Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Clean Plate Club

Are you a member?

When I was a kid, I was encouraged to "clean my plate." I don't think my parents specifically mentioned starving children in foreign lands, but that vibe was definitely there. My parents lived through the Depression, after all. My father told stories about hunting squirrels and eating them, brains and all. My mom had two siblings and four step brothers and sisters, so I know picky eating was not tolerated in their home.

So my brother and I cleaned our plates, which thankfully did not include the organs of any type of rodent. We did not, however, have a problem with overeating and were of normal weight. My mom prepared three traditional, homemade "squares" a day. We ate few processed foods. For dinner we always drank tall glasses of whole milk. I still remember some of my favorite meals: malt-o-meal for breakfast, spam sandwiches for lunch, and "cowboy" dumplings with fried chicken for dinner. Mom made a great casserole featuring hamburger, rice, tomato sauce, celery, and American cheese slices. For a special treat I helped her make salads that looked like rabbits. The body was a canned pear half, with raisins for eyes and a cottage cheese tail. For birthdays she made wonderfully decorated homemade cakes and a fabulous punch featuring a variety of juices and frozen strawberries.

We ate it all. Then we went out to play.

I often think that if I ate that way now, I'd be terribly fat. My mom doesn't cook that way anymore, either. She actually relies on a lot of frozen dinners and processed meals. (Shame on you, Mom!) Truthfully, it is hard for her to cook these days and I can't blame her for going with convenience. But it would be cool to have those dumplings again...

Anyway, around our house we don't push cleaning the plate. A recent family dinner at the home of a relative made me realize how differently we manage food around here. My nine-year-old son ate two thirds of the large hamburger he wsa served, and proceeded to the kitchen to throw out the leftovers. This is what he would do at our house, without question. It didn't go over well.

"What are you doing?" his aunt asked. "You better eat that!"

"Don't you throw that out!" said another aunt.

"Remember what we heard when we were kids: 'in your mouth or up your nose!'"

Hardly advice for healthy eating habits.

The truth is, if I don't clean my plate, it will not affect the food supply in thrid world countries. If it goes in my mouth or in the garbage can, it is gone either way.

We Christians seem to have a particularly hard time with this. We think we are wasting food and money, misusing the gifts God has given us. In reality, when we eat more food than we need simply because it is in front of us, we are denying God's ability to give us what we need when we need it. I better eat all of this right now, we think. There may not be more for me. Better get it now! Stuff it in!
It's as if we don't trust God to provide for us.

Next time you are tempted to clean your plate, even when you're not hungry, try this. Picture whatever is left on your plate in HUGE quanities. Imagine an entire room filled with this food. Realize that there is indeed a whole world of food (and everything else you need) out there. Then trust that God will provide you with the nourishment you need, just when you need it.

Then guiltlessly put those leftovers in the trash, and teach your children to do the same.


Soul Pockets said...

I have such a problem with wasting food. I put very small portions on my kids plate, if they want more they can have more. I do agree with not forcing yourself or your children to eat large amounts of food that has been served to them. This is a good reason to have dogs. If you don't finish your food you can give it to the dogs, then it's not wasting it's sharing.

Sara said...

With 6 kids and a huge grocery bill, I am opposed to wasting food. I fill plates at the stove, starting with the smallest person and serve accordingly. I would rather they go back for seconds. If I overserved, there is usually a hungry football player who will finish someone else's goodies.

The flip side to this argument for us constant dieters is to fill your plate to last until the next meal and don't go back for seconds.

I think the reason you weren't fat as kids is because you ate and played and didn't stay home grazing. That's what gets me as a SAHM, grazing.