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'Anak, Isang Subo Na Lang': Why Experts Say This Phrase Sends The Wrong Message
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/ucchie79
  • How many times have you pleaded and said, “anak, isang subo na lang?” whenever your toddler refuses to clear their plate? It’s because parents worry that their children won’t grow well if they are not eating enough.

    While this phrase doesn’t sound so bad, experts say it can be more harmful than helpful in the long run.

    Why “take one more bite” sends the wrong message

     Constantly asking your child to “take one more bite,” or bribing them to finish their food is a sign that you have an “authoritarian feeding style.” You are trying to control their food intake because you think that they are not eating well.

    “We have evidence in the childhood nutrition literature that feeding styles may influence not only a child’s body weight but their relationship with food and how they behave around eating,” shares Jill Castle, a registered dietitian, childhood nutritionist, and a mom of four, in an interview with CNN.

    The abovementioned phrases can mess with children’s feelings of hunger and fullness. They may overeat because they want to make you happy or eat less because they feel pressured.

    It can also influence your child’s ability to listen to their body. Instead of following their body’s natural cues (for example, stop eating because they are already full), they are forced to obey their moms and dads.

    This can lead to weight and eating problems later in life. Kids rely on their parents when it comes to how much food to consume, so their tendency is to ignore their natural cues for hunger. It can also make them lose control when it comes to food, especially items they are not allowed to eat.


    “Parents will come to me and say, ‘I’m finding wrappers in my child’s bedroom, my child seems obsessed with food, and when I see them at a party, my kid is piling their plate with sweets and treats, and they are always eating,’” Castle said.

    Various studies have also noted the negative impact of controlling your child’s food intake. Pressuring children to eat can come across as controlling and intrusive, according to Dr. Julie Lumeng, one of the researchers of a University of Michigan study that evaluated how pressure tactics affected the eating habits of toddlers.

    Another study found that young girls whose mothers restricted their food intake were more likely to eat when they weren’t hungry, while various studies have shown that restricting children’s food intake is closely associated to their weight gain.

    How to encourage healthy eating habits

    If your toddler is going through the picky eater phase, remember that it will soon pass and that you are not alone. Help your child instead to understand what hunger and fullness feels like.

    Watch out for hunger cues and signs that your kid is full. If your child plays with his food or ignores it, it might be a sign that he’s not hungry. Ask him, “Do you feel full,” or “Are you done eating?” This helps them express themselves more freely and clue them in on their body’s natural cues.

    If you have a daily routine, make sure to stick to mealtimes and snack times as much as you can. This reassures a child that he will not go hungry in case he is feeling full and decides to skip a meal.

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    Lastly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself! Just because your child doesn’t finish everything that you serve on the table doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. When you stop controlling mealtimes, your child will also learn to listen to his body and adopt healthy eating habits.

    Want to end mealtime battles for good? Click here for a mom's healthy eating hacks!

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