The Clean Plate Club

I got mixed signals from my parents about food.  My dad was a vocal member of The Clean Plate Club.  My mother was a successful dieter who employed the strategy of not finishing all the food in front of her.  Eat, don’t eat, eat, don’t eat.  So what did I do?  I ate (junk)… and didn’t eat (healthy food); not the best compromise.

I don’t remember hearing my dad invoke the classic line about children starving somewhere in the world.  But I do remember him telling us about his childhood and how as a result he did not believe in food going to waste.  He had a knack for getting every piece of flesh off a chicken bone!  My mother, on the other hand, taught me that if you don’t want to eat too much of a meal you should sprinkle a huge amount of salt or pepper on top to render it unpalatable.

It is interesting for me to reflect on this because while my mom was clearly the stronger influence, since I am not a plate cleaning believer, she is consistently at a healthy weight and I am not.  I learned from her to throw away food so I would not be tempted.  And I do.  But obviously not often enough.  But then again, meals have never been my major weight contributor… it is the food between them.

Now I am married to a man who, like my father, hates to see food go to waste.  And like my father, he will eat what his kids leave behind so that it is not just tossed in the trash.  His upbringing also led him to the clean plate club.  Sometimes that works well for me because DH will finish what I don’t… Jack Sprat and his wife, between us licking the plate clean.  Not that I like the idea of wasting food either… I just don’t want to eat more than I want to eat.  Or should eat.

I know the perfect solution is to only put on one’s plate what one will eat.  But sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs.  (Okay, bad analogy… my stomach is wayyyy bigger in real life.)   And quite honestly, I am not the best cook so sometimes I just don’t like what is on my plate.  So my mother’s daughter would toss it, but my father’s daughter and husband’s wife would eat every last bite.

What about you?



Filed under dieting, family, food, history (my past), influence of others

16 responses to “The Clean Plate Club

  1. My mother did use the starving children in China line when I was a kid. I wasn’t the best of eaters growing up. I’m much like my mom. I hate food waste. It really upsets me. I just don’t put a lot on the plate. I know I can always have seconds if I’m still hungry after. If only I could teach my daughter that. She always takes too much and doesn’t finish it. I never make her clean her plate, but always make the comment about not taking so much to start with. If I’m smart I’ll remind her before she takes it all. I like to eat my leftovers for lunch not throw them away.

  2. One thing my parents did right was never push us to join the clean plate club. Even growing up in the 80s when my dad was doing contract work and most of our meals were from our own garden because we had no money, it was never really about cleaning our plates. But their approach definitely was if you don’t eat it, don’t expect to get something else later on when you’re hungry. So I probably ate it out of fear of being hungry later… lol!

  3. My Hubbend’s wife and my Mother and Father’s daughter, and My In-laws daughter-in-law DOES NOT WASTE FOOD.

    But, for my health and the sake of my daughter’s I am breaking the mold. Thus she has the same conflicted existence as me. But, I don’t care. If she says she is full, then she is done. The cost of food is less than the cost on her.

    I clean up the kitchen. Nobody’s going to care or notice if I don’t clean my plate.

  4. sunnydaze

    When I was growing up my mom used to check our plates to see if she thought that we’d eaten enough – if not, we’d have to eat a little more. I think she thought that we wouldn’t eat dinner but then would ask for a cookie 5 minutes later or something. Now, I try to put smaller, more realistic portions on my plate. If I get full before it’s gone I don’t eat it.

  5. Ohhh, I heard about the starving children all the time. And we couldn’t leave the table until every bit was gone; some times we sat there for hours. We learned how to tiptoe, and very creative places to hide our food.

    Now, there is just two of us. At least once a week is ‘leftovers’ night. So nothing much gets wasted; it just takes us a while to get to everything. 😉

  6. My mom taught us to take small portions and if we wanted more we could have a second helping. Of course we had to finish the vegetables first! Had I been raised by my Dad alone, it would have been a different story. He was a big believer in the clean your plate theory. (I always wondered why we couldn’t send my pork chop to one of those starving children in Africa. LOL!)

  7. I have been doomed on the eating end – ever since I developed gastroparesis, I CAN’T eat a lot at a time. You take a few bites and WHAM you are full. But do I lose weight, even though I don’t eat? Of COURSE not, that would make too much sense. Sigh.

  8. Hey girl…

    Aaaahhh…parents and the eating messages they send. I could write a book on it!!

    I had to restart my blog. Hope you’ll visit 🙂

  9. I do regret that my kids don’t think twice about wasting food. Add that to my long list of parenting mistakes.

  10. My mom was a full-fledge member of the clean plate club too. Until after I became an adult and she realized that she was repeating learned behavior from her childhood and that it wasn’t a good thing.

    I’ve been trying so hard to impress on my kids that they don’t have to clean their plate if they are full.

    I still struggle with this one though. I’ve been trying to leave a few bites when I’m done, but I still struggle. It’s more mental than anything.

  11. We could not be excused from the table until our plates were clean. I think one of my stubborn brothers sat there for hours refusing to eat pearl onions. I can remember going to a friends house when I was 7 or 8. The supper was awful (at least my mother was a good cook) but of course I cleaned my plate. My friends mother was so pleased that I liked her cooking so much she filled my plate again!
    I never made my kids clean their plates; all I asked is that they at least try a food before rejecting it.

  12. Luckily my parents never said a word about eating other than to eat as much as you want and then stop. I think this is a very important message for kids to understand. Sometimes one of my three boys will ask me if I think they are eating too much (I know they hear things at school about kids being fat and they worry), and I just tell them to eat as much as their body tells them to!

  13. My parents had a rule that we had to eat 3 bites of anything we put on our plates. I have no idea where they got this, and neither do they. 🙂

    Today, I don’t like wasting food. I’ll have it wrapped in a restaurant, or slide it back in the fridge if I’m at home, but I try not to throw anything away. Which is, of course, why my fridge is so scary looking. Hate clean-out-the-fridge-day and skip it as often as I can get away with.

  14. My father used to say the starving children line & he used finish whatever I couldn’t.

    I’d say I am half and half. Sometimes I clean my plate & sometimes I don’t.

    I make my boys eat at least half their food before they can leave the table. I try to give everyone appropriate serving sizes so we mostly avoid having any conflict.

  15. Brightside susan

    My mom made us clean our plates if we wanted dessert. That was a bad way to go. I put really small portions on my kids plates and they had to at least try things. I didn’t offer up dessert as a reward for eating a full dinner.

    I also don’t worry about wasting food because I eat leftovers for lunches, use some of the ingredients in other meals, etc.

  16. I was never pushed to clean my plate. I don’t try to now. My relationship with food is screwed up in other ways.

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