If there’s one thing that almost all of us have heard while growing up, it has to be this sentence, “Finish up your food. Don’t you know that there are so many children starving in this world?” or the equivalent but no less common, “That plate better be clean by the time I get back, or else!!” leaving you with images of all kinds of torture that would follow the ‘else’, even though you were tempted to ask, “How is me being overstuffed going to help the starving kids?”
Now that most of us are parents, it is unlikely that we haven’t mouthed the same dialog to our hapless kids, logic notwithstanding. But considering all the research that’s pouring in today from everywhere, I suppose it’s time to take a step back and actually analyse what we’re doing here.
And this isn’t even just an Indian phenomenon. Globally, parents force their kids to ‘clean their plate’ and this is a practice that’s crossing generations. In India, considering that more people couldn’t afford basic meals in our parents’ time than in ours, the idea of wasting food was more blasphemy than bad manners. Also, it probably gave a parent a certain sense of satisfaction, knowing that his child was well fed and nourished.
But the truth, according to experts, is that this gives rise to an ‘over-fed’ generation, one that cannot recognise its own hunger cues. By not letting a child to stop when she feels full, we are destroying her body’s natural ability to recognise fullness or satiety. So, by the time she’s a teenager, her body has lost its internal mechanism to regulate food intake. And there you have one of the causes of all the eating disorders that plague us today.
So parents, the next time your kiddo says he’s full, don’t force him to ‘clean his plate’ and you don’t do it for him either, unless you want it to sit on your waist!! Worse, don’t ever bribe him with candy in return for ‘plate-cleaning’. Another problem in some Indian households is force-feeding guests even if they protest and then feeling offended if they leave behind food on the plate. If you want to avoid wastage, control the amount being served; rather than stuff down whatever has been put in front of you. If we leave our kids to do what comes to them naturally, they won’t need to struggle to control portions in the future, the way we’re doing today. Bon Appétit!!
Fabida Abdulla is a former software engineer turned stay at home Mother Lion to her four-year old son, whom she calls ‘The Cub’. She blogs about her crazy life at Shocks and Shoes.