CQUniversity nutrition lecturer Dr Susan Williams said restricting Easter eggs during the Easter period could “boost your children’s preoccupation with the Easter treats and increase the ‘pester power’ of children during this time”.
CQUniversity nutrition lecturer Dr Susan Williams said restricting Easter eggs during the Easter period could “boost your children’s preoccupation with the Easter treats and increase the ‘pester power’ of children during this time”. Crystal Spencer

Restricting Easter eggs will make kids want them more

MANY OF us can relate to the idea that if we are told we cannot have something we just want it more and think about it more often.

CQUniversity nutrition lecturer Dr Susan Williams said restricting Easter eggs during the Easter period could "boost your children's preoccupation with the Easter treats and increase the 'pester power' of children during this time".

Dr Williams' comments were based on a British study conducted at the University of Surrey, which found although restriction of Easter eggs resulted in reduced intake, children became more preoccupied with Easter eggs when their intakes were controlled.

The results of the British study were in line with previous research, which has found many of the strategies used by parents to influence children's eating habits are counterproductive.

That is, over-control, restriction, pressure to eat, and promise of rewards, all have negative effects on children.

During the Easter period many parents will be faced with the choice of either handing out eggs to get it over and done with or restricting Easter eggs and creating greater preoccupation about the chocolate treats.

The British study provides experimental evidence that while all children have a preoccupation with sweet foods, restricting children's consumption of these and other unhealthy foods may sustain a child's preoccupation with this food, rather than allowing a natural decline in their interest, which happens through simple exposure.

Authors of the British study said it was possible introducing unhealthy foods into a household raised the profile of such foods, making children desire them more.

Dr Williams says it was important to give children some control over what they eat and be responsive to children's preferences, while guiding them towards healthy alternatives, rather than using force and restriction.

"The home environment plays a critical role in the development of children's eating habits, and it is important that parents consider their own food habits and behaviours, in addition to providing children healthy foods within the home," she said.

Dr Williams said it was not about making decisions at the last minute - it was about creating a home environment, which supported children in making healthy decisions, all family members developing healthy attitudes toward all foods, and appreciating the role of 'treat' foods in a balanced diet.