Guide 8: The Relationship between Rewards and Food

Presenter: Natalia Stasenko


Hello everybody. I’m Natalia, one of the moderators and feeding professionals supporting you in this group. And in this video, I would like to talk about a very important topic of food rewards. Food reward is an act of giving your child some kind of desirable food for something that they did. For example, if they behaved well.

{It seems} food rewards are used everywhere! I know that many of you {Parenting Picky Eaters Facebook Group members} share with us, in our discussion threads, that your parents used to reward you with food. Some of you share that in your child’s classroom teachers give kids rewards for good behavior. So, it seems like food rewards just happen everywhere, but is it a good practice? And what can we do about this?

At this point, we have a fair amount of research to show us that rewarding children with food is problematic. One of the reasons for this is that the food that we reward children with is seen as something very special. Hence, at the end, this food becomes more desirable by providing it as food reward. We ultimately put it on a pedestal. We attach a big emotional value to it. Some research studies show that children who were rewarded with food in early in life have trouble self-regulating and tend to eat more frequently and in big amounts for emotional reasons. This makes sense, because if we reward our kids with food, {like} desserts, sweets or anything else that they prefer, it’s very easy for them to learn, to override their hunger and satiety {meaning fullness} signals. For example, if we promise that they can have their dessert, if they eat three bites of broccoli, they may eat the broccoli, although they’re not even hungry anymore. And then they will go and eat the whole slice of chocolate cake that you promised to them as a reward for their eating. And at this point they may not even be hungry for dessert. Or they may have left some of the chocolate on their plate, if it wasn’t so valuable to them. If it wasn’t seen as a reward. If it didn’t have this deep emotional value attached to it. These are some of the reasons that rewarding kids with food can be more of a problem, rather than a solution to feeding.

Now, what can you do instead of rewarding children with food?

First of all, I would encourage you to watch our {Your Feeding Team membership} videos on alternatives to pressure. You can find it in the learning modules {for the membership}. {Keep watching} these videos, hopefully you will find some ideas on other ways to encourage your children to eat in a better way to get the nutrition or eat their meals. Make sure to check our subscription site where we have a lot of information and step-by-step strategies on implementing responsive feeding approach in feeding your children. {The responsive feeding approach} been shown to improve your children’s nutrition, helps them to feel confident around all kinds of food, and be more curious about a variety of food. You can find all the information about our subscription site on And I invite you to check it out. If you think that working in a smaller group with more attention from Simone, Jo and myself would be helpful for you.

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