The 10 Commandments of Healthy Eating for Parents

  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

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Interesting statements. Report
thanks Report
fantastic Report
thanks Report
Good article. Report
Love the list! Report
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 Report
great article Report
good info Report
Though shall NOT be dictated to by a child! Report
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 Report
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. Report
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. Report


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.