Science Says Clearing Your Plate Is Actually a Bad Thing (Sorry, Mom)

One new study reveals a trend amongst those who have no problem wiping their dishes clean.

February 11, 2015
man eating at diner
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Remember when Mom used to keep you at the dinner table until you cleared your plate? Well, it turns out, leaving some food behind on your plate may actually be a good thing. A recent study in the Journal of Obesity analyzed 993 adults, asking them questions about their food-related habits. Analysis showed those who always cleaned their plates were more likely to have higher BMIs than those who did not. 

Granted, it all depends about what's on the plate in the first place. Dr. Lisa Young, R.D. and author of The Portion Teller Plan, agrees with the study's findings. "[There's certainly] a clear relationship between eating large portions and being overweight," Young says. The important thing to do if you're looking to get your weight in check? Focus on adequate portion sizes with particular attention to healthier food choices.

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"A well-rounded plate should include four ounces of protein (a little bigger than your palm), one cup of whole grains (the size of your fist), and at least half a plate of colorful vegetables," says Dr. Young.

And not just at dinner time, either. It's important to fuel up throughout your day to provide your body with a steady stream of energy. For breakfast, make sure you're choosing something that's bigger than carbohydrates. Keri Gans, R.D. and author of The Small Change Diet, suggests kicking off your day with a satiating meal, such as a warm bowl of oatmeal, topped with a healthy fat, like peanut butter, and chia seeds. 

What's critical, though, is to make sure you're topping your healthy, well-portioned servings with the right stuff. While sure, half of your lunch plate may be a delicious salad loaded with greens, peppers, the whole nine yards, the question remains: What are you putting on top of that? Be mindful when you're selecting seasonings, dressings, or marinades, as each addition could dramatically influence nutritional content of your meal. Young's suggestion? Limit the portion size of your dressing or marinade of choice to two tablespoons, or the size of a shot glass.