You may remember this one from your own childhood: The Two-Bite Rule –or the One- Bite Rule, or the Tasting Rule, or whatever it was called at your house. The point is, you had to try at least some small portion of everything on your plate.
It sure worked for me when I was a kid, and it is most effective with my two young boys now. In fact, I’m a big advocate of this policy and frequently talk about it in speaking engagements when parents ask me how rigidly they should force their children to try new foods. In my book, “My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything,” I write that I’m glad that the Two-Bite Rule seems to have replaced the Clean Plate Club, which forced another generation of children to eat everything put in front of them, “because there are children starving in Africa.”
But apparently, even the Two-Bite Rule is controversial in some circles, for reasons I don’t fully understand.
USDA published a terrific children’s book called “The Two-Bite Club” that uses cartoon characters and the concept of “eating by color” to excite young children about trying new foods. My boys (6 and 3) enjoyed reading it, and I like the “new food is fun” message, and the introduction to the Food Guide Pyramid that it presents. Some school districts have refused to distribute this free piece, however, apparently because a few misguided administrators disagree with the “you must try a bite” philosophy.
“The parent’s only job is to present the food; the child can then decide for himself whether or not to actually eat it,” the counter-theory goes.
My kids often don’t want to take baths or go to bed at a reasonable hour, either. Should I just “offer them options” and let them choose what works best for them? As my husband would say, “Who’s in charge here?”
Frankly, I don’t know how any parent could get a child on the track to healthy eating without enforcing the Two-Bite Rule, at least to some degree. Some kids are more naturally curious than others and are more apt to try things without prodding – but the vast majority will, at some point, need more than just encouragement to try a new food. And what’s so bad about that, anyway? Are some parents really afraid to put their foot down and say, “Yes, you will?”
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you’re interested in obtaining a copy of “The Two-Bite Club,” USDA publication, download it at http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/Resources/TwoBiteClub.pdf. Pre-schools, daycare centers and kindergarten teachers can order the book for free, in bulk quantities, at http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/Resources/2biteclub.html