Moving Away from Eating Everything on Your Plate Even if You’ve Done This Your Whole Life

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If you are anything like me, you grew up with the expectation that you ate everything on your plate.

I think this food rule came about as a way to attempt to maximise nourishment and reduce food wastage.

Decades later in the work I do as a dietitian, I know how potentially harmful this seemingly innocent food rule can be.

It distracts people from trusting themselves and listening to their body. It does not support people to regulate their own food intake or to meet their bodily needs.

In susceptible people, disordered eating and eating disorders can develop.

Next time you feel you should tell yourself or your kids to eat everything on their plate, stop, breathe and think about why your default message is to finish what’s on their plate.

Was there a moment in time that this recommendation/expectation was helpful in your life?

Is it helpful now?

What can you do or say instead, that would be more helpful now.

You could say to your kids, “This is your dinner tonight, it is up to you how much and whether you eat it”.

You could say to yourself, “I am not a dog, I do not eat leftover food for the sake of it or to avoid food wastage. If I am worried about food wastage, I can place the leftovers in the fridge and/or freezer for another time when I am hungry and feel like this meal.”

For more information and practical strategies to help with real-life feeding situations and struggles, visit ‘Raising Kids to Love Food and Their Bodies‘ and ‘Feed Your Family: Healthy Eating Made Easy‘.


Hi! I’m Natalie Thompson, a non-dieting Accredited Practising Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviours to help improve health whilst nurturing relationships with food and body. I help mums who struggle with nutrition and body image and worry about the impact they have on their children discover the joy in eating and make peace with food and their beautiful body whilst being the role model they imagine for their children, focusing on compassionately nourishing the mind, body and spirit of themselves and their children.


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