maximum or minimum amount of food

To review, as a parent or caregiver you have decided what foods are offered, you’ve set a meal and snack schedule, and have set aside a distraction-free location for eating. From within this framework, one of the decisions the child gets to make is whether to eat or not. Another decision a child gets to make is which of the foods offered he will eat.

A caregiver should not set any minimum or maximum amount of particular foods to be eaten.

A parent should also not set up any food obstacles. For example, “you can only have more potatoes if you finish your peas!” Parents believe they are teaching children the importance of the nutritional value of peas. The lesson children actually learn is that eating peas is a necessary chore to get to the food they actually like. They never learn to like peas for what they are.

Remember, a child has inborn cues to listen to his body’s needs and eat accordingly. As long as you are providing a wide variety of healthy food options, your child will not starve and will not overeat.

Additionally, creating this obstacle also causes a child to override their natural cues for hunger and fullness. Let’s say a child knows that there is birthday cake to be served after dinner. The child really wants to eat the birthday cake but the parent tells the child that she can only have it once she has finished the dinner placed on her plate. The child may overeat, finishing the food on her plate in order to receive the cake she really wants.


Alternatively, if the child knows that she can have her portion of cake without being forced to finish her dinner food, she will eat the total amount that is right for her body.


Have you used food obstacles with your children? If so, what has the response been? Has your child learned to like the obstacle or do they continue to put up a fight or fuss about eating it first?