What Your Parents Got Wrong About Food

Your parents probably were right about most things, but there's a good chance they got a few things wrong when it came to feeding their family.

Here's a rundown of some common parental refrains at mealtime, along with up-to-date information that will allow you to avoid making the same mistakes with your brood.

Wrong: Finish what's on your plate.
Right: Despite parents' claims of starving children around the world, making a kid devour every last morsel at dinner is a poor guarantee that those other children will get fed. And all parents are doing is overriding their child's natural satiety signals and setting him or her up for weight gain.

Wrong: Eat your broccoli and you'll get ice cream later.
Right: Dangling a sweet treat programs kids to value the dessert more than the veggies and main dish. Don't make dessert the prize; stay neutral about food.

Wrong: Hurry up and eat.
Right: Food is meant to be savored and enjoyed, not gulped down. A plethora of studies have demonstrated that fast eaters tend to eat more and be heavier than those who take their time.

Wrong: It's fine to let chicken thaw on the kitchen counter.
Right: Foodborne gastrointestinal illness due to bacteria is very common. People often don't realize when they've gotten sick due to something they ate, and assume they have a 24-hour flu bug. Poultry is particularly likely to be contaminated with bacteria that quickly multiply at room temperature. Thawing meats in the refrigerator slows down this process.

Wrong: My kids will only eat chicken nuggets and pasta.
Right: That's all they'll eat if that's all you give them. Food preferences develop early, and it may take multiple attempts before a child will accept a new food. Start by serving a new food every few days, offering it to everyone at the table. Order unfamiliar appetizers at a restaurant and encourage your kids to try bites of it.

Wrong: A fat child is a healthy child.
Right: All the evidence points to obesity as unhealthy no matter what age. Children should be fed a varied diet and allowed to stop eating when they choose. Creating good eating habits early on will go a long way toward giving your children a long and healthy life.

Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, reviewed this article.




KidsHealth.org. "Kids and Food: 10 Tips for Parents." http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_center/healthy_eating/eating_tips.html

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Eating Right for a Healthy Weight"; Alaska Division of Environmental Health Food Safety and Sanitation Program. "Food Myths." http://www.dec.alaska.gov/eh/fss/consumers/food_myths.htm.