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Eating on their terms VS Clear your plate

IMO children should eat when they are hungry and only eat as much as they want. IMO forcing children to eat when we want them to and forcing them to clear their plate can lead to poor eating habits. Like teaching them to eat even if they are not hungry, and that they HAVE to clear their plate before they are allowed to leave the table. My parents used the "clear your plate" method and i have had weight and eating issues my whole life. So i decided to let my son eat on his terms and it has worked out great for me. i am not suggesting that you let them eat whatever they want. Im saying let them eat when they are hungry not just because its breakfast time or lunch time. and if they only want 2 bites so be it. not forcing them to finish. I do suppliment with pediasure half and half with milk when he wants milk. just to make sure he is not lacking if he decides hes not very that day. i still want him to get his vitamins. Let me know your thoughts and preferences CM


Asked by MonkeyMommyNJ at 10:28 PM on Jun. 30, 2011 in Parenting Debate

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Answers (27)
  • Totally agree. It was not something I ever wanted to have as a "bad thing" or a battle for years to come. My kids are all adult and eat very healthy, not overweight and I am glad I never forced them to over eat or eat what they didn't like. However we made sure their food groups were covered by creating healthy choices...

    Answer by LeJane at 10:36 PM on Jun. 30, 2011

  • My kids are expected to sit at the table with the rest of the family during meal time. How much they eat is up to them; if they're not hungry or don't like what I fix, they don't have to eat, but they do have to sit for a reasonable amount of time. The only rule I have besides that is limiting sweets.

    Answer by DragonRiderMD at 11:07 PM on Jun. 30, 2011

  • If I let my son snack all day instead of having meals, he wouldn't sit down at the table when it was dinnertime. It's manners to me and he needs to eat his dinner with us. If he doesn't eat his dinner, no dessert. If I let him eat when he wants to and how much when he likes to, there would be no breakfast lunch and dinner time. How do you expect your LO to eat his lunch at lunchtime in school?
    I think it also sets a regular schedule which is important for your LO to define time during the day and know what to expect after meals. Everyone raises their children differently, but if I know that my son hasn't had anything to eat for a little bit, he's clearing his plate, end of story, I never give him too much or force him to eat anything he dislikes..

    Answer by danichaos at 10:58 PM on Jun. 30, 2011

  • We're more in between. We don't go out of our way to make him things we know he does not like - we plan ahead, smaller portions of 2 veggies if we know he only likes one, and he gets double what he likes while we take a little of each. We will not make entirely different meals, unless it's a wing it and eat leftovers kind of thing. He doesn't have to stay at the table or clean his plate, but he does have to clean up after himself, and he's not allowed to ask for something else if he still has food there. Depending on his mood, he may graze at his dinner off and on for an hour.

    Our goal is to avoid food being a major issue and center of power struggles. Nagging him to clear his dishes? That's fine. Arguing over what to eat, not so much. He does have to try new things at least once, but if he insists he doesn't like it, we don't choose that as a battle.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 1:21 AM on Jul. 1, 2011

  • Well, I suppose that might work if you only have one kid and don't mind catering to their changing whims. But when you have 5 kids that just sounds silly. What if they each want to eat at a different time? Am I supposed to just make 5 different meals at 5 different time. Oh and times breakfast, lunch, dinner. Because that's what would happen. Child A would want dinner at 3pm then be hungry again at 8pm (which happens to be bedtime) and Child B would want to eat at 4pm, Child C at 5pm, Child D at 3:30pm then again at 7pm, etc. They would eat constantly if I let them... like literally every hour they'd be shoving food in their mouths because they "think" they are hungry when they are just bored. They eat what I make when I make it. If they don't want to clear their plates that's fine but no complaining their hungry in an hour. Once dinner is over the food is put away and there is nothing to eat until the morning.

    Answer by justanotherjen at 2:31 AM on Jul. 1, 2011

  • We're similar to NotPanicking. I make food I know my children like, but I will not make separate meals for them. They do not have to eat everything on their plates, but if they don't eat anything, they are not coming back at bedtime saying they're hungry. They have breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and sometimes a treat. Sometimes my son will eat 5 pancakes, other times, he just wants a granola bar, and that's fine with me. If there is something he doesn't want to eat (he's very picky), he has to take a "no thank you bite" and he doesn't have to eat the rest.

    Answer by MeandMyBabes at 11:49 AM on Jul. 1, 2011

  • My son eats as much as he likes at scheduled meal and snack times. 


    Answer by chaiteamomma at 11:21 PM on Jun. 30, 2011

  • Yes---good answer DragonRiderMD. We always sat at the table and chatted and shared with each other. We were at the table for all meals.
    When I was married, we did the same. We didn't insist that the kids cleaned their plates. I cooked healthy food and I didn't panic if they didn't eat their veggies,LOL. We rarely had any desserts. Birthday cakes and maybe some home made chocolate chip cookies...LOL..but my Dh didn't like desserts and we just didn't have them. The kids were active in sports and they were healthy and fit---not chubby.

    Answer by minnesotanice at 11:23 PM on Jun. 30, 2011

  • My toddlers have attachment disorder and the eating disorders that go with it. One won't eat at all and has pica. The other won't stop. I also have a sister with CP and her body won't send the 'full' signal to her brain. So, according to many doctors, therapists, and nutritionalists that I have worked with it is important for a parent to know and practice portion control. It is better to make the plate for your child balanced nutritionally and with the correct portions/ amounts. Than it is important to make them eat all of it/ clean thier plate. If you want to teach a child to eat right you should teach them about what is in the food they are eating that is good for them and what is in the food they ate not eating that is bad for them. This is best taught while teaching them to cook and set the table. By allowing a child to not finish thier food you are a) giving them control and b) teaching them to eat what they want ...,

    Answer by Ms.Gwen at 9:20 AM on Jul. 1, 2011

  • I agree. My in-laws were the "clean your plate" people and there was a lot of obesity in the family.
    in my family, we ate small portions and as much as we wanted to "clean plate club". We were never fat or even chubby. My Mom made healthy meals but small meals. I never felt full..I felt comfortable. I was healthy. We didn't have leftovers because my Mom didn't cook huge quantities and put dinner in serving bowls and expect us to eat like adults. Too many kids have to eat too much to make Mommy happy.

    Answer by minnesotanice at 10:55 PM on Jun. 30, 2011