Quitting the clean plate club

By: Health Local Staff Aug 24, 2011

Forcing yourself to finish everything on your plate is unhealthy. Here are tips to end your "clean plate" habits.

We’ve all heard it from our mothers, and it may even be something you tell your own kids now: Clean your plate! When the notion first appeared, it was during World War I and the government encouraged everyone to finish what they had on their plates in order to conserve food. Nowadays, however, with a McDonalds on every corner and grocery stores stocked to the brim with a startling selection of foods, cleaning your plate can be nutritional suicide. Not only do we eat out more, especially in fast food restaurants with high-fat and high-calorie content, we also simply eat more. Portion sizes have just about doubled what they were 20 years ago, making some of those dinners you’re eating tip the scale at over 1,000 calories – half of the average woman’s daily allotment!

Even when you’re not eating a high-calorie meal, forcing yourself to finish everything on your plate just isn’t healthy. When you judge your satiety by how much is left on your plate rather than how full you feel, you mess up the signals your stomach sends your brain and end up eating more on a regular basis. The old advice from the days of World War I also came with a disclaimer: Make sure you don’t take more than you can finish. Unfortunately, that adage has fallen by the wayside, and most of the time we bite off a lot more we can chew.

If you still feel the need to finish everything on your plate, there are some things you can do to make sure it doesn’t sabotage your diet and your figure:

Don’t eat out. Try as hard as you can to eat your meals at home. You can control portion sizes this way and you know exactly what’s going into your food. If you must eat out, have the waiter box up half your food before you even start eating so that you’re not tempted to overeat.

Use smaller plates. Instead of large dinner plates, use a salad sized plate when you eat. This way you can fill up your plate (and eat all of it, too!) without having to worry about too many calories.

Take small portions. Don’t pile heaping portions onto your plate. You can always go back for more, and often you’ll be pleasantly surprised that you get full before you decide to get seconds.

Eat at the kitchen table. Pay attention to your food. When you sit in front of the television your mind starts to wander and you end up eating quite a bit more than you intend.

Most importantly, start to pay attention to your body. Learn the cues your body gives you to tell you that it’s full, and don’t keep eating past that point. Another great idea is to plan out your meals for the week so that you end up using leftovers from last night for lunch today. This way you have an excuse for not eating all the food you prepare. Your body is an intelligent machine that knows how much fuel it needs – don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach.

The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at www.healthlocal.ca.