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Tomato Salad With Horseradish
The Clean Plate Conundrum
r e HOWTHE CLEAN PLATE PHENOMENON MAY BE KILLING YOUR DIET
As you celebrate your last backyard barbecue, consider this: If someone puts three helpings of potato salad on your plate, would you feel pressured to finish it? According to nutrition experts, this pressure to finish your plate is making people indulge a little too much.
But all those “one more bites” add up. Researchers from Vanderbilt University conducted a study in which participants were served individual plates with any number of cookies piled on top. They were instructed to eat three cookies, and afterward, researchers asked each of them if they wanted more. Those who had only one or two cookies left on their plates were more likely to indulge in a fourth or fifth cookie, while those who had no cookies left or had too many cookies left said they were full. Despite what you think about your own diet, this isn’t a problem sequestered to certain parties. Studies have found that plates and portion sizes in the U.S. have increased by about 20% since the 1970s. The same psychology that propelled humans to eat just a little bit more to survive is now contributing to serious overeating and a staggering calorie intake. There are a few simple tricks you can use to break this habit. Use smaller plates or measure out your food portions so you can clean your plate without guilt. You can also get into the habit of leaving a few bites on your plate to retrain your brain that it’s okay to not finish your food. (You can use your leftover food for compost or save it for later!) With a little effort and intention, you can break free of the pressure to clean your plate.
Dubbed the “clean plate phenomenon,” this overindulgence is troubling. Researchers have discovered that people feel pressured to clean their plates even when they feel satisfied or full. Even people who don’t fill their plates all the way often reach for that last piece or second helping because “one more bite won’t hurt.” Experts speculate that this compulsion could have stemmed from habits passed down from World War II, when rationing food was required for most, or from a fear of wasting food. Most people have, at some point, heard an adult say to a child, “Eat up; there are starving children in the world.”
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