“Finish your food or you aren’t getting up from this table!”

“Clear your plate. Do you realize that children are starving in Africa (or China, India, etc.)!”

“If you eat three more bites of chicken you can have dessert!”

Do these sound familiar? The basic values behind these sayings (i.e. don’t waste food) are reasonable, but the results are dangerous to your children’s health. Teaching a child to clear their plate under any and all circumstances (“waste not want not”) teaches them to continue eating even when they are full. And using treats as a reward for overeating reinforces the idea that regular food is gross and must be suffered through, while desserts are the yummy part of the dinner ritual. These are destructive eating habits that can follow us throughout our lives and lead to both childhood and adult obesity.

We must teach our children to enjoy all types of food, not just treats, and trust them when they say they’re full. Many of you may be saying “Easier said than done!” However, teaching your children healthy eating habits is a critical part of good parenting. The most recent generation is the first ever expected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Do you really want that for your children? Make healthy, well-balanced meals for the entire family and instead of forcing your children to eat everything, have them try everything. Make sure you reinforce the eating rule “When you’re full you are done!” You and your children will be healthier.

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