Food Mistakes Parents Sometimes Make

This post is by blog team member, Kiran, who is a Certified Holistic Health Coach. To learn more about Kiran, check out our team page or her website!

Let me preface by saying that as a parent, and as having been a child, I know that there is no such thing as a “perfect” parent. There’s no ideal “guidebook” (we can only wish), and for most of us, it’s a little bit of trial and error and looking to our child to see how we are doing. So I hope today’s post, which is sponsored by one of our favorite real food bars—RXBAR—doesn’t come across as judgmental. Instead, these are merely suggestions on what we have found to work for our kids with regard to eating. I hope that they are helpful for you, too!

Food Mistakes Parents Sometimes Make on 100 Days of Real Food

Want to Save this Recipe?

Enter your email below & we'll send it straight to your inbox. Plus you'll get great new recipes from us every week!

Save Recipe

  1. Forcing your child to clear their plate
    Definitely a tactic that was used more “back in the day,” forcing your child to eat all of the food in front of them was actually deemed unhealthy in a study conducted in 2013. Not only did it pressure children into eating, but it doesn’t allow them to self-regulate and to listen to body cues that are telling them whether they are full or not. And along those same lines, there should not be rewards given for those who do clear their plate for the reasons stated above.
  2. Allowing them to have “kid food”
    The meal served is the meal served; this is a rule that we instill in our house, and one I feel strongly about. By starting this practice off early, you set the precedent that dinner (or breakfast or lunch) is prepared, and this is what we will enjoy. I don’t believe I need to spell out the time and effort put into meals, right? Children should recognize and respect this fact and should not expect to be catered to with “special meals” for them simply because they don’t like something. Food allergies, sensitivities, and special needs are another story.

    RXBAR recently introduced their PB&J bar for adults, which also comes in a kid-sized version—same ingredients, just different sizes. This is the perfect way to support this ideal, that just because you’re a child doesn’t mean you need kid snacks. No, you don’t need fish or animal-shaped crackers. You can have the same snacks that I do—and guess what? I’m pretty sure we’re both gonna love ’em! :)photo of PB&J RXBAR for kids; avoid common food mistakes parents make by showing kids they can eat like you

  3. Letting them always select the same fruit or vegetable
    I’ve seen this one firsthand in my house. Kids are packing their lunches, and I see them going for the carrots for the 3rd day in a row. Or an apple. Classic kid choices in my house. “Why don’t we try to switch it up a little,” I’ll suggest. “Is there anything else in there that looks interesting to you? Maybe some mixed berries, a kiwi, or we can do a banana and send some nut butter with it.”

    Don’t lose the options or tell them what to take; work with them to see if there are other interesting foods and explain that variety is the spice of life…you want to eat a rainbow. You know all those great cliches. ;)

  4. Not enforcing the “one bite” rule
    My older two girls don’t like tomatoes. Never have. But when I serve them, they still try one bite—even at ages 12 and 14. Tastebuds can change (and no two tomatoes are exactly the same!). What you don’t like today, you may like tomorrow. And some foods simply don’t look that appetizing—I get it—but they may taste AMAZING. Encourage them to try one bite, no strings attached. They can decide if they want another bite after that.
  5. Fad dieting in front of your children
    I’m pretty sure that I don’t need to really explain this one, but my point here is not only saying you are on a “diet,” but also painting the picture that certain foods are off limits, or exhibiting low self-worth to your kids. While I’m no psychiatrist, I do know that our kids look up to us. We are their world, as my dad likes to remind me. They watch what we do, and I know that none of us would want them to emulate low self-worth. I speak from experience; my mom was always on a diet when I was growing up. No bread for years, the Atkins Diet on and off, cabbage soup diet – blech! I got on the low-fat kick myself when I was in high school, no doubt because of what I saw at home.

    Encourage real food with plenty of produce and occasional treats. Eat until you are full, and eat when you are hungry. The rest will fall into place.

  6. Not enjoying food together
    This is another one I’ve been guilty of in years past. For the first 6-7 years of us having kids, my husband worked late, often not getting home until 8:30 or 9 p.m. I would feed the kids dinner by 6:30 so that I could bathe them and get them in bed, and he and I would eat later. Worse yet, while they ate, I either nursed the baby, did dishes, or what have you around the kitchen. I didn’t even sit with them! Sitting together to enjoy meals is an invaluable time to connect.
  7. Giving up
    I couldn’t end without this one. While I don’t have a 100% “picky” eater, one of my four had acid reflux as a baby and has the best palate out of anyone I know. When she was little, she wanted nothing but bananas, yogurt, pizza, or peanut butter toast. It took a LOT of trying over and over, and yes, there have been scowls, whines, tears, etc. But I’m here to tell you that persistence pays off. She is my one who prides herself on trying that one cherry tomato every time, even though she doesn’t like it. She makes sure to get fruits and vegetables at every meal even though they may not be her first pick. Patience and slow persistence can make it happen. There may be frustration on both parts along the way, but if you stay strong, I have confidence that you’ll have some success.

More about RXBAR

I mentioned RXBAR above, and you may remember our clean snack bars post that we did on them explaining why they are one of our favorites. In case you didn’t know, RXBARS are made with a simple blend of dates, nuts, and egg whites in a variety of flavors. So many readers are always asking for “cleaner” protein bar recommendations, and you’ll be amazed at how short the RXBAR ingredient list is! They contain NO added sugars, soy, gluten, dairy or GMO’s, but they DO come in a great variety of flavors—like their newest, Peanut Butter & Berries. They also have a kids line, which has the same ingredients—just a smaller serving size. See? Perfect for getting your child started (or continuing) on real food AND showing them that you eat the same that they do!

photo of RXBARs for kids and adults; avoid common food mistakes parents make by showing kids they can eat like you

Special Deal

We asked our friends at RXBAR if we could have a special discount just for you so that you can try their bars. And guess what? They said yes!

You can use code 100DAYS and get 20% AND free shipping off of your entire order.
Don’t delay – the offer is only good through July 31, 2018. :)

Now tell me…have I missed anything? Are there other mistakes that you think that I forgot? Please share in the comments below!

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

About The Author

23 thoughts on “Food Mistakes Parents Sometimes Make”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Kathryn Anderson

    Great info! Especially agree with the first one! When I was a kid, I always had to clear my plate and it’s a mental block that I still have- I still feel like I have to eat everything. Imagine how skinny I would be if I had been taught to stop eating when I’m full :)

  2. We use the phrase “satisfied” instead of full with our children. Our goal is to teach them to eat up until they are comfortably satisfied as we don’t want them thinking they should eat until they feel too full or get that “stuffed” feeling. We find “satisfied” to be a great word choice!

  3. To help our kids identify healthful foods, and to make it fun, we use a color system.
    “Green light” foods are those that the kids can help themselves to any time (mostly veggies and fruits).
    “Yellow light” foods are something that’s not bad but they shouldn’t overdo. We put raisins and crackers in this category, for example.
    And “red lights” are the sweets, those occasional treats we get but that aren’t something we do every day.

    It has helped my kids understand that not all foods are created equal in their nutritional value, but takes away the guilt of labeling a food “bad.” It has worked well for our 4 and 2 years old, I hope it’s helpful for others too!

    1. Great idea! It’s a nice little nudge in the right direction for them. Do you mark them, have a picture indicator, or just tell them the color coding?

  4. Rx bars are currently being sued for mislabeling ingredients on their packaging misleading consumers. The “blueberries” are actually blueberry fruit bits infused with fruit juice which, as far as I am concerned, is all sugar. The egg whites are actually egg white protein powder. No thank you RX Bars. Stop misleading customers into thinking your bars are made with whole real unprocessed ingredients.

    1. So glad to see consumers seeing through RX bars misleading label. I’m honestly surprised and very disappointed that this website has chosen to promote RX bars.

  5. One mistake many parents make is controlling their child’s consumption of “good” and “bad” foods at mealtime. This is a complicated subject, and it certainly isn’t black and white. Avoiding restricting your child’s consumption of certain foods isn’t about letting them eating whatever and whenever they want.

  6. Kimberly Brandt

    I loose patience with my 4-year old and how LONG it takes him to eat. Dinner can easily last 2-3 hours. I don’t want to force him to eat faster, but OMG. I get bored!! I tell him to hurry up and finish what’s on his plate and he can get up and play, but then we fall into the trap of the “clean plate club” which I want to avoid. How do you motivate your kids to eat FASTER?? Should I set a timer (for like 45min) and say, that’s the dinner window, when the timer goes off, we’re done? But I don’t want it to be a race either. ARGH! lol!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      My youngest is and always has been a super slow eater. I understand how it’s frustrating! I guess I think about how we, as a society, tend to rush everything now, so that reminder helps me not to lose my patience; I’m actually somewhat jealous that he’s not rushing it! ;) Does he snack at all? If so, maybe try not snacking for a few hours before his meal – no filling drinks, either. See if this makes him feel more hungry and if that helps.

      As far as the timer, personally speaking, I’d worry that it may provide more of a stressful situation. If you want to go that route, what about you noting the time that you want to end and then giving him a 10/5 minute warning? At the end, just say “okay, now it’s time for _______” as opposed to “times up, dinner’s over.”

      Hoping that some of this helps. Hang in there!

  7. Regarding tomatoes – they are nightshades and many people have an intolerance to them. I wouldn’t force nightshade eating, because kids often have an aversion for a reason.

  8. I see RX bars mentioned a lot. The natural flavors in the ingredients list concerns me. I don’t think it is regulated what is in “natural flavors.” Does that not mean there could be dozens of other things in the food item making it more than just a few ingredients?Even though “natural flavors” ,come from a natural source as an educate real food consumer,I’m still leary of anything that lists natural flavors in their ingredients.Also, natural flavors can be an indicator of hidden msgs,even in food that is marketed as real food.

    1. Sherri Chenoweth

      I agree!! Anything can be in natural flavors. And the RX bars are misleading, what is on the front is NOT always what is in the ingredients list.

  9. I have a question regarding the one bite rule. How do you enforce that? I have an extremely picky eater and she is also very stubborn. We had that one bite rule but had to stop doing it because she was so incredibly stubborn. She either wouldn’t eat the tiniest of bites or she would put it in her mouth and refuse to swallow it. Basically, she won’t eat it if she doesn’t want it, no matter what the consequences are (and she can hold out way longer than her parents!). I would love for her to just try something without a fight every single meal time. And along those lines, what do you do if the child doesn’t like any of the meals you make? If you aren’t making extra meals (which I don’t) for the kids, then what do they eat? Thanks for any advice and help!!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Hi KP,
      Great question. Two of my four kids are pretty strong willed, esp. one of them. What I’ve realized over the years is that when they start getting “hot”, it causes me to want to react strongly. But this just fuels their fire. If I remain very calm and quiet, and sit with them and talk gently about why I’d like them to try a bite – even the smallest one – this will encourage them. The biggest thing is to keep trying, and try not to let her see your frustration. And I hope this doesn’t come off as offensive at all – I don’t know how your situation goes, I only know what has worked for us.
      Regarding them not liking it, it took me a while (and lots of worry, to be honest) but I realized that if they are hungry, they will eat. This means that they can’t fill up on calorie-laden drinks or snacks instead. Sure we do snacks (lots of them, in fact!), but if they are becoming a substitute for meals, I’ll explain that we need to rethink things.
      There were nights where I worried that she’d be hungry, did she get enough? Will she wake up in the night hungry? She didn’t. Yes she was hungry the next morning, which was a perfect time for a nutritious breakfast.
      Keep at it. By asking the questions, I know you have the best intentions. Don’t give up; I’m rooting for you!!

      1. Thanks so much for the tips! Very helpful! I tend to lose patience quickly so I think that’s when she really digs in her heels. I know I need to work on being much more patient and just realize that it will take time. I like to see immediate results and anyone with kids knows that is definitely not how it works- ha! :) I do worry about her eating and I really want to raise kids who will be willing to try anything and have a diverse and healthy palate so that’s where those questions came from. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to respond!! Thank you!

      2. Kiran Dodeja Smith

        You are so welcome. I really can relate … I’ve been there! Take a deep breath and know you’re doing good things:).

      3. Hi! If i can interject – i too have a strong willed child and have found that giving her a choice oftentimes works. For example, and you may already be doing this, but tell her she can either try a nice bite of the cherry tomato or the green pepper. Then you allow time for her to make up her mind and take a bite without pressure. Once bite is taken she is free to leave the table and go and play. Or help with clean up. However your family rolls.

    2. Another thing I’ve done is get them to help or at least hang out in the kitchen when I’m cooking. I’ll have them try a bite when things are raw and throughout the cooking process. My 4 year old will eat raw garlic now!

    3. Sometimes, with my daughter, we go with the “lick it” approach. if something looks funny and is new, I will tell her she just has to give it a good lick. This helps her to relax (she is also pretty stubborn) and laugh when we can stick our tongues out and make it silly. She also knows she won’t be asked to eat it again at this meal. If I offer the “lick” option, and she does, that will be the end of it. sometimes she will lick it several times to get a better idea of what it tastes like before deciding whether to eat it or leave it.