“Ubusin ang pagkain..grasya ’yan.” “Maraming nagugutom sa mundo kaya huwag sayangin ang nakahain.” “Dapat malinis ang plato.” “Huwag tatayo hangga’t hindi ubos lahat.”
Growing up, businesswoman Leslie Montes* heard these a lot—from parents, teachers and older relatives. Even if she didn’t like the food or wasn’t very hungry, she says she felt compelled to eat when her mom or her lola started lecturing about rations, how lucky they were to have food, and why she and her siblings had to “clean their plates.”
Fortunately for Leslie, her sisters and brothers had huge appetites, always willing to finish what she couldn’t. “Ako ’yung pinakamahina kumain sa family namin,” she reveals with a smile. She remembers coming home from school one day with the ham sandwiches her mom packed for baon still uneaten. So that her mom would think she devoured the sandwiches, she threw them in the trash can, hoping that nobody would find out.
Her sister, however, saw the untouched baon and reporte the misdeed to their mom. “That one time I was actually wasteful,” confesses Leslie sheepishly, although she claims that the practice of polishing off plates in their household taught her to be economical and careful with food.
Happy Meals Now a mom to eight-year-old son, Leslie likes Miguel* to enjoy his meals, so she does not force him to eat. Times at the dining table, she believes, should be fun, as well as stress- and struggle-free. “Ayoko ’yung laging pinipilit ang bata na kumain. It takes the pleasure out of eating and being together. Basta gutom naman si Miguel, sinasabi niya sa akin at kumakain siya,” explains Leslie. Of course, she is delighted when her youngster asks for seconds, and she’s consistently supportive, too, when he tries new dishes.
This is how the experience of eating should be, according to Luchie Callanta, who teaches Nutrition at the College of Home Economics in UP Diliman and at the Center for Culinary Arts-Manila in Quezon City.
“The dining table environment should be positive for the child to appreciate food, to enjoy eating and being with other people, and to develop good food and eating habits...it should not be a venue for disciplining the child,” she stresses. In affirmative and encouraging surroundings, your little ones are more likely to finish their food, and learn about important values, too, such as sharing and spending time with the family. “Mas gaganahan siyang kumain,” she adds.
Click here to read more about how to teach your child to finish his or her food.