Children eat fewer Easter eggs during the Easter holidays if parents let them decide how many they can have, according to Saima Ehsan and colleagues from the University of Surrey, who will present their research at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Glasgow May 4th-6th.

The research was designed to examine the impact of parental control on the diet of children aged 4-11 years old. Over the Easter holidays 37 children and their parents were randomly assigned to two different groups. One group was given instructions on how many eggs the child could eat.  The eggs were kept in a cupboard out of reach, only allowed to eat after meals and only in small amounts.   The other group were asked to allow their child to have access to the Easter eggs whenever they wanted to eat and as much as the child wanted each time.  The eggs were within reach and available to eat at will).

Both sets of children had their Body Mass Index (BMI) checked before and after the Easter holidays to find any significant differences in the children's weight. Afterward, parents completed online questionnaires relating to their child's snacking behavior and how much they had eaten over the holiday period.   The results showed that the children from the non-restricted group ate more eggs initially but by the end of the Easter holiday they had eaten less overall than the restricted group.

Ehsan explained, "These results suggest that parents restricting a particular food results in it becoming more attractive and increasing the overall intake. This could mean that allowing children more control over their eating habits is more effective at developing long term healthier eating patterns."