Remember being told to ‘eat up’ or ‘clean your plate’? Many parents no longer pressure their children to finish an entire meal regardless of whether they were hungry or not or rush them to plough through their food, after research indicated that learning to ‘clear one’s plate’ could be a risk factor for obesity in later life.
But it’s a habit that clearly dies hard for some grandparents, as a post on Gransnet shows. One woman who said she was frustrated over her grandchildren’s slow eating habits has ignited debate among fellow grandparents after advice on how to “speed up” meal times.
The grandmother explained that her three granddaughters – one aged eight and twins aged six – take “ages” to eat what she described as a “nicely prepared meal”, adding that the little girls cry if they’re pressured to eat quickly.
While it’s not hard to sympathise with a busy child-carer who must sit through many elongated meal-times as small children play with their food, plenty of Gransnet readers slammed the grandmother for attempting to hurry the children to eat.
“Leave them alone, food should be enjoyed. I’m afraid if you were my MIL [mother-in-law] or mother I would be having a serious word with you,” one commentator wrote. Another added, “There is no problem with children eating slowly and enjoying their meal, unless they are messing around.”
And a third said, “Why do they have to eat quickly? Surely its better for their digestion if they eat slowly or at a speed they’re happy with.”
Other readers suggested to serve meals earlier if she was in such a hurry, adding, “If you need them finished by a certain time, then serve it early”.
Having grown up in a environment where food was precious, most Baby Boomers are all too aware of the realities of not having an endless supply of tasty meals on offer, and ‘eat what’s left on your plate’ was a common practice during most post-war childhoods. And not all remember having happy meal times at home as a result.
“I’ve always been a slow eater and have unhappy memories of being ‘hurried’ and trying to eat whilst sobbing,” one grandmother recalled. Others warned of the dangers of creating “issues around food” for the children as grown-ups. “Stress and insistence about how meals and food should be done is a shortcut to eating disorders,” noted one grandparent.
Others said, meanwhile, that they recalled being in trouble as children for the opposite reason – eating too quickly and so being accused of mannerless “gobbling”.
According to a study published in the Journal of Paediatric Psychology, parents who force their kids to finish everything on their plates may be doing more harm than good, as forced eating disrupts normal eating behaviour, making children vulnerable to unhealthy weight gain.
And a 2014 study that looked at adults with the tendency to ‘clear their plate’, it found that the tendency was associated with increased body weight.