Clean Plate Club

By Zoe Metcalf

There’s a good possibility that you were encouraged as a child to “clean your plate.” You may have been told that “somewhere” there were children who would be grateful to have that plate of meat and vegetables in front of them. Now that you’re in the role of parent, you have some perspective on why your parents were so interested in what, when, and how much you ate. You want the best for your children. You want to raise them to be healthy eaters, healthy adults. But how much control can you/should you exert over their eating habits? Here are some important tips as you encourage your kids to be members of the Clean Plate Club:

Supply – Ensure that there is a wide variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy dairy and lean proteins available throughout each day.  Healthier treats.  Occasional sweets.

Schedule – Consistent meal and snack times give your child a structure as they develop their internal hunger and fullness cues.  Grazing throughout the day may artificially raise and lower blood sugar, creating potential problems.

Choice – Offer your child a variety of foods at each meal with at least one item you know they like, but give them the choice and the responsibility to choose how much they eat or whether they eat at all.  Let them serve themselves by using a kid-sized plate with divided compartments.  If you typically employ the “one bite” rule when introducing new foods, honor their choice.  Experts estimate it take between 12 and 17 times to introduce a new food to a child and get to a point where they like it.

Example – Model healthy eating habits in the home – well-balanced, colorful meals, healthier treats, occasional sweets – and your children will learn by watching you.

Finally, it might be FUN to create a CLEAN PLATE CLUB with rewards, (non-food) treats, or long awaited gifts.  Of course, if your child’s eating habits or growth and development are really giving you cause for concern, consult their pediatrician for the best advice and guidance.