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The 10 Commandments of Healthy Eating for Parents

It's As Simple as Counting to Ten

  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 ten 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.
For more family nutrition tips, read "Make Family Mealtime More Pleasant".

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Member Comments

  • I must say it was harder for me to follow any of these when my child was 2-5. I am better at it now. lol
    Though shall NOT be dictated to by a child!
  • My younger brother and I were picky eaters. My mom circumvented this by giving my brother and I a small portion of a food we've never eaten, and told us that we have to try it once. If we didn't like it, she would eat the rest of it, but we had to at least take a bite of it. 9 times out 10 we ended up loving the food and wanted more of it (she regretted that decision after feeding us lobster). Now my brother and I will try anything! Hope that tactic works if/when I have kids :D
  • For the most party, a good article and I agree with most of it.

    The one thing I don't agree with is Thy child is responsible for deciding how much (if any) will be eaten. If I didn't tell my children they had to eat one bite of the new food on their plate then they would never try it and those "10 attempts" would never really happen. For instance, when introducing a new fruit, I put one piece on the plate with their other fruit. They must eat that one piece. The next time I will put three. They must eat one still. When they eat all three, that's how I know that they like it and can start giving regular portions to that child.
  • Agree with most - would change the second commandment to read "healthy diet" as there are so many people with food allergies, being prescriptive about the specifics can exclude some.

    I would also add that not giving up on a food item works - some days I don't feel like some food, I want to allow that for my children as well. Also as they grow older, hopefully their palettes will broaden. Just keep serving the weird and wonderful and they will eat some, and not some.

    And, try different ways to serve food items. One of my personal goals is to find ways for prepare veggies that my kids like. Whether that is with home-made healthy dips, combined, or in stir-frys, baked, add fruit to sweeten, lots of different strategies, just keep trying.

    Personally, I wouldn't force my kids to eat anything - my belief is that doing so could set up some negative attitudes and behaviours towards food and eating that they might end up working out on the 2030's version of The Jerry Springer Show.
  • I believe dairy should be changed as well ... many of us are allergic to or intolerant of dairy or have children who are.
  • As parents, we should make sure our children eat balanced meals, with or without multivitamins. Who's the parent? It is not about forcing or controlling. It is about guiding. Being a good example is also great, as stated in this article.
  • With regards to Dairy, you should state the actual goal (I think calcium) as many of us can not eat/drink dairy foods.
    Lots of common sense. Another great book about this subject is "How To Get Your Kid To Eat....But Not Too Much" by Ellyn Satter.
    I thought this was very cute. Of course, no one should use this as the be all and end all of all feeding advice... that would be silly. However, it is a fun way to remind us of the best ways to teach our child to eat well.
    This seems to be generally good advice. However, if you're dealing with a child with Asperger's Syndrome, or a similar disorder, it takes a lot more than 10 times to get a child to accept a new food. Try 200-300 times, maybe. And food jags for these kids are not just phases that pass; they can last a lifetime.

    So, just be careful not to sound like if you do everything in the article, it will always turn out all right.


About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.