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Clean Plate Club? [moved from General Topics]

When the heat goes up, my appetite goes down.

While at lunch with a group today, I only ate half a sandwich because I wasn't that hungry. One woman playfully taunted me by saying something like, "oh, no clean plate club for you today!" I politely laughed, but didn't get it. Later, someone explained that the "Clean Plate Club" is when you eat all the food on your plate, then get to have dessert or some other reward. Appearantly lots of parents used that strategy to get their kids to eat (and maybe still do?).

This is kind of a foreign concept to me. When I was a kid I was a good eater, but I was never forced to "clean my plate." Doesn't this lead to kids developing lifelong food issues, and using guilt as a motivation/discipline tool? When I was a kid, if I was only hungry enough to eat half a sandwich, the other half was simply wrapped and put in the refrigerator and either I or someone else would eat it if they got hungry. I've always thought I was lucky to not have food issues or body image issues like so many girls and women in America, but perhaps I was just raised with healthier attitudes about food....

Anyone else experience this "clean plate" phenomenon? I'm very curious about this.

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  1. Although I did not grow up in a "clean plate club" house, my husband did. I think because there were 2 boys and they were fed very healthy food, the clean plate club took on a slightly different meaning. Neither one of them have real food issues. I can imagine how it could harm others.

    They also offered "no thank you" portions of foods you didn't want to eat (a small taste, just to try). A little hokey, but it seemed to work for them.

    We never encourage the clean plate club with our kids. Teaching kids to make good food choices is a better approach in my opinion.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chocolate chick

      This is much less disturbing than the description of I was given by a woman at lunch today. She is very overweight and eats all of her food very quickly. She doesn't seem to know how to say "no, thank you," when food is offered to her. She seems satisfied only when she can "clean" her plate, and is overly apologetic when she doesn't finish a portion. In her case, the "clean plate club" did more to reinforce bad food choices than encouraging good ones.

      I like your description of the "no, thank you" portion. Hokey, yes, but clever.

    2. Well, there's clearly a difference between a parent who is trying to get his/her young child to eat enough, and a person who doesn't know to stop eating when full.

      1. I've never heard of a "clean plate club" (until now), but my parents told me when I was growing up that, "there are kids starving in Africa" and I needed to clean my plate of every morsel.

        I have food issues, but no body image issues (gotta love what I can't change). Specific food issue is only making/plating what I can eat. I don't buy extra dairy or produce; I'd rather go to the market every other day than shop a weeks's worth of groceries. I also don't make extra food unless I'm planning on leftovers for the following day. Essentially, nothing goes to waste; hubby doesn't understand this concept.

        1 Reply
        1. re: OCAnn

          i understand it, and i afree with your philosophy completely

        2. My mom used to bring up the "clean plate club" but in jest and never forced us to finish if we could not eat anymore.
          I went to a Catholic school where the sisters would force you to eat what was on your plate at lunch time. (because of the starving children in China...) I remember some kids crying or getting sick. I wanted to send the food to China.
          I have a friend who, when her sons were young, made them stay at the table until they finished everything in front of them. They both now have eating and weight problems. I vowed that I would not do this and my children ate what they could and I would just take away the leftovers, never making a big deal about it. They are both healthy adults with good eating habits.

          1. I grew up with this "phenomenon." In my case, I believe it was born of two ideas. Firstly, my parents were children during the great depression and this instilled in them the "waste not, want not" attitude. Secondly, they firmly believed in eating a balanced diet.

            By the way, to this day, I feel guilty when not "cleaning" my plate.