. The researchers asked them to fast their toddlers for an hour and then let them eat a full lunch.

After the sufficient meal, the team presented the toddlers with a tray of sweet food like chocolate chip cookies and salty food such as potato chips. There were no limits as to how much food they want to eat.

After analysis, the team found that those who chose sweet treats and showed signs of being disappointed after the food was collected had slow rises in body fat when they turned 33 months old. Conversely, the kids who chose the salty snacks did not.

Eating In The Absence of Hunger (EAC)

Lumen says eating even if one is not hungry is associated with overweight in older children. However, this is the first time that the team has seen this connection in kids as young as one to three years old.

The tendency to eat without hunger feelings rises with age and this could have lifetime effects associated with weight gain. Having said that, it is necessary to find out ways to control this drive to eat even before a child turns three years old.

"Developing interventions to reduce EAH that are developmentally appropriate for toddlers may be an important, novel intervention strategy," the authors write.

In older kids, a previous study showed that having two breakfasts is better than one as this could help prevent children from being overweight or obese. This is because it lifts food insecurity and helps promote healthy weight.

The study was published in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics.

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