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Pushing kids to eat may cause obesity later
April 22nd, 2013
12:05 AM ET

Pushing kids to eat may cause obesity later

While growing up, many children may have heard "clean your plate" or been denied candy. But how do parental attitudes toward food affect a child's weight?

Denying certain foods to children or pressuring them to eat every bit of a meal are common practices among many parents. But researchers at the University of Minnesota found parents who restricted foods were more likely to have overweight or obese children. And while those who pressured children to eat all of their meals mostly had children of normal weight, it adversely affected the way those children ate as they grew older, according to the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Investigators combined data from two separate research studies. The first, EAT 2010 (Eating and Activity in Teens), studied around 2,800 middle and high school students from public schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Participants in the project responded to survey questionnaires designed to examine dietary intake and weight status.

Researchers combined that data with information from the Project F-EAT (Families and Eating and Activity Among Teens), a study designed to examine factors within the family environment on weight in adolescents.

From the combined information, researchers were able to gain a better understanding of how parents' approach to food and feeding is related to adolescents' weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just a generation ago.

“We found that between 50 and 60% of parents from our sample reported requiring that their child eat all of the food on their plate at a meal," said researcher Katie Loth, the study's lead author. "Further, we found that between 30-40% of parents from within our sample reported encouraging their child to continue eating even after their child stated that they were full.

"While these pressure-to-eat behaviors were more frequent among parents of non-overweight adolescents, they were still endorsed quite frequently by parents of overweight and obese adolescents, indicating that many parents endorse these behaviors regardless of their child's current weight status," she said.

Researchers also found dads were more likely than moms to pressure their sons and daughters to eat, and adolescent boys were pressured more than adolescent girls.

“Parental pressure to eat can be detrimental to children because it takes away from a child's ability to respond naturally to their own hunger," said Loth. “Instead, (it) encourages them to respond to cues in their environment which can lead to unhealthy weight gain over time.”

The data also showed that restricting food from kids was a common practice of either parent, in both boys and girls.

“Research has shown that when a parent places a restriction on a particular food item (i.e. no treats) that a child becomes more interested in consuming that food item and will often overeat that food when given the opportunity,” Loth continued. “Instead, parents should be encouraged to allow their children to eat all foods in moderation.”

Investigators believe that parents should keep an eye on their child's weight and make an effort to better understand good eating practices, instead of worrying about whether their kids clean their plates or have a cookie now and then.

Study authors recommended such practices as eating regular family meals, having nutritious snacks at home, choosing healthy foods and encouraging young people to make better food choices as a way to fight weight problems, Loth said.

And most importantly,  “parents should also work hard to model healthy eating and a healthy relationship with food to their child" by eating a well-balanced diet, Loth said.


soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Joshua

    This article has a lot on what not to do, but is missing the guidance on what to do. I recommend only having healthy food in the house and not restricting access to anything. It is also a good idea to ask the kids what they want for dinner, giving them options based upon what you have to cook from.

    April 22, 2013 at 08:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Justin H

      Having health food and plastic wrap is important with kids. Our 2 year old like to graze. At first we saw it as a hassle, but now we just feed her healthy well balanced snacks when she is hungry. When she won't eat dinner, we just wrap it and put it in the fridge. It is there when she wants it.

      April 22, 2013 at 12:23 | Report abuse |
    • Didi

      A few more hints:

      You shouldn't give a kid a huge portion to begin with. Healthy food choices aren't as effective when consumed to excess. (Should be obvious, but too few people can identify proper serving sizes.)

      When the kids are old enough to say what they'd like for supper, they can also help prepare it. Over time they'll learn to prepare good meals for themselves.

      Set aside a window of time for meals. Watching your child eat on a daily basis will teach you about your child's "full" setting. He might need to eat half his dinner and then come back to the rest after a break (usually more common when kids are younger), or he might tend to wolf his food and need reminding to slow down.

      Proper nutrition is important, but don't take every meal too seriously. Everyone enjoys a break now and then. An occasional unfinished helping of carrots or skipping the chicken to save room for cake isn't going to sabotage anyone's health. Just don't make it a habit.

      April 22, 2013 at 13:39 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      I watched our children fill our grandchildren's plates with adult size servings then badger them about finishing every bite or no dessert. I probably did the same to my kids as they grew up. So now before family get togethers I remind my kids to not overfill plates for the grandkids, put small portions on and if they want more they can have more. This resulted in much happier get togethers!

      Judging from the picture in this article, I think that is sausage? Looks awful. But most of the meal is starch, nothing healthy on that plate of soft, bland mush.

      April 22, 2013 at 17:23 | Report abuse |
    • Katie Loth

      Thank you for your interest in my study. I echo your suggestion that parents be critical about what types of food they bring into their house, making sure to provide plenty of healthy and easy-to-eat options alongside occasional treats. By keeping a good balance of food in your home, parents can feel comfortable letting their teen make their own choices about what snacks to eat, knowing that they have provided them with great options to choose from. At meal-times, I recommend that parents make the decision about what types of foods to serve and then let their teen decide how much of each food item to eat.

      April 22, 2013 at 22:31 | Report abuse |
    • Heather B

      I found this article to be very interesting, especially because as a child I was told to make sure to "clean my plate". However, the main reason I was told this was because I would save all of the vegetables and fruits until the end and then I would complain I was too full to finish it. Children need to understand the importance of eating a healthy meal, and parents can set that example for them at a young age so they carry it with them throughout their lives. While it is important that students eat their food, it really depends on what kind of food they are eating and how big the portions are. As discussed in this study, a lot of parents believe the best way to keep their students healthy and decrease their chances of being obese is to make sure they don't eat certain foods, which in reality, restricting can have the opposite effect. I believe the recommendations given in the article such as "eating regular family meals, having nutritious snacks at home, choosing healthy foods and encouraging young people to make better food choices as a way to fight weight problems..parents should also work hard to model healthy eating and a healthy relationship with food to their child by eating a well-balanced diet" are the best ways to make sure children understand what they are putting into their bodies. The most important thing discussed in this article is to emphasis eating in moderation. It is ok to have treats, just not the entire bag. There is so much pressure on dieting and eating, when in reality, eating should be something that is enjoyable and not stressful.

      April 23, 2013 at 19:19 | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      I agree Joshua. No one should ever "restrict" behaviors. It's a good way to promote anorexia or obesity, because if you have to restrict, than you are eating crap. Cut down on animal products and eat plant-based.

      June 12, 2013 at 09:12 | Report abuse |
  2. Tman

    I make, or at least try to get my kids to eat everything on their plate unless they are sick or something. Why? Because I give them a balanced meal in proportion to what they can easily consume. I also know that children will tell you they are full so that they don't have to sit at the table any longer, only to ask for the cookies 10 minutes later because they are "hungry". I don't believe kid's should be given total free-reign of their dietary choices, at least not for breakfast, lunch or dinner. In between snacks, okay to some degree. If children had the capacity to make good choices on their own, (I'm sure there may be a few who can), they wouldn't have much of a need for parents.

    April 22, 2013 at 08:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • What Now

      Thank you, Tman. A parent's job is to teach their children. If we allowed children to make all their decisions, they would never mature. Deep fried chicken nuggets are hardly a healthly choice, but most kids I know would request that for every meal if given the option.

      April 22, 2013 at 09:28 | Report abuse |
    • Unegen

      Or, y'know, you could just let them stop eating when they're full and not give them cookies.
      What a concept.

      April 22, 2013 at 10:27 | Report abuse |
    • steve

      I agree. Nice response Tman. It seems like the researchers never had kids themselves. My kids will say, 'Dad, I'm full but can I have desert?' A protein, a starch, and a vegetable or friut for every meal. If they eat well, they get a small desert. "How can you eat your pudding if can't eat any meat?"

      April 22, 2013 at 10:34 | Report abuse |
    • Tman

      Unegen, if you're concept is to just let my kids go hungry, then I disagree. I don't believe in denying my children food or letting them go to bed hungry, but what I won't allow is them force my hand into allowing them to have what they want, when they want. If you have kids and actually spend any amount of time with them, then you pretty much know how much they can eat and if they are actually full or not. I've had enough practice at this to know that most of the time when they clean their plate at dinner, they hardly ask for snacks the rest of the night.

      April 22, 2013 at 10:57 | Report abuse |
    • Mot

      Tman...they used to call this 'common sense'. And they said it was gone. Glad to see some still have it.

      April 22, 2013 at 11:53 | Report abuse |
    • eewrites

      Sorry, but I don't think this is common sense. Why would you want to teach your child that you know better than their own body when thery are hungry? Yes, I do have a kid. And I have no concerns that if I provide healthy meals and snacks that she will starve. Her body can tell her how much she wants. If she eats very little we leave it on the table and she can come back to it later. We have small deserts every night and she knows what healthy foods are. I think telling a child how much they should eat fosters dependence.

      April 22, 2013 at 12:29 | Report abuse |
    • mm1970

      I don't force my son to finish if he's not hungry, but he doesn't get cookies 10 min later either. I simply save the rest of his dinner on his plate in the fridge. If he's hungry any time in the next 1.5 hours (till bedtime), he can finish his dinner.

      April 22, 2013 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
    • Just another mom

      Fully agree. We insist on a healthy dinner...Start with a small portion, then get more if you need it. We also know our kids will claim being full to try and skip out on veggies sometimes. Our solution is that they can stop eating at any time. However, they are not permitted anything else until they come back and finish the meal. When reminded of this rule, it's amazing how much room they suddenly have to finish the broccolli in order for that cookie they want for dessert. On a few occasions, they've actually decided they were full enough to stop and in those cases, we've wrapped up dinner and left it in the fridge. Sometimes they come back, and other times they simply aren't hungry and don't even request a snack. We also allow junk food in moderation....one "sweet" snack for dessert is fine (if you finished your dinner). If you're still hungry after that, we refer them to the cheese sticks, fruit, cereal, etc. that is in the kitchen. This simple approach is easy for the kids to remember, and easy for us to implement. As time goes on, I've noticed my kids often make better food choices even when they have junk food offered–they are quick to grab a yogurt or watermelon after school as their first snack.

      April 22, 2013 at 14:13 | Report abuse |
    • Jan

      While what you say makes sense in terms of nutrition management for a child AND the evidence mentioned in this article is that your kind of parental control over childhood eating does not result in children with weight problems, this style of parenting seems to result in an increased risk of weight problems for the children when they become adults. It is "good management," but good management does not always teach all of the lessons we consider high priority for our kids to learn. Weight problems are often a result of the relationship people have developed with food & eating, and are related to control/power issues. Finding ways to steer our kids to eat well while also making them feel responsibility and ownership of their eating, developing a healthy relationship with food, is (I think) the parent's goal in food-related rules and family management. Simply making "good choices" for our kids and imposing them by parental decree often results in good childhood nutrition, followed by adult problems related to their relationship with food.

      April 22, 2013 at 16:26 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Tman I agree, parents need to judge what to feed the kids and use small portions they can handle. They won't ask for cookies 10 minutes later if you don't keep them in your house. And use variety and let the kids help make part of the meal.

      April 22, 2013 at 17:28 | Report abuse |
    • MommaMoose

      You have no idea how nice it is to see your response. It seems like people are so obsessed with not messing their kids up these days, they end up letting their kids have complete control over them... And everyone will see just how much -that's- messing them up, when this generation grows up.

      My father made my siblings and I eat everything on our plates. Out of the four, not a single one of us is overweight. He was raised in an Italian family, where he was expected to clear his plate and then some; and he's fit as a fiddle. We rarely ever got deserts or snacks. We were just taught to be thankful for our food, and there are others far less fortunate than us.

      April 24, 2013 at 00:01 | Report abuse |
  3. mothertoason

    So instead of people taking responsibility for how and what they eat you're just going to blame the food industry?
    Are we going to start blaming gyms and athletic companies for not making exercise more desirable to fat people?

    April 22, 2013 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Praeses

    That happened to me! My parents always demanded that I clean my plate or go without dessert. They didn't know it, but they were teaching me to ignore my "full" triggers, and I've had problems putting down the fork ever since.

    Because of this, I never tell my kids to clean their plate. Whenever they tell me they're full, I tell them they're smart to listen to their bodies and stop eating.

    Keeping healthy foods in the house and giving them meals with sensible proportions, with small servings for dessert doesn't hurt, either.

    April 22, 2013 at 09:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Ellen

    “Parental pressure to eat can be detrimental to children because it takes away from a child's ability to respond naturally to their own hunger," said Loth. “Instead, (it) encourages them to respond to cues in their environment which can lead to unhealthy weight gain over time.”

    Doesn't it seem silly to finance a bunch of studies to come up with a conclusion such as the one above, which is just a matter of common sense?

    April 22, 2013 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Unegen

      True, but look how few parents have common sense.

      April 22, 2013 at 10:29 | Report abuse |
    • wuzzup

      I agree with Unegen...

      Why is it assumed that everyone has "common sense"? Anyone whose done any traveling in Asia and Europe can clearly see that Americans have a serious problem with food...It's "common sense". Anyone whose visited any diet board can clearly see that most Americans are clueless as to why they're overweight and what to do about it...It's "common sense". One thing that should be crystal clear to anyone with even a shred of "common sense": Most adult Americans are facing serious health issues in the coming years and shouldn't be talking about what's a healthy portion size or diet for children as if that was "common sense"...

      and, that, my friends, is "common sense"...

      April 22, 2013 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
  6. Dan I

    Seriously? Yes, you shouldn't tell your kid to "clean their plate" if you give them a mountain of food! What we should do is not give them so much food and then demand they eat it all. Everyone should dial back the portion size.

    It can be more difficult before a child can communicate effectively. My wife and I proably give our daughter, who can't really talk yet, too much food but we don't force her to eat it all. We have a pretty good idea of when she's "had enough."

    April 22, 2013 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Meesh

      That's why you shouldn't give them a mountain of food, but let them decide how much they will eat. Sometimes kids may put too much on their plate, which is when their parents are supposed to remind them. But the kids know when they are full and when they can eat more, so they should be the ones to decide.

      May 1, 2013 at 16:45 | Report abuse |
  7. Donnie the Lion

    Serve smaller portions. A doctor will tell you, for most everyone in the U.S. hunger is psychological. We eat a lot more than we need to because we are served too much or we take too much.

    April 22, 2013 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Elizabeth Kay

    I believe that there should be some limitations on what our children eat, but they should not be told that they have to clean their plate all the time. However, parents need to make sure that there are getting the proper nutrition that they need. Obesity is definitely a problem in America, and we need to find a way to stop it. To go along with this we also need to make sure that parents encourage their children to be physically active. The combination of children eating too much and not being physically active is what is causing this growth in obesity.

    April 22, 2013 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. ED

    The 'researchers' should have researched a bit more, they might have learned that most of today's mothers feed their children at fast food restaurants. This may be explainable being these mothers were brought up the same by their mothers. It is so much easier to feed their children junk food, the children love nothing better than to dine out at fast food restaurants, everyone is happy. So far as that goes, being the mothers being brought up with junk food diets they enjoy the junk food with their children. Many of these fine mothers are considerably overweight if not obese. On the other hand the 'researchers' finding makes interesting reading. Love these researchers. The 'researchers' finding I enjoyed the most was the one that discovered school girl pregnancies resulted from their addiction to motherhood.

    April 22, 2013 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Katie

    If making a child eat all his food led to obesity, there would be nothing but obesity in the world today.

    How about not rewarding children with food? How about not confusing love with food? How about fixing more nutritious meals instead of cheap, empty calorie crap? How about taking a real stand against all the 'food' targeted directly at children (sugar cereals, after school snacks eg) and the stuff marketed to busy parents (fast foods, processed foods eg) so they believe they don't have time or money to cook a proper meal?

    April 22, 2013 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Caroline

    You are right Anna! I battle every day with my kids not to eat junk food. Peer pressure and commercials are very powerful. I have to make unnecessary daily fights, if they were not in the market, would be so much easier.

    April 22, 2013 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bmsvds

      Caroline, I have no idea the ages of your kids but you are on target. Our local high school has a Pizza Hut outlet & a Chick-Fil-A outlet in the lunchroom. When I approached the ISD nutritionist about this atrocity, she said that the food they provide is within the state's (Texas) established nutritional guidelines (per serving) for children. Can you believe that?

      April 22, 2013 at 20:26 | Report abuse |
    • KJ

      If you don't keep junk food in the house then you are doing the best you can..if they eat some at school it's not going to kill them. It's the people that are loaded up at home on soda and junk food that are overweight.

      April 23, 2013 at 07:47 | Report abuse |
  12. CR

    I grew up eating home-cooked, nutritious meals and a food-pushing mother who forced me to eat everything on my plate.
    And now, I have a horrible relationship with food. It has become a relentless cycle of bingeing and starving myself. I go on diets and eat healthy with no processed, but become so physically and psychologically deprived that I binge on junk food.
    I never listened to my hunger and fullness signals, and now as an adult, I'm relearning how to eat all over again. Please read the book "Intuitive Eating."

    April 22, 2013 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Damiana

    I don't know about "cleaning your plate" but it's a good idea to have the children eat everything on their plate before they can have dessert. Like a baby knows when they are full, even from that tiny age, they will push a bottle away if they're not hungry anymore. I always told my kids that they had to eat at least take one bite of everything on the plate, and I started off with just a little bit and if they wanted more they could have more. Now they make their own plates. if they make the plate and they don't eat it, I don't get angry, but I try to get them to not be wasteful with it. I try to make a lot of meals with vegetables and such to make it healthy, but sometimes it is very hard with a busy schedule and work and such, especially with kids becoming teenagers and being all over the place. It's an enjoyable experience, but it is difficult especially when it comes to food. So often it is so easy to turn to going to get something quick to eat because you're tired from work and you still have to deal with things when you get home, but try the best you can to cook...it's difficult, yes, but it's the best thing...sometimes I had gotten to the point where I had to cook on the weekend and freeze meals for the following week because I was so busy...it is a hard road, but worth it in the end. I wish everyone good luck on it. :)

    April 22, 2013 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ted

    Clean your plate and go to bed CNN!

    April 22, 2013 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Leslie Schilling, MA, RD, CSSD, LDN

    Reblogged this on Born to Eat! and commented:
    Great post. Pushing food, or restricting it, often backfires...

    April 22, 2013 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie Loth

      Thank you Leslie, for your interest in my research and for re-posting this article in a place that others with similar interests might find it.

      April 22, 2013 at 22:36 | Report abuse |
  16. rahalt

    Disagree with the author, Kids need to eat all of a properly portioned balanced meal. If they do not eat the meal they will shortly become hungry again and this time fill up on a less healthy alternative. You do not have to ban food, if my kids ask for a cookie before dinner I simply tell them that after dinner they can have one, most nights by the time they have eaten dinner they dont want the cookie anymore.

    April 22, 2013 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. ohm

    The suggestion to let children eat "all foods in moderation" is problematic when food companies are coming up with more and more unhealthy foods across wide spectrums of food types. Clearly the author is referring generically to sweets, but does that mean I should be giving my kid a little bit of sugared cereal, and then a little bit of ice cream, and a little bit of hard candy, and a little bit of soda... and on and on... if you don't set any limit you can quickly consume an entire diet's worth of bad food.

    April 22, 2013 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • M.E.

      You are the adult, you control what goes into the fridge, just don't buy junk food. If they beg for it, just say no. It's really very simple. If they want cereal, get them something without sugar (rice krispies, corn flakes, chex, etc) and slice fruit onto it.

      April 22, 2013 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
    • Katie Loth

      Thank you for your interest in my study. It is true that the phrase “all foods in moderation” can be confusing and can be difficult to put into action. My suggestion would be to provide your child with a wide variety of foods, with a focus on making sure to have plenty of healthy and easy-to-eat snack options, along with occasional treats. By keeping a good balance of food in your home you can feel good about allowing your child or teen to make choices about what snacks to eat. At mealtimes, I recommend that parents choose what foods to serve and then allow their child or teen to choose how much of each food to eat.

      April 22, 2013 at 22:47 | Report abuse |
  18. Bob C.

    I never force my kids to finish their plate. You just have to make sure they each a little bit of everything on it. And if they're hungry later, I give them a healthy snack (raw fruits or vegetables). If they're not finishing all of their plate, just put a little less on it next time. If they finish the small plate and are still hungry, they can always go back for seconds.

    April 22, 2013 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. The Truth

    There is an old military mess hall maxim that applies, "you take what you want, but you eat what you take." This teaches children correct eating habits. You want to dump a whole bunch of corn on your plate, fine but you are going to eat it all. You don't know if you will like something, take just a small taste so you don't waste it. You take some and if your hungry go back for more, now your learning!

    Another thing parents should never do is make a meal and make a separate meal for a kid. The child needs to learn to eat what has been prepared and not to expect the parents to make them their own food that they like better. This above all else creates unbalanced eating habits that lead to poor nutrition and food choices later in life. Plus you yield on food, you are going to yield on everything else. You are their parent, not their friend.

    April 22, 2013 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dawn

      I have to disagree on the comment to never make a child a separate meal from the adults. I have three girls ages 3-7. They all have different dietary restrictions. Milk and wheat can not be included in any of their diets, but the 5 year old also has trouble with foods like tomatoes, avocados, bell peppers and broccoli. We manage a very healthy vegetarian with eggs diet for all of the girls and the adults in the house, but I frequently make 2 or 3 meals to meal everyone's dietary needs. The kids are all at their ideal height/ weight ratios and think that the best desert in the world is "ice cream" which is frozen berries and bananas made in the blender. You have to do what works for your family. The important thing is that the healthy food is in the majority and the junk is in the minority.

      April 23, 2013 at 00:15 | Report abuse |
  20. M.E.

    If you're having to force your kids to clean their plates, perhaps don't load their plates with so much food in the first place. America has a portion control problem and it's not just at restaurants.

    April 22, 2013 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. kdw31

    As others have suggested don't give children a ton of food. My kids are super thin (under 10th percentile) and never eat a lot. The rule in our house is you must take a bite of everything before you leave the table. Other than that I don't care how much they eat. We have a small desert an hour later right before bath. Usually I try for either a homemade treat (cookie, ice cream) or yogurt and fruit. Most of the time they don't even finish their little treats. We do healthy snacks. My kids both help in some way making dinner (they are 1.5 and 3.5 years old) and they help with shopping. I ask them what they would like for dinner during the week (with suggestions), they also get to pick a special fruit and vegetable (which is why we had kale this past week). Sure we buy candy on occasion, but if we do that is what they have for dessert. It's not an any time item.

    April 22, 2013 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. bmsvds

    Clean Your Plate means something much different than it did a couple generations ago. Parents are feeding kids unhealthy food (think mac & cheese, Nutella, chicken nuggets) and larger portions on the plate. Obesity? Put these awful foods in large portions under a Clean Your Plate ideology and that is what you'll have.

    April 22, 2013 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. carol

    1. Keep portion sizes smaller than you think is sufficient. Let them ask for seconds if they want. Never force them to finish.

    2.Don't serve desert after a meal. Who in their right mind though it would be a good idea to load up further on sugars and empty cards AFTER you are already full? Desert after meals, let alone using it to force kids finish their plates, messes up healthy eating habits big time.

    3. Don't keep cookies, PB, jams, cereals, bread or pastry, or other junk food in the house, period. Only food available between meals should be leftovers and fresh fruits and veggies, milk and plain yogurt, and unprocessed nuts.

    4. Don't use food as reward or punishment. Ever.

    5. Don't be lazy. You cannot pour a healthy breakfast, or any type of real food from of a box.

    April 22, 2013 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Fiona

    The meal shown in that stock photo is poison.

    April 22, 2013 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Shane

    I had some fairly crappy parents, but one thing they didn't do is pull the "clean your plate" move on me. I ate until I wasn't hungry, I scraped the rest into the trash can and went on with life. I still do the same now, and I don't have weight problems.

    I'm not going to pretend that this was the only factor in my weight, but it didn't hurt.

    April 23, 2013 at 01:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Why throw out food? The only positive aspect of "clean your plate" is that it cuts down on waste. I am all for not putting too much food on the plate in the first place and saving for later. Also, if you have to throw it out you could be composting. I am a life-long slim person who gets overwhelmed if there is too much food on my plate to the point I have to remove some before I can even start eating.

      April 23, 2013 at 13:33 | Report abuse |
    • JT

      Yeah I'm the same way. If I'm full and I liked the meal (and there's enough left) I will save it for later. If it's just a bite of food more than I wanted or if it just wasn't that good I toss it.

      My girlfriend has been trying to lose weight but was brought up to eat every bit of food and never waste anything. As a consequence our fridge is full of left over food that she feels compelled to eat before it goes bad, even if she isn't really hungry or if it's something like month old cheesecake.

      I get called wasteful, and I don't deny it to some degree. I don't set out to waste food or anything else, but I'm not going to let the "guilt" force me into eating more than I need or something I don't like. Last time I checked we aren't rationing food anymore.

      I look at it as what's worse: consuming/wasting slightly more resources in a country that's overflowing with them, or making myself unhealthy?

      May 3, 2013 at 10:52 | Report abuse |
  26. Shewillbemine

    And let's counteract this article with another one talking about the girl who only eats Ramen noodles. The key is balance. Use the Three Bears as the example: teach your kids to eat juuust right.

    April 23, 2013 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. KJ

    I agree..I've found my children tend to eat what they need..I can tell when they are going through a growth spurt because they'll eat more. Obviously if they eat no dinner and want to go straight to dessert we'll have an issue...also, if they want I allow them a piece of candy a day so it's nothing "evil" or a temptation they want all of the time. Half the time they don't even take any. Pick your battles...mealtime and food shouldn't be a battle.

    April 23, 2013 at 07:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. CJ

    The article and comments here are really interesting. So many different approaches to teaching kids how to eat! When I was a kid, I was encouraged to clean my plate and praised for being a "good eater" when I finished everything–until I started getting fat around 4th grade, at which point I'd been eating adult-sized portions for a while. That lead to quite the struggle for a few years, with Mom trying to restrict my diet and Dad trying to get me to eat more because "she's hungry!" I struggled with eating disorders as a teenager and young adult because I had such an emotionally complicated relationship with food. As an adult, it's taken a long time for me to dissassociate emotion from food and just enjoy good, healthy food for what it is without considering it a punishment or a reward. My brothers were allowed to eat whatever they wanted until they were full, and they never had these problems.

    April 23, 2013 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Josie

    My parents rules were simple. If you served yourself, you had to eat ALL of it. If they served you, you ate until you were full. Adults tend to over serve kids portions as it is, serve a small portion and if they want more after that, then let them. When it came to new items, we had to take one bite at least....it tends to take a kid several tries of a new food item before they can honostly say they don't like it. I have very few things that I cannot or won't eat and yes I have tried them. My parents kept fruits in the house for sweets. But my mom still made home-made cookies and other things and we were allowed to have one after dinner. Sadly with the grandkids my parents had to change a few of their rules. They have a grandaughter who lives on junk-food when she is home and hates normal meals...so they tend to not have desert those nights and at least then she gets a decent meal. My kids will take a piece of fruit for desert or even with their meals and tends to ask for seconds....and both are thin, but are very active as well.

    April 23, 2013 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. MysteriaKiito

    We give our kids a reasonable amount of food on their plate. My daughter(5 years old) will complaining every 10 minutes all day long that she is hungry but when it comes to an actual meal time she refuses to eat. Why? Because she doesn't want the food we give her she wants junk. Sorry but I'd rather make her clean her plate of actual healthy food than allow her to eat junk 24/7. She is the type that will stop eating her dinner, claiming to be full, then ask for ice cream or cookies right away because she's hungry. Not going to fly. My son is a picky eater as well. He'd eat cereal all day every day if we let him. He's really skinny for his age due to this, so we HAVE to make him clean his plate. I do teach my kids about calories and that certain foods are healthy and some are not. My daughter is only a healthy weight because we limit her junk food intake and my son is slowly gaining weight because we're more on top of his eating habits(he has been the same pants size since he was 3 and he's 8 now!). If we didn't make that kid clean his plate he'd waste away.

    April 23, 2013 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      What does his physician say? That is really concerning.

      April 23, 2013 at 13:39 | Report abuse |
    • shorty0547

      I believe there is something more going on with your kid if he is 8 and in the same pants he was in at age 3. Have you taken him to a doctor? I personally try not to make the food "battle" in my house into a "war." NO. I don't believe a child should be FORCED to clean his plate and I do believe children should be allowed to leave the table when they are not hungry and then later eat their plate from dinner that is wrapped up in the fridge. No ,children are not little adults but think about it this way, as an adult, aren't you sometimes just simply not hungry at meal times and then by the time 7:30 rolls around you are starviing?

      April 23, 2013 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
  31. ben

    Cleaning the plate really only applied to kids refusing to eat their veggies

    April 23, 2013 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. galahadsmom

    formula and bottles are often the start of the "clean your plate club"
    With breastfeeding, babies eat more slowly and deliberately until they are full - and then they stop.

    April 23, 2013 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Darliene Howell

    I would like to recommend the free NAAFA Child Advocacy ToolkitSM (CATK) to assist you looking at programs. The total health of our nation's children is a serious responsibility.

    The NAAFA Child Advocacy Toolkit shows how Health At Every Size® takes the focus off weight and directs it to healthful eating and enjoyable movement. It addresses bullying, building positive self-image and eliminating stigmatization of large children. Additionally, the CATK lists resources available to parents and educators or caregivers for educational materials, curriculum and programming that is beneficial for all children. It can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/7ma5bml

    April 24, 2013 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Dean Bona

    It is important that we teach our youth to eat small, healthy meals, often versus large 3 meals a day. Less frequent meals lead to obesity as the body starts to starve after 3 hours, thus it will store food as fat (stored energy). Keep the furnace burning all day with small meals.

    Dean Bona

    http://www.deanbona.com

    April 28, 2013 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Em

    I am a kid. I know what its like. I am not so young anymore so I understand when I can eat more. My mom is very healthy and doesn't buy junk food and only buys organic food. I can search the cupboards how much i want and i still won't find sweets. Of course there are some foods like dark chocolate covered almonds, that are sweet but aren't going make you fat. I go to school, and i see what other kids' moms' pack them. They always have a lot of candy. And as much as I want it and hate that my mom makes me eat healthy, I do appreciate it because i know that being healthy is more important than eating candy or junk food. And most importantly my mom doesn't enforce the rule where i have to finish all my food. I simply eat until I'm full.

    May 1, 2013 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
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  37. Odalice Feliz

    some are extremist in the food area

    May 14, 2013 at 03:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Jamie

    Em, Almonds make you fat in excess. They are good for you though, but only a few hand fulls/week.

    June 12, 2013 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. mimi

    Making kids eat is NOT what causes obesity today. Starting addressing the root cause instead of spending time and money on drawing these non-sense conclusions. More than enough scientific studies have shown reasons cause obesity is the poor standard American diet, simple. Too much processed food, meat and dairy and GMO foods. If people eat more vegetables and no processed foods, people will not get fat. Is this too simple and not exciting enough to be published in articles?

    August 5, 2013 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Sarah

    I always force my kids to finish their cereal and milk. Period. Since they should be finishing the foods to be healthy and will gain good habits this way. My babysitter usually feeds my daughter and she always feeds her until she has a full stomach. It takes a long time, but that's how it is in our house. Don't worry, we don't force her to eat, but we just urge her to finish her bowl of cereal with her milk at the same time. Her eating schedule is eating cereal and drinking milk at the same time. She's now not obese, with just a normal weight. The only thing is that her tummy gets really full after wards.
    And the milk is always needed to be finished. She eats one mouthful of cereal and then we let her swallow it with the milk, which makes her eat faster. There are some times that she really doesn't want it but we still force her. My babysitter Patricia just gives her stickers every time she eats one bite. And if she doesn't throw up a little after eating, we give her a little more. It's always like this for 3 meals of the day. Between meals we give her milk too. Therefore, she's never hungry and always has a full stomach. Oh, and after eating, we force her to drink a cup of water to make her healthy. The cereal is a full bowl. I believe this way is really good for her.

    August 20, 2013 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.