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Don’t ask your child to clean his plate

Are you a member of the clean plate club? Did your parents insist you finished all the food on your plate, and do you now do the same with your own children?

We tend to mimic the eating styles of our parents. As wartime children, our grandparents or great grandparents learned to finish their meal. Food scarcity was real, and the next meal was never guaranteed.

Our environment now is very different. We live in a time of food abundance. Eating more than you need can lead to increased weight, so it’s essential our children learn to recognise when they are hungry, and eat until they are satisfied.

The appetite of children varies from day to day, and week to week. One day they may happily finish all their food, the next day feel full after eating only half of it.

By expecting your child to clean his or her plate every day, a couple of things can happen.

The first is they learn to finish their food to please you, rather than because they are hungry. This encourages them to override their natural fullness cues. If their body tells them they are full, yet you insist they finish their food, that important cue is missed.

The second is you are inviting conflict at mealtimes if your child is full, yet you insist they finish their meal.

Your responsibility is to provide healthy meals, while allowing your children to decide how much they wish to eat.


Jenny Boss, Nutritionist


Jenny has a Masters Degree in Human Nutrition, and extra training in children’s nutrition and feeding with Ellyn Satter, an internationally recognised US dietitian and feeding expert.

Jenny has been a health and wellness writer for over 20 years, and is a mother of two teenage boys.

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