Lead author Brian Wansink of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. -- the author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think" -- and co-author Collin Payne of New Mexico State University asked 63 mothers of preschool-age children the extent to which they tell their children to clean their plates at meals. The researchers then asked the children how many Fruit Loops they would like for their morning snack at day care.
Children were able to fill their bowl until they indicated they had received enough and the bowl of cereal was weighed.
"We found that the more controlling the parents were about telling their child to clean their plate, the more likely the kids, especially the boys, were to request larger portions of sweetened cereal at daycare," Wansink said in a statement.
"Parents who force their kids to clean their plates at meals, may be interfering with the development of self-control that children have around food," Payne added. "When children have little control over what they eat- or don't eat, they may react by acting out and overeating when away from home."
The findings were presented in the Carolinas HealthCare System Obesity Conference in Charlotte, N.C.