While walking through a shopping mall food court the other day, I saw a mother sitting with her toddler. The mother had a large portion of fast food and the child’s meal was not much smaller. “Clean your plate,” she told him, “or you’re not going to the playground this weekend!” Wow, I thought, walking by and trying so hard to not judge; this poor kid is either full or does not like the food, and yet he is being told that he must eat it all now in order to reap the rewards of play later on.
With pediatric obesity rates at an all time high, is this really the right message to be sending to our children?
A 2009 study in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that controlling parents that told their child to clean their plate were more likely to have kids that requested larger portions of sweetened cereals in a daycare setting. Essentially, these kids were programmed, in a sense, to continue eating, regardless of the cues provided by the hormone leptin, that they were full. They did this due to their sense that a reward or punishment was associated with the eating.
Another study just out in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that mothers who led by example and persuaded – rather than ordered – their kids to eat their vegetables had kids with healthier diets.
Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here. By ordering that a plate “be cleaned,” whether it’s healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, or not so healthy foods like sugary sweetened cereals, parents may be sending the wrong message and may actually cause their child to eat much larger portions than he or she wants or needs. With 17% of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years being obese, isn’t it time we taught our children to eat well, to eat whole foods, and to eat until satisfaction – not until fullness or for a day at the playground?
The Dr. Oz Show has given you the tools and tactics you need to live the healthiest life possible. You can help your child accomplish the same thing by leading by example!