The Clean Plate Club started out as a useful tool to reduce food waste but in the modern day it’s more of a danger than an aid. If you’re looking to turn in your membership, we’ve got some great tips.
As a kid, my parents congratulated my brother and me when we finished all the food our plates.
It was adorable when we asked for seconds. If we had food left on our plates and we said we were full, we were told to take one more bite.
My mom always insisted that we become members of the Clean Plate Club.
What is the Clean Plate Club?
The Clean Plate Club was actually a propaganda campaign that began i 1917 during food shortages and regulation around WWI.
Basically, there was a limited amount of food available so people were encourages to “clean their plates” to reduce waste. Historically, it made sense. You were never sure when your next meal would come, so finish the one you had.
The problem is, years later into a time when food was no longer a commodity that was in danger the clean plate club is still a problem.
Why is the Clean Plate Club bad?
It’s not bad perse. It’s just used improerly and encourages overeating and food problems. Kids are encouraged or worse, forced, to clear their plates and rewarded when they do so.
This creates multiple issues.
- Children are unable to listen to their own hunger cues.
- Children begin to associate meal times with over eating.
- Stress can occur around mealtimes, making them miserable for all involved. Read more about Dinner Battles here.
Long story short, by forcing children to eat all of their food every meal, we are teaching them NOT to listen to their bodies. This can cause issues later on in life with overeating and possibly obesity.
How to “Quit” the Clean Plate Club?
Okay so you’ve found yourself in the trap but want to stop. What to do? We’ve got some tips.
For your kids:
The thought is pretty simple. Stop asking your kids to clear their plate before leaving the table! Focus on meal times as family time rather than “eating” time.
Set clear rules from the beginning around what they can and cannot do at the table and when they can leave.
At our house, the only rules are that I make only one meal and that they do not HAVE to eat, but they have to sit and be kind people.
It can be harder to stop clearing your plate regardless of hunger cues if you’ve been taught your whole life to do so. Here are some tips that might help.
- Listen to your body!! Stop when you are full.
- Remove restrictive rules. Snack when you’re hungry, Indulge in small meals if you’re not super hungry. The traditional meal and snack times need not apply.
- Serve smaller portions and go for seconds as needed.
- Drink more water! We often confuse hunger with thirst.
Removing yourself and your family from the habit of clearing your plate might not be simple, but in the long run it will pay off.
Either way, I’m shredding my gold membership card.
Are you a member of the Clean Plate Club? Do you have the Curse of the Clean Plate Club? Let me know in the comments!