What to say, or not to say, to encourage kids to eat well.


Our local paper recently featured a great Washington Post article by Casey Seidenberg, titled “What to say, or not to say, to encourage kids to eat well.” Seidenberg suggests how your child might interpret comments like “You’re so picky!” and she offers some better alternatives. I love that it sheds some light on the famous “one more bite” rule, something we’ve never done with Grace. We need to trust our children and their appetites! Additionally, it discusses the potential downside of using dessert as a bribe to eat healthy food or exhibit good behavior. I thought I’d share a few examples that stuck out to me:

What the adult says: “Eat five more bites.”

What the child thinks: “My parents don’t think I am capable of deciding when I am full. They’re just trying to control me.”

A better alternative: “Be sure to get enough to eat now, because it’s a long time until the next meal.”

What the adult says: “If you eat your vegetables, you can have desert.”

What the child thinks: “There’s no reason to like vegetables. They are only the means to get a sugary snack.”

A better alternative: “Vegetables can protect you from colds, heal your wounds, help your eyesight and keep you healthy.”

Note: I actually don’t think that using this alternative would be helpful for young children. Toddlers don’t really understand yet why it’s important to eat healthy and to be honest likely don’t care. Ha! Instead I would suggest just encouraging your children to try it by making it fun or making a vegetable dish you think they would like. For example maybe if your child likes hummus, trying serving it with a beautiful spread of peppers, cucumbers and radishes for dipping!

What the adult says: “If you behave, you can have a piece of candy.”

What the child things: “Whenever I’m good, I will be rewarded with food.”

A better alternative: “I expect you to listen and follow instructions.” Leave food out of the question.

Couldn’t agree more with these and would love to know what you all think! Here is a link to a similar online version of the article in Huffington Post.

P.S. I snapped this picture over a year ago when Grace dove into her first bowl of freshly picked blueberries. I swear this was just yesterday!


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