Clean Plate Club


This morning, I cooked a big pot of steel cut oatmeal. I filled my bowl and started eating…and eating and eating.Breakfast seemed to be taking a little longer than usual. I finally realized I had filled my bowl almost to the rim, about 2.5 servings of oatmeal.

I stopped eating and walked over to the garbage to toss the rest of my oatmeal. It was so hard to throw away!  In fact, I took another bite before I finally dumped it. I had to ask myself the question, “why is it so hard to stop eating when there is still food on the plate?”

67% of Americans eat EVERYTHING on their plate. This spells trouble for me. Most of the time I’m good about controlling my portions, but if I am eating with friends or get distracted, television is on, I can easily eat like a “sailor on leave”.

According to Brian Wansink, PhD., Cornell University Food Lab Director, some theories as to why you might overeat:

Surprise! It’s not because you’re hungry.

  • Friends and family. You will adapt to the eating habits of those around you. If you dine with big eaters, you will eat more food.
  • Plate size and food presentation. We will load food on our plates to fill the real estate. The bigger the plate, the more you eat.
  • Mindless eating, watching television, etc…33% of us eat with the television on. Talk about mindless eating!

Key Point: Most Americans (including me) look for an external reason to stop eating; either an empty plate or the television show is over.  

My top 6 suggestions to help you stop mindless eating:

  1. Variety: Variety may be the spice of life, but too much variety in our food can cause you to overeat. In one study, people given M&Ms in 10 colors ate 43 percent more than those who were offered M&Ms in just 7 colors. We eat with our eyes, and our eyes trick our stomachs. The more colors we see on a plate, the more we eat.
  2. Container size: Moviegoers given an extra-large bucket of stale popcorn will eat up to 50 percent more than those given a smaller container of popcorn. Size matters.
  3. The eyes have it: Another study found that, hungry or not, people will eat more food if the food is in a clear bowl.
  4. Time for a kitchen makeover. Buy smaller plates; 9 inches is a good size for a dinner plate and make sure    you don’t buy clear glass, go for the opaque plate.
  5. Get out of the kitchen! After dinner go walk your dog, water a plant, or brush your teeth. This break will send a signal to your brain that you are finished eating. So, when you finally go back to the kitchen, you will be less likely to eat the leftovers.
  6. Turn on the lights! Romantic lighting can cause people to eat more. Also, low lights cause you to linger at the table, making it more likely that you will grab seconds.
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