We don’t have a Clean Plate Club at my house.
We don’t, and we won’t. Grace has enough risk factors for obesity, thank you very much.
I wondered, though, how much food she really does need to eat at each meal. Should I continue to let her eat nothing if that’s what she chooses?
On the other hand, when does the toddler who will eat when she’s hungry turn into the preschooler who refuses to eat dinner because she’s holding out for graham crackers for supper and M&Ms for dessert?
I’m just wondering ’cause I think Gracie has made the switch.
Remember Connie Diekman, the Registered Dietitian that I met at the Sara Lee Back to School Nutrition Summit? I talked to her about exactly this issue.
Connie’s advice was that children should eat one tablespoon of food per year of life from each food offered at each meal. She also mentioned that a meal should include at least three of the five food groups.
In other words, my 2-year-old should probably eat about 2 tablespoons of pork chops, 2 tablespoons of potatoes, and 2 tablespoons of grilled zucchini if that’s what the rest of us are having. Or 6 tablespoons of creamy chicken burritos. Or 6 tablespoons of beef stew. Or whatever.
However, Connie stressed that guidelines are not hard and fast rules. They’re suggestions, recommendations, advice. Every kid will have a bigger or smaller appetite on different days, and “normal” appetites vary wildly between different kids.
The Two Bites Rule
Grace is 2. Based on Connie’s suggestions, she should eat 2 tablespoons of each food at each meal. We translated that into bites, since that would make more sense to our 2-year-old.
Grace knows that she must eat 2 bites of each food on her plate in order to get down from the table.That’s it. If there’s something she doesn’t love, she takes bites so small you would need a microscope to find them.
Sometimes, she eats two tiny bites, realizes she likes it, and then eats more. Sometimes, she doesn’t.
If Grace lobbies for dessert – graham crackers, a lollipop, or some other treat – we up the ante. She doesn’t get the treat unless she eats her full portion. We aren’t substituting junk for good, healthy meals.
Of course, if Grace was sick or there was some other special circumstance, we would not force her to eat 2 bites of each food. It’s a guideline, remember? We’re flexible when it’s appropriate.
Grace’s Kitchen Friends
Please join in Grace’s Kitchen Friends! To play along, all you have to do is fill out MckLinky below. You can link up any post that talks about kids and food:
- feeding kids
- cooking with kids
- kids’ nutrition
- play with food or play kitchens
- crafts with or about food
- There are a lot of other kids and food things I haven’t listed (like growing food with kids or fun recipes that kids love!), so please don’t feel limited.
I’m easy like that, Dear Reader. The only thing I ask is that you link back here to Grace’s Kitchen Friends in your post. I can’t wait to see what your kids are doing!
© 2009 – 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.