Dietitian says parents should NEVER congratulate their child for finishing a meal

A dietitian says parents should NEVER congratulate their child for finishing a meal and avoid labelling foods 'bad' or 'good'.

Chantelle Wardini, 35, listed things parents should do to help their children grow up with a good eating routine and to help them develop a healthy relationship with food.

The mum-of-one suggested parents should never celebrate their children finishing their plate, or eating specific foods.

Chantelle also says parents should never label foods as 'good' or 'bad'.

She explained the impacts of parents' "damaging actions" can last with a child their whole lives - and has seen clients in their 70s and 80s who are still affected by how they were treated in childhood.

Chantelle, a dietitian and exercise physiologist, from Sydney, Australia, said: "I see the impact of traditional parenting styles around eating every day - it can have a long term affect on how people think about and interact with food."

Chantelle believes it is important for parents to make a variety of different meals and says not praising children when they eat, however much they choose to eat, is vital.

She said: "Don't use coercive techniques to encourage the child to eat, even if it's with praise.

"If a child is a fussy eater the temptation is to say well done whenever they eat a vegetable, but that's actually really unhelpful."

She explained that this teaches the child that eating is a "performative activity done to be rewarded, or for someone else's benefit".

But the long term impact of this can be serious - leading to people losing the body's natural hunger and fullness cues they are born with.

Chantelle said: "I spend a lot of time helping adults to re-learn this skill.

"When parents do it, they are well meaning and as a mum it can be tempting, but it should be avoided."

She also claims parents should never use language that attaches a moral value to food - such as calling foods 'good' and 'bad' when they are healthy or unhealthy.

She explained that children can internalise those messages - and begin to think if they eat a 'bad' food, they must be a bad person.

Chantelle wants to encourage parents to work with their child to divide responsibilities at mealtimes - put simply, "parent provides, and child decides".

This means the parent's role is to decide what, when and where a child eats, and the child's role is to decide whether they want to eat, and how much of it.

Based on a concept by nutritionist Dr Ellyn Satter, Chantelle explained that by splitting the responsibilities at mealtimes allows a child to retain a sense of autonomy.