Forcing a child to clear their plate could lead them to overeating.

A study by the University of Nebraska warns the ‘clean plate’ policy often followed at many childcare centres can be dangerous and potentially fuelling overeating, reports Daily Mail.

Previous research suggests that when kids experience controlling feeding practices, they can lose their ability to follow their own hunger cues and to stop eating when they’re full.

Over time, children forced to clean their plates at every meal may gravitate toward sugary foods and snacks and run the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

In a recent survey, however, some daycare workers mistakenly believed a clean plate club approach would encourage kids to develop a healthy appetite, researchers report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, September 17.

‘This study also found that childcare providers use controlling feeding practices because of fear of parents’ negative reaction if they find that their child did not eat,’ said lead study author Dipti Dev, a child health behavior specialist at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

‘Childcare providers should avoid controlling feeding practices such as avoiding giving food as reward, encouraging but not pressuring children to eat their food and avoiding to praise children for cleaning their plates,’ Dev added.

 We asked our mums what they thought was best Clean plate vs Full tummy

It seems parents today are leaning towards not forcing children to eat as long as they have tried to eat a bit of everything offered. Compared to in the past when children were always forced to stay at the dinner table until their plate was clean.  (Now I know why my FIL always glares at me when I leave things on my plate!)

One mum wrote, “When they are full BUT they can’t ask for icecream, yogurt or any snacks if they say they are full. My 4yo is like “I’m full” 10 mins later “can I have a yogurt or icecream” I’m like “finish your dinner and we will talk about it”

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Another said, “I don’t force them to eat it all. They do however need to eat the majority of vegetables or salad if they expect to get anything for dessert when we have it.”

“I don’t eat my whole plate when I’m hungry so why would I force my children? I serve nutritional meals that we all enjoy and when we’re full we stop eating”, wrote another.

“I don’t agree with forcing but if they get hungry later there is fruit only.”

“I don’t force them to finish but they need to make a decent attempt at eating. If they say they are full than no more food.”

“I leave it on the table. They don’t have to eat it but they don’t get anything else. If they finish their plates (I put proper amounts that err on too small vs too big) and are hungry then the fridge is theirs.”

“I have no problems with my boys eating. I’ve never put restrictions on meals and snacks…They eat me out of house and home. I don’t think they’ve ever refused anything I’ve put in front of them. If kids are hungry they will eat. I wouldn’t be too worried about it…”

“Mine have to put it in the fridge and if hungry later, get it out and eat it. Normally the phrase “it’s a long time till breakfast” works a treat.”

“I used to have to sit at the table at school (in England we had cooked ‘dinners’ (lunches)) until I finished. I remember watching the dinner ladies clearing up. Missed out on a lot of playtime. We should eat until we are satisfied not feeling full.”


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  • I serve quite small dinner which h they don’t have to finish. But they don’t get desert when they don’t finish dinner.


  • It really depends on the child and ensuring they are getting all the nutrients they need without too much sugar in their diet.


  • I was forced as a child and always became anxious at meal time for what I would have to endure. I did end up overeating and although I’m not overweight now, it was not healthy.


  • My favourite is when people say “I was made to do this when I was young and I am fine” we are in an obesity epidemic people, we need to make changes. My children are served up appropriate portions of nutritious food, they can eat it all or they can eat a few mouthfuls. That is up to them. They are the boss of their own bodies and I would never force them to eat. They aren’t offered an alternative unless they genuinely don’t like the meal (I only cook meals that I know we all like so that is very rare) If they ask for seconds I ask them to sit and wait for a few minutes while I finish to give them time to realise if they are actually hungry or not, if they ask again then they can have more.


  • When l was young we did have to finish the plate and it didn’t lead to over eating!


  • I don’t believe in forcing kids to eat. Atleast try some or if they ‘aren’t hungry’ remind them that they won’t be getting anything else and they can eat their tea later if hungry


  • I will force my child to eat if I know she hasn’t eaten much and she has been bugging me to eat food that isn’t her dinner. But 2 mouthful only and then if she still won’t eat, nothing else.

    I don’t believe in forcing kids to eat. I remember being told to eat everything on my plate, and they were huge adult servings worth. Now I struggle with portion control and don’t always get the message to stop. So I want my children to learn to make good choices and have good food associations.


  • Totally agree,forcing kids to finish teaches to wrong message. Intuitive eating is my go to. Now i know how much to serve up to my 2. They know they can stop or ask for more


  • No they should not. When they are full and satisfied they should stop. It’s better than over eating.


  • We do insist they taste everything. They don’t necessarily have to finish it.


  • If they try it it’s a win. Sometimes you just aren’t hungry especially little ones who can’t explain.


  • I don’t like waste but I also don’t want to force children to eat.


  • I don’t force my son to eat everything on his plate because sometimes I don’t, so its a bit unfair to make him! As long as he has eaten a fair amount and not just all the good bits, then Im ok with that


  • As a kid, the rule was didn’t leave the table til our plates were empty. As a parent, that became you don’t get dessert if you don’t eat your mains. As a grandparent, it’s eat your peas and corn then have ice cream. I see both sides to the argument, especially if you have a fussy eater


  • I don’t force my kids to eat Iam happy with anything they eat


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