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The Clean Plate Club: Tips for dropping out . . . or never joining!

The Clean Plate Club: Tips for dropping out . . . or never joining!

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When people talk about eating all the food on their plate, they often say they “clean their plate” or are members of the “clean plate club.” The guidance for people to clean their plate appears to have originated during World War I when the U.S. government was trying to prevent waste. Clean-plate clubs apparently emerged after World War II with President Truman’s call for reducing domestic food waste. In our current food-rich environment with its ever-expanding portion sizes, cleaning one’s plate can contribute to excess calorie intake and weight gain.
When people talk about eating all the food on their plate, they often say they “clean their plate” or are members of the “clean plate club.” The guidance for people to clean their plate appears to have originated during World War I when the U.S. government was trying to prevent waste. Clean-plate clubs apparently emerged after World War II with President Truman’s call for reducing domestic food waste. In our current food-rich environment with its ever-expanding portion sizes, cleaning one’s plate can contribute to excess calorie intake and weight gain.

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Published by: University of Wyoming Extension on Feb 04, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/11/2014

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The Clean Plate Club:
Tips for dropping out . . .
or never joining!
W
hen people talk about eating all the foodon their plate, they often say they “cleantheir plate” or are members of the “clean plateclub.” The guidance for people to clean theirplate appears to have originated during WorldWar I when the U.S. government was trying toprevent waste
2
. Clean-plate clubs apparentlyemerged after World War II with PresidentTruman’s call for reducing domestic food waste
2
.In our current food-rich environment with itsever-expanding portion sizes, cleaning one’splate can contribute to excess calorie intake andweight gain.Many people of all ages feel the need to cleantheir plate or have felt this need in the past. Thisand other insights are among the findings fromthe qualitative research component of WellnessIN the Rockies (WIN the Rockies)
3
. From thisresearch a set of recommendations has emergedregarding behaviors that people can adopt tobreak the clean-plate habit or to help youthsand other individuals avoid developing thehabit in the first place. Not feeling driven to always clean one’s plate is part of a healthy lifestyle.Lifestyles based on healthy attitudes and behaviors related to physical activity, food and eating, andbody image offer many benefits, including improved psychological well being and reduced risk forproblems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. These lifestyles also canhelp people achieve a healthy weight
4
.Below (in bold-face type) are recommendations for various audiences. Under each recommendationis one or two quotations (in italics) from WIN the Rockies’ interviewees that illustrate the need forthat recommendation.
Suzanne Pelican
, MS, RD, Food and Nutrition Specialist, Department of Familyand Consumer Sciences, University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service
Fred Vanden Heede
, MA, consultant, WIN the Rockies, Laramie, WY
1
MP 112.1
May 2005
 
Target audience –
Parents/other caregivers: 
Help young people recognize their hunger andrespond to feelings of fullness.
Tip #1: Don’t require children and adolescents to eat all of the food on their plates.
I decided with my children . . . if they didn’twant to eat, that was fine. They weren’t gettinganything else. I’m not cooking two meals by anymeans. . . . You don’t want to make food thebiggest priority. . . . [F]ood doesn’t have to be a power struggle. If the kid is hungry, sooner orlater [he’ll] eat. . . .
- Female, late 30s
When I became a parent, when my childrenwere little, I didn’t ever force-feed them. Theydidn’t eat until they were hungry. . . . Well, I don’t have children that are overweight. I havechildren that know when to stop. . . . [T]heyknow the sensation of being full, and it’s really,really nice to see that.
- Female, 40-ish
Tip #2: When possible, allow children andadolescents to portion their own food.
When I would go to my grandma’s house as achild, the rule was you finished what she puton your plate. And . . . I’ve noticed since, I feel guilty when I don’t eat everything that’s on my plate. Even now . . . I feel like I need to finisheverything that’s on my plate, whether I’mhungry for it or not.
- Female, early 20s
 
Tip #3: Model healthy behaviors.
I’m hoping that I’m being a role model to mykids. ’Cause I don’t make them clean their plates off if they’re not hungry anymore. I grewup in the household that said, “There’s kidsstarving overseas; you need to eat everything.” And my husband might disagree with me on thatsometimes, but if the kids aren’t hungry, I justsay, “Okay, you can save it.”
- Female, mid-30s
Target audience –
Adults 
If you were raised in the clean-plate club,retrain yourself.
Tip #1: Don’t finish food if you are not hungry.
[O]ne thing I’m trying to do more in the last fewyears is get away from the old habit of alwayscleaning my plate. . . . [W]hen you’re full, youshould quit eating. The rest you just have toburn off.
- Male, 60-ish
Tip #2: Remember that being overstuffed is nota good feeling.
I enjoy eating. . . . I like good food. . . . Butnow it doesn’t have to be where I’m miserablewhen I get done eating because I’ve had to cleanup my plate. . . . I finally got this mindset that I  feel better if I don’t overeat.
- Female in her 60s

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