(Not) Cleaning your plate

I don’t know what it is about our society, but most of us have been taught (and are teaching our children) to “clean our plate”. As it turns out this might actually be really bad advice. One of the more surprising things I learned from Michael Pollan’s book is that other (much healthier) cultures simply stop eating when they receive an internal cue that they are starting to feel full (about eighty percent full, to be more specific). On the other hand, according to Pollan, we Americans eat until we “receive some visual [or external] cue from the environment that it’s time to stop: the bowl or package is empty, the plate is clean, or the TV show is over.” Wow, what a novel idea to instead stop eating the moment you no longer feel hungry!

My husband and I have been trying to carry out this advice ever since we read the book a few months ago and, I must report that for some reason this is very HARD to do! Imagine you are eating and enjoying a delicious meal. There are two bites left, but you start to feel full…what do you do? I start to have a little battle in my head trying to force myself to just leave the last two little delicious bites alone. Is it enough food for me to save? I don’t want to waste it. Shouldn’t I just finish it even though I know my stomach is starting to feel full? I have only succeeded in not overeating (beyond 80% full) about half of the time that this has happened.

I have mentioned before that when you start to eat real food you fill up faster. When you eat processed foods that are mostly high in calories/energy and low in nutritients you need to eat more to get to that feeling of being full. So not only is it important to listen to your internal cues when you start to fill up, but it is also important to adjust your portion sizes accordingly (especially if you are eating real food). I have found that serving myself the appropriate amount helps tremendously to ensure that I also eat the right amount.

So the next time you serve yourself a meal, try starting with a half a sandwich or burger, or even just a kid plate amount of food. You can always go back for seconds!  While it is unfortunately true that buying real food can cost more than the processed stuff, it certainly helps your wallet if you only buy and eat the right amount of it.