Repeat after me: you don’t have to clear your plate

Repeat after me: you don’t have to clear your plate

It’s always a surprise when something you’ve told your children appears to have made. My son told me that he had repeated my favourite saying that ‘the biggest waste of food is eating something you don’t really want’ when he was out at dinner a few nights ago. Apparently, his friend was criticising him for not eating everything he’d ordered and even churned out the old saw that ‘people are starving in Africa’. My son replied that if he could airmail the food to someone who needed it he happily would but he couldn’t and he still had no inclination to eat it himself.

Did you grow up being told that you must eat everything on your plate?

Think for a moment about what that really means. You’re being told to override your appetite deliberately in order to eat a totally arbitrary amount of food – the amount someone else decided to serve. This might make sense if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from but, in our current environment, it clearly makes no sense at all. Even so, if it has been drilled into your brain since childhood, leaving food uneaten can be a real challenge.

If the very thought of ‘wasting food’ by leaving it on your plate makes your blood run cold, it’s time to start breaking out of that psychological prison.

Try leaving just a spoonful or so of every meal you eat then throwing this away. You’ll see that the earth doesn’t swallow you up, nor will any third world children starve because of your actions. Food you don’t want or need that ends up in your stomach is a lot more wasteful than the same food in a bin.

Restaurants offering a smörgåsbord take the problem to a different level. Not only do some people clear their plate, they go back time and time again. They couldn’t possibly still be hungry – but they’ve paid for ‘all they can eat’ and they’re determined to get their money’s worth. If you mentally change the concept to ‘all you need to satisfy your appetite’ you’ll have a completely different view of where the real value lies.

(Some of this is taken from my book Staying Well for Life)