The 10 Commandments of Healthy Eating for Parents

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It’s as simple as counting to 10!

  1. Thou shalt not force, bribe or coerce thy child to eat.
  2. Thou shalt set a good example by eating at least five fruits and vegetables, three whole grain products, and three dairy servings per day thyself.
  3. Thou shalt make mealtimes pleasant.
  4. Thou shalt encourage thy child to help in meal planning, preparation, and cleanup.
  5. Thou shalt back off when mealtime becomes a power struggle.
  6. Thou shalt accept food "binges" as phases that will eventually pass.
  7. Thou shalt accept the fact that thy child is an individual and thus will dislike certain foods (and there may be many).
  8. Thou shalt not give up on introducing thy child to new foods. Thou shalt realize it sometimes takes 10 tries to get a child to accept a food.
  9. Thou shalt use this division of responsibility for eating: As the parent, thou art responsible for deciding when and what to serve. Thy child is responsible for deciding how much (if any) will be eaten.
  10. Thou shalt give thy child a multivitamin-mineral supplement if he is a picky eater.

Parents: Do you have any of your own "commandments" to add?

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NIKO27 1/14/2020
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Great list! Report
I agree with these. My children were expected to eat what was served. I always prepared enough choices in case they didn't like something. Report
Great advice. Report
Great read! Report
Only 10 times! To introduce a new food to a child. Isn't 10 times just for babies? I read it was 21 times and my experience is it may be more. Report
"You have to eat at least three pieces or you don't get recess." This is what my kindergarten teacher said to us on St Pat's day when she had the oh-so-brilliant idea to replace our usual snacktime fare with broccoli and dip. To this day I cannot think about Broccoli without getting nauseated. Last week I was at a restaurant where what I ordered came with a ginourmous branch of broccoli and the waiter giggled when I shoved it aside with a, "get thee behind me, Satan!" The rest of the veggies weren't bad. Just that freakin' broccoli. And don't talk to me about goulash. Ugh, I went hungry many a night as a child because of that particular dish. The rule was if you didn't like it you went without... which meant a lot of ninja-like sneaking to the kitchen after hours because I was starving. This led to sneaking food more and more often (the worse the food the more I sneaked) and even though I'm a grown up and can make my own food choices I still find myself being super quiet when I'm eating something less-than-healthy. I always save my bad snacking for when no one's around, and then I give myself crap for it. My new rule is "if I can't eat it in front of others, I'm not going to eat it at all." Report
I too was raised where you had to eat everything on your plate. Didn't take me long to move away from that once I moved out of my parents house. I was told to at least "try" something whenever we had something new, and for that I'm grateful, as I like a whole array of foods now, and my kids are the same. I also believe if a child doesn't want to eat what you're serving, or doesn't want to eat period, that is their perogative, but don't expect any thing else. My niece puts a snack in one hand and the meal in another and is trying to teach them "bad choices", but they choose the chips over dinner everytime. Someone has to be the adult. They are building bodies here. Report
I just read recently of a study that advised that parents should not force children to eat specific amounts of food and that they should allow the child to trust their own hunger and appetite. It said forcing kids to eat when they did not want to disrupted the body's normal hunger signals and could lead to overeating or eating disorders in the future. Report
Thou shalt have common sense. I actually don't like the 'one bite rule'. It's a set up for a power struggle. Serve healthy meals...eventually they see you loving it and one day they will try it! I have grown kids now who did not starve and who were exposed to all kinds of cuisine. They love all kinds of food and the grandkids now have some pretty amazing favorites! Of course, there is always the finicky one. They come around too! Report
I don't have kids either but I do think they are good rules. I also think about what I didn't like as a child and what I eat now, palates change, if they don't want something try to find an alternative. Report
I don't have kids, but those are very good rules. Report
Well done Report
This was so great because the other day I read an article in Utne magazine (I rarely have read that magazine, but it was lying around) about Shared Responsibility. So I was delighted to see commandment #9. That article blew my mind about how to deal with children's eating. But it made me realize how my poor eating habits were affected by my parents' attitude towards food. My father would serve us, then demand we clean our plates. He gave us too much food a lot of the time, which lead to our weight gain. Fascinating. Report
Number 2, setting a good example worked for me - my son grew up trying all kinds of food and as we were short of money, if he didn't eat what was served there weren't any other options other than go hungry! Also we made eating fun and he helped with cooking from a young age... encouraging a passion for trying new foods is good as it makes eating an adventure.

Mind you he still won't eat sprouts, but as he has at least tried them and will eat them at other peoples houses I will let him off at when he visits now he is 25! Report
I guess these are good, but how long do you let it go on when a child refuses to eat anything healthy? I know one who will eat nothing but desserts (all sugar filled, not fruit). She doesn't even eat Jello if fruit is put in it. How long can that continue? Report
With my boys, I find this list hilarious. They ate my leftovers. So our responses might be: 1. Hey, it isn't leftovers if it is on the waitress' tray. 2. Is that all I get? 3. Let's eat by candlelight. 4. Mom, can I add cayenne to the ribs? 5. That's mine to eat. 6. What's a binge? 7. We don't eat mushrooms at daycare. 8. Where's my escargot? 9. Mom, shall I fix dinner for you? 10. Look at me, Doc. Do I need it?

For safety and sanity reasons, our first son started using the stove properly at 2. At 6, he looked at his 13 mo. old brother and said, 'Kid, if you can walk, you can cook.' They have simple rules for their children: try it, you can go back for 2nds. Some of the children help cook, some do not. Report
And some kids will take 100 times before they try something new. I guess my son wants to make sure we really do eat the "weird looking" stuff!

And, I have a nephew who's parents do actually let him eat nothing but potato chips. He is thin, about 6-8 inches shorter than average (compared to his brothers and sister at the same age) and, from what I understand, doesn't do well in school, doesn't play...doesn't do anything but sit in front of the tv. I guess he has no energy for anything else. It's sad to see. Report
I was raised under these commandments and have kept healthy eating habits my whole life (thanks Mom & Dad!). My biggest issue is having to fight my boyfriend, who was raised that you eat everything on your plate, no matter what it is & you sit at the table until it's done. I definitely pull rank as the kids' Mom on that one. It kills him, but I know I'm right on this one. ;) Report
Need to post these commandments where I can see them. It is so hard to watch a child eat nothing!! Report
Need to post these commandments where I can see them. It is so hard to watch a child eat nothing!! Report
I'm old school eat what I put on the table or go hungrey. Report
I wish I could go back in time and give this to my parents. Every meal was a power struggle, for years! My parents were following a special diet for health reasons and I just never liked any of it. My mom fed me the same meal for three days straight because I didn't like the nice steak and broccoli that she'd made me. That's a meal that I wouldn't want to eat as an adult -- I'm a vegetarian and I just don't like broccoli. I was picky, but there were simple, healthy foods that I loved (peas, green beans, summer squash, carrots) and instead my parents forced foods that they thought were "healthy" on my sister and I. The only time I remember her listening to me was when I asked her to stop making me olive loaf sandwiches. I couldn't trade them and hadn't eaten them all week, but she didn't notice until I pointed it out.

Eventually I gave up. They often had me eat "5 more bites" of whatever I didn't want to eat, so I gummed things and hid food in my napkin or my sock to flush it down the toilet after meals. I was hungry all the time, so I made up for it by eating really terrible snacks at other people's houses. We were way too skinny as kids and my sister eventually developed bulimia. My mom is still on her strict diet, but she rollercoasters in and out of it and keeps a lot of snack food in the house. My dad sneaks out of the house to eat fast food all the time.

I feel really lucky that I eventually figured out what I liked to eat when I stopped living at home. At first I only ate pasta, but now my meals are much better balanced. I could always eat a little better and more healthily, but I still feel like I've dodged a bullet. Report
Thou shalt teach thy child how and by whom food is produced and to honor the earth and those who farm it. And YES - thou shalt expect thy child to eat what everyone else is eating for each meal. Report
#11 Thou shalt explain that "Eww Gross" is unacceptable but "No thank you, I don't care for any" is always permitted. Report
Thou shalt occasionally let the child come shopping and pick out vegs and fruits they would like to try. Report
# 9 is the most important. It is surprising how many parents say all their child wants to eat is potato chips, ice cream and snack crackers. We always ask "who does the shopping?" Don't blame the child if you are bringing nutritionally inferior products home. Report
Outstanding list there I'd like to add two. Don't fill a childs plate with food and expect them to finish it all as though of us who grew up as baby boomers were forced to do. As kids our bodies tell us when we are hungry not a clock on the wall or mom and dad. And one last thing; don't fall into the trap that I did with my children and take them to micky D's because they have the latest movie toy or a germ infested playscape. I told my adult children I failed them by being sucked into corporate food chain wierd science and my youngest told me, "don't worry dad you failed us in other areas to" Report
I like #11 as well. Report
I wish my parents would have abided by 1,3,5 and 7 - it would have made MY childhood a bit better - perhaps it would have changed my relationship to food. Report
Our rule is you have to take one bite. I work with too many kids that only will eat a handful of foods or only junk food. I am constantly trying to expand their choices. Otherwise, you have a child will only eat one type of food. What happens when they decide that they don't like that one food any longer? So I don't force it, but you don't leave the table until you eat one bite of everything! Report
Amen! I wish more parents would try introducing their kids to healthy food more than one time. From what I have seen, that's how some kids end up with such limited diets . . . the parents say "that's all they will eat, etc." Ridiculous! And I also like #11 posted by Kristen9924. Report
Whoever hasn't had to force a child to sit at the table till they eat some bites of dinner is likely not to have kids. Report
Now I understand why I have so much trouble around food and weight issues. I wish that my parents had treated me like this and trusted me. Report
You are so right but it is hard not to force food onto my child when I've spent the time and money to make a healthy meal. Thanks for the article. Report
11. Thou art not a short order chef. The entire family eats the same meal. If the child does not want to eat what is served they do not have to, but the parent is not expected to prepare a completely separate meal for the child. Report