Making Your Kid Clean Their Plate Might Give Them An Eating Disorder


“A clean plate is a happy plate” is a common refrain for new parents — but sometimes it’s not so happy for the kid. More like “miserable” or “potentially pukey” or “burgeoning weird relationship with food.” As if you moms didn’t have enough to worry about. I have a fucking CAT, and every time I go out of the house I am stricken with fear.

In today’s Motherlode/NYT blog, Maryann Jacobsen, a family nutritionist and mom, says that raising a kid with “external” signals of the right amount of food to eat, e.g. the amount of food left on the plate, should be scrapped in favor of allowing the child to rely on her own internal signals. She adds that bribes like “Finish all your broccoli and you can have dessert” aren’t so hot either — they intrinsically foster your precious lil’ snotball’s fixation on sweets.

85% of parents have used the bribery, visual and praise techniques to make their children eat more, and 50% expect their kids to clean their plates — an evolutionary parenting technique that was necessary at time when food was scarce. But now, essentially force-feeding your kid leads them to be unsure what “full” even really means, or discount their own fullness in favor of finishing a second helping to get the reward.

And the late-life effects of eschewing the “clean plate” mentality are major. Jacobsen cites a University of Minnesota study which discovered that kids who are allowed to have an intuitive eating style grow up with lower rates of disordered eating and dieting. And in 1999, a study found that obese adults remembered an unusual amount of these sort of external dinner-finishing “rules” in their childhood.

‘Saying Good Riddance To The Clean-Plate Club’ [Motherlode/NYT]

Image via djedzura/Shutterstock

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