Finish Your Plate...

...A phrase that I heard growing up often. I was never allowed to leave the table until I drank my gigantic glass of milk, or ate every parcel of food on my plate. Now I despise milk, and have an unhealthy habit of overeating. My husband and I often talk about what we will enforce as parents, and what we will be relaxed on. I would hate to implement those same tactics as my parents did on me. I don’t think we should force our son to eat all of his food if he’s not hungry or becomes full, but at the same time, it would be better for him if he at least got his full serving of veggies and milk. I suppose I’m having trouble recognizing the balance between “you don’t have to keep eating if you want to.” And “you need to eat your veggies before you leave the table.” Our son is only 1.5 years and not old enough for this conversation yet, so I have some time to figure this out. What are your thoughts as parents?

  • Lucy Kent
    Jul 10, 2018

    What I've decided to do is let him tell me when he's done. If he's hungry later and it's before the next meal/snack time, I tell him he has to wait until then. We rarely have an instance of him being hungry to the point of frustration, and he's learned to make sure he's got his fill before leaving what's on his plate. I hope. I think it's pretty fair since it's never more than 4 hours between eating during the day.

  • Veronica
    Jul 10, 2018

    My kids are 2 and 3. And I give only my kids a small amount of food to start off with and once they finish it all, if they’re still hungry I’ll give them a second helping. And if it’s something new they never had before I try to get them to take 1 bite then if they truly don’t like it I don’t make them eat it and I’ll fix them something they do like, my grandfather used to do this to me all the time as a child, he would make me finish everything on my plate and in my glass...even if it made me sick. So I will never do that to my kids. I usually fix things I know they like but mostly I start off with small helpings and if they finish and they are still hungry I’ll give them a second helping. Hope this helps.

  • Aipery Usenbaev
    Jul 10, 2018

    Jenn here is on point, old enough kids will not starve. I have a 2 year old who is becoming to be a picky eater. However we do not make her eat, we have meals that we eat, large breakfast and late lunch, light lunch and dinner, no snacks at all unless we are on the road. We keep kids busy all the time so they swallow their entire plate no matter how healthy it is. Please do start early though establishing good eating habits.

  • Melissa
    Jul 10, 2018

    We provide my daughter a lot of choices at meals and a school her snacks and lunch are well balanced. We don’t require her to eat a certain amount but there are certain things we want her to eat each day but it is up to her (mostly) when she wants eat them. She is 18 months. I eat pretty much every fruit and veggie out there while my husband pretty much eats none. Our daughter luckily loves most foods she tries.

  • Marta
    Jul 10, 2018

    First of all in my house my rule is this is not a restaurant so what I cook is what you eat and if you don’t like it then don’t eat. My daughter will eat everything she is open minded about trying it and she will even cook with me in the kitchen ask about spices and such. Everything I cook hast have at least 1 veggie mixed into it and at least one side hast also have veggies. If I make say Mac and cheese and I know that’s something she will eat 1st and then say she is full I will serve her the protein and veggies 1st then I’ll ask are you still hungry then I give the Mac. Sometimes she will be full and not even have any. I also portion everything she eats. last but not least we don’t have any frozen processed foods in the house everything is cooked from scratch lunch is left overs. I don’t bribe with food and dessert doesn’t exist in our house

  • M
    Jul 10, 2018

    We don’t force our daughter to eat all of her food. She usually chooses the carbs and fruits. She doesn’t care for protein unless it’s peanut butter or veggies unless in a smoothie. Needless to say we drink a smoothie a day and often have peanut butter as a snack if not for lunch.

  • Eddie
    Jul 10, 2018

    Years ago while I was watching my nephew I made him finish all his milk and dinner, like when I was growing up. Well he threw up. Once I had my own daughter I make sure she eats plenty, but not to excess. I really ensure she get essentials like proteins and most veggies. She ‘s a dancer now and very active so she eats plenty and rarely she will ask is this enough daddy and I always respond. If you think you are full then you can be finished. I just believe each child is different, but also ensuring they eat enough to get essential vitamins through meals.

  • Jamie
    Jul 11, 2018

    We have adopted the clean your plate rule with our 2yo. It is more of a lesson in not wasting food for us. We always give her the tiniest portions to start and then she can have more of something when everything is eaten on her plate. We are talking like one bite portions if it is something new. We don't discourage seconds, but do keep a balanced diet in mind. She is a good eater and there is not much she does not like, but even a 2yo can not be in the mood for something.

  • Liz
    Jul 12, 2018

    I always say ok you don't need to finish...but if I feel he didn't get enough veggies..I say when you want a snack can have pouch (they are veggies ones) and he always has a pouch like an hour later

  • Melanie
    Jul 12, 2018

    I have found that allowing the kids to make their own plate works very well. They know what THEY take they must eat. So they may only take very little. They are allowed to get more if they are still hungry. If they are full that's ok. But if the food is still in their plate they can finish it when they get hungry again, but there is no dessert if they are too full to finish their meal. By allowing them to serve themselves it gives them control over how much they eat and what they eat. Which most of the time they'll eat more than we thought they would. They need to have some control over their lives. As far as veggies they must at least try them. But I very rarely make a veggies they don't eat.

  • Shalay
    Jul 12, 2018

    Idk that seems like a bit of stretch imo

  • Anonymous
    Jul 12, 2018

    My parents grew up during the Depression. Daddy had a philosophy of "If you take it on your plate, you eat it or wear it." I have two cousins who DID wear food they insisted on, and did not eat. I came from a home where you HAD TO clean your plate!! However, Mom always made an alternative meal for my brother... My sons are grown. For the most part, I raised them alone; a working single mom til they got to middle school age. I always sat them at the counter in their high-chairs and they "cooked" with me. Both of them are good cooks! They were born hungry; going from 6lb.14oz at birth to 28lb by their first birthday!!. Only rarely did they leave something on their plate. They tended to eat whatever I ate, which made them excellent eaters. Carrots in peanut butter, raisins, fruit cups, apples peeled and sliced dipped in peanut butter. We never had Tastycakes til they were much older! They loved meals that combined their vegetables with potato or rice; so stew, casseroles and stir fry on rice were popular. Mac and cheese, chicken tenders, apple sauce, mashed potatoes with corn and gravy on top...even now, their beady little eyes light up when they see at least one of these on the dinner table. Raising small children, you have to lead by example, and take the time to instill in them that making food is a family effort to create, and it should be enjoyed together. My niece was raised VERY a baby, she would roll up to the fridge, get the door open, and "graze". She would stand there in her walker, point to what she wanted, eat a spoonful, put it back, and take a spoon of something else. My brother was always leaving containers full of leftovers at her reach, in hopes that she would eat. After burning up a fridge, he figured out that she had to sit in a chair at the table and eat like everyone else. Instead, she would cry and tell her Dad "I'm on a diet!" Just like her Mom, who would skimp on dinner in favor of chips and other junk food. She still likes a dish (or a bag) of what she wants, in front of the TV. As an adult, she has had a gastric bypass, and still has been unable to lose weight. My brother had to pay for that gastric bypass (she is in her 20s). So very sad. My sons, as adults, finally eat in a civilized manner (my younger son married a vegetarian) and are healthy and fit. The days of throwing bread balls and shooting chocolate pudding at the wallpaper are long gone.

  • Emily
    Jul 12, 2018

    We just say ok but nothing else to eat for 2 hours. We also have a must try everything on your plate rule.

  • Женя
    Jul 12, 2018

    Don’t forget the power of knowledge. Once my 5 year old learned about food groups and how they help the body I ask her questions like “what did you eat that’s going to help you have pretty cheeks?” and she replies “red beets”. Or I would ask what did you drink that helps your skeleton grow and she replies “milk”. It’s a nice way to keep her eating healthy and applying her knowledge to the real world. She isn’t perfect when it comes to trying new things but she does it at her own pace and with some awareness so I am proud of her. I think it’s important that I allow her to try things and not force it on her but every child is unique and what works for my daughter may not work for others.

  • Jackie
    Jul 12, 2018

    We ask our children to eat all their veggies 1st before they eat anything else for dinner. Start with broccoli or a salad etc. I don't feel bad if they won't finish food on their plates as long as their veggies are eaten.

  • Tiana
    Jul 19, 2018

    Every meal that my son gets is served on his segmented food mat. Everything that I serve him, I’m ok with him eating just that and nothing else, or the whole lot. Eg: chicken, brown rice, peas/broccoli mix. If he eats it all, great! If he just eats chicken or rice, fine. I don’t offer him any reward or “treat” for finishing his food, or any alternative. He can ask for crackers and I make a big show of looking for them and reply, “ this is all that we have right now” My son has a set mealtime and snack time routine (within reason, activity dependent) this helps me and him plan for eating and know the routine.

  • Seani
    Jul 19, 2018

    One thing I’ve learned is when your child is hungry they will let you know. Lol. I place small sized portions on his plate. Have him say grace and eat. When he decides he’s finished I ask him if he wants me to throw the food away or save it for later. He always tells me to throw it away when he’s full and to save it when he’s still hungry but distracted. I’ve never coached him on which to choose either. Once he did tell me to toss it and then hr later complained about being hungry. I told him he chose to toss his food instead of eating it so it was gone. Then I gave him the option of a banana or carrots as a late snack. I never actually toss the food btw. I’m balling on a budget. Haha I just let him think I tossed it. (I’m sure that will come back to bite me later) My Mom forced us to eat everything in front of us and it left me resenting her and eating unhealthily 🤷🏾‍♀️

  • Teddy
    Jul 22, 2018

    My husband was told to eat everything, no matter what it was. He even threw up sometimes from eating things he couldn’t handle. My parents didn’t care. My husband is a picky eater now. I am not at all. We do the same thing as the first poster: let the child eat what they want and then if they want to “earn” dessert then they have to have a few bites of healthy stuff. We don’t ever use food as a reward other than that. We let them decide when they’re hungry. (When our daughter was starting solids she didn’t care about food at all- still doesn’t, and her ped repeatedly told her she was fine and that kids won’t starve themselves and to an extent they’re fine just drinking milk, but if it eased our anxiety we could give her multivitamins.) The only thing we worry about is how this is going to play out in the future because we have two kids with COMPLETE OPPOSITE relationships to food. Our older daughter just doesn’t care. She half eats things. She completely walks away from even sweets. She would skip meals if we didn’t remind her when she is playing, etc. Our younger son however LOVES FOOD and most of the time it’s all he wants. Since birth he will cry and cry and the only thing that soothes him is milk or food. He doesn’t care what it is or where it comes from (breast, bottle, cup.) He can be in the middle of doing ANYTHING and he can have JUST finished a giant meal and if he sees something else to eat he wants it NOW! (Btw they weigh the same amount and are 1 and 4 years old.) we honestly worry about him already having a strained relationship to food/comfort.

  • Maliheh
    Jul 25, 2018

    I find that when my kids are tired or when its way past their meal time they get so cranky that they just won’t eat. But when I have served food at the right time they eat almost everything. At the beginning I was really trying to get my kids to eat at the dinner table with the whole family ( with mum and dad) but then by the time my husband got home from work it was too late and my kids were so hungry at that point that they would refuse to eat. Now I serve their food to them when they are hungry and when my husband comes home we all sit at the dinner table together and they can snack on the food if they want to or have another plate. Its their option at this point.