Mealtimes Policies: Banning Clean Plates

Mealtime policies are already an outdated concept, and you've probably realized that a big part of enjoying quality food is how you eat it. What better time to learn how to enjoy food and eat according to your needs, than when you're young? Teaching your child, and reminding their caregivers and teachers, how to eat right can make a big difference in what food means to him or her later in life. This is an excellent opportunity to turn away from "controlling food practices," or CFPs.

 Here are 7 reasons why it is  important to teach your kids to eat accordingly to their needs:

  1. Food Waste Isn't the Issue

 There's a lot of emphasis on "food waste" these days, and confusing that with personal eating habits can be easy. Food waste comes from institutional inefficiency. Your child's plate is not where the problem is!

  1. The Old Clean Your Plate Policy

 Speaking of your child's appetite, let's talk about the "clean plate club." It's a blast from the past that connected emotions with eating, instead of appetite, in a way that we now know can be trouble down the line. Research has shown that the clean your plate policy disconnected us from our natural senses of fullness and hunger.

  1. Respect the Food, Sell the Taste!

 There are a lot of ways that people take troubling shortcuts to make a child eat. For example, "be a big boy and eat all your beans." Is your future height at stake? Your pride? What if you're not hungry? Here's a better way: "here are some nice, fresh, tasty beans from our garden. Would you like some?" Enjoy food at the moment.

  1. Food as a Trophy

 Avoiding the reverse situation is also important – using food itself as part of a reward/punishment system. Keep food simple. When we're hungry, we eat good food. When we're not hungry, we respect that. Where do cookies for good behavior fit into that?

  1. Good Eating Habits and Good Health

 Researchers have even found that steering away from complicated ways of feeding like the clean your plate policy are essential to good health. Keeping it simple can help children avoid reaching for sugary sweet foods and snack foods, and lower their risk for obesity as they grow up.

  1. Let the Care Team Know Your Choice

 Providers may also feel pressure to have a clean your plate policy so that parents don't complain later. It's important to let daycare and other providers know about your concerns. Some specialists recommend creating a simple card which you can laminate and keep in your child's lunchbox to remind teachers and care providers.

  1. Food Choices are Part of Personality!

Your child is a special person, and a big part of the joy of parenting is discovering who she or he is. You'll discover their favorite foods, help them to enjoy nature's bounty and great flavors, and laugh at the faces they make when something doesn't taste great to them. Meals will be more about food, and less about performance. Instead of the clean your plate policy, they'll remember enjoyable tastes and shared family moments.

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