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Good Housekeeping
Belle Yambao, Contributor
October 07, 2011

New Study: Forcing Your Kids to Finish Their Food Might Make Them Picky Eaters

Research shows positive reinforcement is the way to go when it comes to children's mealtimes. By Belle Yambao
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force_feeding_picky_eaters.jpgAs a mom, do you find yourself dreading mealtime with your kids? Are you constantly having to remind your kids to finish their food, denying them dessert or not allowing them to get up from the table until they've cleared their plates? According to a new study, which will appear in the December issue of Appetite, you should avoid forcing your children to finish their food because this might turn them into picky eaters.

The study was conducted in the United Kingdom, and the researchers talked with 104 moms to find out how they treated their children aged three to six years old when it comes to food. The results showed that moms with problem eaters (picky, slow, prone to under-eating, etc.) were also the ones who pressured their children to eat more during mealtimes.

Study author and Loughborough University lecturer Claire Farrow says such behavior interferes with children's natural regulation of hunger and fullness. "These findings support other research, which has shown that if parents or caregivers override their children's signals of hunger and fullness--as in pressuring the child to eat when not hungry--then often children struggle to regulate their appetite appropriately in the future," she tells MyHealthNewsDaily.

If your goal isn't to make your child eat more but rather to introduce more variety in his food, though, Farrow says, "Some recent research has shown that gentle encouragement and positive reward for trying new foods can be a successful strategy." Instead of forcing your children to eat more food, then, try regulating what they see on the dinner table. For example, provide them with different food choices, but make them all nutritious.

"Let kids drive when they're hungry, don't force feed them when they're not, don't fret about it, and don't offer junk food to make up for when kids don't want to eat," Dr. Anne Eglash of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is quoted as saying. "When kids are little, I tell parents: Don't worry, they won't starve themselves. You don't want food to be the power struggle or the big reward."

Want to read more articles about picky eating? Check this out on FN:

(Photo by mliu92 via Flickr Creative Commons)
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  • MrsKolca Oct 07 2011 @ 09:13am Report Abuse
    I have the same problem with my toddler. Thanks for sharing this FN. From now on, I don't have to force my daughter in finishing her food, but will give her more choices. Thanks talaga!
    Last modified A long time ago
  • whateverittakes Nov 08 2011 @ 10:33am Report Abuse
    I can relate to this post. I don't have kids yet but I have a nephew who's very picky with foods. He does not like to eat veggies. I wonder why most kids do not like it.
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