Why Don’t Children Belong to the Clean Plate Club?

Different tableware on wooden background

Nothing is more frustrating to a parent than when their child refuses to finish his or her dinner. Thankfully, a new study by Cornell University might help to clarify and relieve parents of this somewhat common dinnertime frustration. A combination of six different studies, involving 326 elementary school aged children, revealed that without their parents present, children only eat about 60% of the food they serve themselves.

Eating to Meet Their Specific Needs

Most adults are members of the clean plate club, eating about 90% of the food on their plate. Therefore, it is only natural to expect our children to clean their plates as well. Instead, this new data from Cornell suggests that children aren’t being wasteful, nor disrespectful when refusing to finish their meal. It would seem that young children are still learning what they like to eat and how much food it takes to fill them up. Forcing them to finish their meal is in fact quite unnatural, say researchers.

Leaving All Dinner Options Open

So let this be a message to any disheartened parents out there still sitting at the dinner table waiting for their son or daughter to finish their broccoli. It is normal for a child to eat only half to two-thirds of the food they serve themselves as they better learn their appetite, their likes and their dislikes. And, while it is no doubt important to encourage your child to try new foods, it is also okay to let their membership in the clean plate club to remain entirely their option.

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