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The only way I can get my daughter to eat vegetables is to bribe her with dessert. Is this okay?

Health professionals advise against using dessert as a reward. For one, it places the dessert on a pedestal, making it seem even more desirable. Second, your child will end up overeating twice: once to finish her food, in this case vegetables, and again when she eats the dessert. Using desserts as punishments or rewards can also set up an unhealthy emotional relationship that may lead to development of eating problems later on. Offer a variety of vegetables to give your child some choice, and ask her to help prepare and serve them. Another option is to serve desert along with your child’s meal. You’ll be surprised: your child will eat some of each. Making nutritious desserts for the family is also key. Bread or rice pudding, banana splits, and fresh or canned fruits with yogurt or a small amount of ice cream are nutritious and delicious! 

Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D., Former Nutritional Sciences Specialist, University of Missouri-Columbia


More about Making Mealtime Pleasant with Young Children

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Last updated:06/13/2005
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