Clean Your Plate

My parents are baby boomers.

As a kid, I HAD to sit at the table until my plate was clean. Those were the rules.

My grandmother had her formative years during The Depression Era. Because of that she’s maintained the mentality of “save everything” her entire life. It’s a family joke that if we ever need anything (crutches, a football, toothbrushes) check Grandma’s basement first! This also extends to food. Don’t Waste Food! Under any circumstances.

Food was scarce. Food was valuable. My grandparents passed this onto my parents and they have passed that onto me, as well.

I still remember as an adult those feelings of “I must clean my plate.” Never throw out food, don’t waste it. Eat it all! I still get feelings of guilt if I don’t eat it all.

Guess what? Cleaning our plates is not healthy. That article claims: “69% of people say they finish restaurant entrées all or most of the time.” Restaurant portions are ginormous. They are definitely more than one serving! All of the above factors contribute to the obesity in America.

I try to be mindful of my eating. Counting my calories makes me mindful. I think many of us are more aware of intuitive eating now. Many parents don’t force their kids to overeat or “clean their plate.” We need to listen to the messages our stomachs are giving us.

“I am full.”

“I want to stop eating.”

“I don’t want to clean my plate.”

I especially feel guilty at restaurants if I don’t eat all of it. I feel like I’m wasting money by not cleaning my plate. I’ve learned that taking half of my entree home for lunch the next day is a good solution (and I don’t stuff myself).

  • Try using a smaller plate.
  • Don’t fill your plate high with food.
  • Mind your serving sizes. If you need seconds? Wait a few minutes to make sure.
  • Leftovers make good lunches the next day. Save the leftovers!
  • Make less food.
  • Drink a lot of water while you eat.

QUESTION: Were you part of the “clean your plate club?” How did you change your habits to eating healthier?

Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and

5 thoughts on “Clean Your Plate”

  1. I try my best to use a smaller plate and remember to save part of my portion for leftovers. Since it is just my husband and me, I also try to adapt recipes so that there aren’t so many leftovers.

  2. Oh, yes. I went to daycare and we were always required to drink our milk and eat our grapes or we couldn’t leave the table. To this day, I am no fan of either milk or grapes (unless in jelly form!).

    I’ve realized that one piece of the puzzle of why I ended up overweight is the way in which I was fed as a child (not trying to transfer blame, of course – I’ve been away from home too long for that!). I’m still working on undoing it, honestly.

  3. I really like your self awareness – understanding where you come from is key. Yes, I was required to clean my plate, and I can remember hiding yucky meatloaf in my napkin! Not a good way to teach our kids. With my own, when she’s done she’s done. A healthy relationship to food starts young.

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