Why you shouldn’t force your child to “clean their plate”

Forcing your child to “clean their plate” teaches them to ignore their bodies’ signals that they’ve had enough to eat.

Why you shouldn't force your child to "clean their plate"
 A parent’s push for kids to gobble up every morsel on their plates can actually cause more harm than good.

It’s tempting to make deals with your kids in order for them to finish what’s on their plate (if you don’t eat all your dinner, you won’t get dessert). Or, at the very least, force them to consume more than three bites. After all, how else will they get all the nutrition they need to grow up healthy and strong?

It’s understandable for parents to want their children to eat the right amount of food daily. However, earlier generations’ “clean your plate” mindset must be abandoned.

Before we get into HOW to avoid the “Clean Plate Club“, let’s talk about WHY you shouldn’t insist your kids complete their meals.

Why does a clean plate mentality fail?

It robs children of their intuitive eating abilities: Forcing your children to eat ignores their hunger and fullness indicators. Intuitive eating helps your child recognise when they are hungry and full so that they may build a healthy relationship with food.

If finishing eating is a requirement for other activities — screen time, playing, dessert – it establishes an odd relationship with food. Food becomes another achievement or indicator of success for children.

Five ways to quit the clean plate mentality for good

  1. Stop worrying about nutrition: Most children are picky eaters and while children do require three meals a day, they do not have to consume all the nutrients needed in sitting.
  2. Let rid of your waste guilt: Food waste makes us unhappy, too. But there are alternatives! Purchase kid-sized reusable containers so that you can repurpose leftover meals into tomorrow’s lunch.
  3. Choose another time for dessert: Dessert does not have to come after dinner. Offer treats at snack time to avoid bribing your child during dinner time.
  4. Agree with your partner: If you need assistance getting rid of the clean plate attitude (or your partner does), agree to remind each other before meals to quit stressing about your child’s eating habits.
  5. Serve smaller portions: For children who routinely don’t finish their food, start serving them a bit less, perhaps on a smaller plate so it still looks full.