Is it important to finish your food?


Fact Box

  • The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute revealed that American restaurants' food portion sizes have doubled or even tripled in the last twenty years.
  • A recent study concluded that plate size does not influence the amount of food that one eats to feel satiated.
  • Research suggests that not pressuring your child to finish their food will result in them eating more. 
  • Food historian Helen Viet attributes America's current disdain for eating leftovers to a shift in the 1960s when 'refrigeration and cheap food became plentiful.'

Sheryll (No)

The issue with insisting that you must always finish your plate of food is that you are allowing external cues to dictate how much you should be eating. 

Your body knows better than you do how much food you need. When you’re having a meal, it begins to register how much you’re consuming and releases signals once you start to get full. But these signals aren’t going to mean anything if you don’t pay attention. If you only focused on emptying your plate, you’d be restricting yourself from getting acquainted with that feeling of satiety. You’d be making a conscious choice to override your body’s natural mechanism to stop you from overeating. 

This would especially be a problem when eating out at restaurants, where portions will be bigger than what you’re used to. Experts argue that plates themselves are too big, to begin with, and that the size of plates has ballooned in recent decades to make you believe you should be eating more. Considering this, cleaning your plate means setting yourself up for gaining weight.

It is understandable, however, that wasted food can be a painful sight to see. But unfinished food doesn’t always have to be a waste. Why not save the leftovers for another day? Or give them to someone in need? Refusing to empty your plate is not as damaging as it seems. What can be damaging is letting yourself remain oblivious to your body’s satiety signals, just to have the baseless satisfaction of seeing a clean plate.

William (Yes)

Are you part of the clean plate club, or do you succumb to continually hearing about starving children in other countries? Many of us have distinct childhood memories of our moms telling us to finish our plates of food--along with the adage, 'waste not, want not.' 

Whether or not to eat everything on your plate is a double-edged sword of nutrition. Overeating leads to health problems, yet finishing all your food reduces food waste, a growing problem.

A simple solution to this dilemma is to put on your plate only what you intend to eat. This helps to lower both food waste and the growing health issues associated with overeating.

Food waste is characteristic of our times, with 40% of it occurring at the retail and consumer levels--an enormous amount of food is literally thrown away. People buy more than they need from the grocery store 'just in case' and end up disposing of it for various reasons--not enough time to cook, food spoils prematurely, etc. 

Not wasting food also saves you money. Even if you do not care about the environment (which you should), there are purely selfish reasons to stop wasting food. The less food you purchase, the less money you will spend. It's simply planning, really. 

The world's population is expected to reach 9.8 billion by the year 2050. The inevitable question is: how to feed everyone? Experts suggest that by reducing food waste by just a quarter, it would be enough to feed all malnourished people. Therefore, what our moms said about finishing our plates of food makes sense.

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