Dr David’s Tips for Raising Healthy Kids

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Are your kids fussy eaters, or are they really full when they say they are?
There’s no question about it, parents like to see clean plates at the end of dinner. And that’s not surprising considering the effort that goes into preparing the meal and wanting to nourish your family. A recent report published in Nutrition & Dietetics in Australia, however, found that over 80% of Moms surveyed thought that their kids were fussy eaters if they left food on their plate.

Photography by Ian Hofstetter

Don’t worry, kids have a tremendous capacity to self-regulate their food intake to make sure they get the nutrition and energy they need. So, you can probably leave well alone if your child says he’s full. And don’t use dessert as a bribe.

No one has ever put the clean plate problem more succinctly than nutritionist Ellyn Satter: ‘As parents we have the responsibility of choosing when, where, and what is available to our children. Our children have the responsibility of choosing how much and even whether they eat.’

Of course it’s important to get the serving size right in the first place. So if you’re wondering how much protein (meat, chicken, fish or legumes); cooked veggies or salad; or starchy veggies (potato or sweet potato) and wholegrains to put on the plate here’s the tip we give our OWL families. Eyeball the serving sizes by dividing the dinner plate into three sections. Protein foods and wholegrains/starchy foods should each take up just a quarter of the plate. Cooked green veggies or salad veggies (or both) should fill the remaining half. Of course if you have sneaked heaps of veggies into the fish patties, the plate maths may be a bit harder. But relax and let you kids enjoy the family meal and don’t fuss when they say they are full. Buon appetito.


– Dr David Ludwig is Director of the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program at Children’s Hospital Boston and author of Ending the Food Fight