Have you ever told your children to clean their plates? Have you ever told them to eat more of their food at mealtime? Did you tell them something along the lines of, “You shouldn’t waste food,” or “You need to have a full belly so you’re not snacking all day.”? If so, you are not the only one.
According to one research study published in Appetite, 85% of parents tell their children to eat as much food off their plates as they can, even after the children state they are full and sometimes as many as 14 times. Often times, parents will persuade their children to continue eating by offering them rewards such as dessert. However, telling your children to clean their plates because it is good for them is a myth and actually a technique that backfires.
Rewarding children for eating an abundance of food only enhances their problem of overeating. When parents force their children to eat more food even after they state they are full, the parents are teaching their children to ignore internal body cues that signal when they are full, thus, leading children to overeat and setting the stage for a multitude of health problems later on in life.
Nowadays portion sizes are much larger than what is recommended or deemed healthy. Therefore, if you are teaching your children to eat everything on their plate, then you are likely doing more harm than good. Studies have found that children are much more likely to ask for larger portion sizes when they are continually forced to eat everything on their plate. Studies have also found that 83% of children whose parents strongly encourage or force them to clean their plates, ate more food than they would have if their parents had not said anything.
The take away message here is; by encouraging children to clean their plates so they don’t waste food or so they stay healthy and strong, may actually be setting the stage for various health problems (i.e. obesity, diabetes, etc.) in the future. These methods just plain DON’T WORK!
Instead, you should allow your children to have control over how much they eat. Their body will tell them when they are full. You may control what food you put on their plate, and I encourage you to provide your children with healthy, nutritious food, but let your children decide when they are done. As a result, your children will be less likely to have issues with overeating. In addition to this, studies found that children given control over how much they eat are less likely to develop eating disorders later in life.
So if you are a parent who pressures your children to clean their plate, stop! Trust they have the ability to know when their body is full. You will end up with children who are healthy, conscious eaters.
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Kirkova, Deni. (2013, August). Leading Nutritionist Says Making Your Child Clean Their Plate Could Give Them an Eating Disorder. Daily Mail.
Yahoo Parenting. (2015, September). Should You Make Your Child Clean His Plate: The Great Debate. Yahoo.