When I was a kid my family would often go to buffets and I would fill my plate with colors and textures. It had nothing to do with how hungry I was. I was six. I was making art. Typically I would eat 1/4th or 1/3rd of the plate before I was completely full. Well, my dad said I was wasting food by not eating it. And he would force me to eat the whole plate. I would do it and then become miserable for hours. I was stuffed to an extremely uncomfortable degree. You’d think that I’d learn to put less on my plate, but no. I just learned to take the pain of overeating.
Now, I do sympathize with what my dad’s intent, but now as an adult I completely disagree with his logic. Think about the situation. There’s food on my plate. One of two things is going to happen. I’m either going to eat it or leave it on the plate and it will eventually get tossed in the garbage. It makes sense at first thought that the latter circumstance is wasting food, but what my dad failed to see is that the former circumstance is also wasting food, but with additional consequences.
When I overeat I fill myself with food that my body will not use for anything other than fat storage. All the energy I needed was taken care of when I ate 1/3rd of my plate. Anything else is either going to get stored as fat or my body’s gonna just try and pass it on through. So, it’s a waste either way. But in the trash it’s not causing me physical pain. It’s not messing with my innards. It’s not giving me a complex that I’ll struggle with my whole life to only feel satisfied with food when I feel over full and see a clean plate. I agree that both are wasteful, but the latter does more damage.
If you’re not convinced yet let’s say you park at a meter. You put in enough money to park legally for 2 hours. Your appointment only takes one hour. Was it a waste to put enough money in for two? Sure. But since you can’t get it back (anymore than I could put food back in the buffet for someone else to enjoy) what are you gonna do? Stay parked there for another hour even though you have nothing else to do in that part of town? Would that make you feel better to stay parked the whole time? Cause it would only waste your day to sit in your car parked for no reason other than to ‘get your money’s worth.’
The difference in the two scenarios is that if you leave the parking space then the meter (depending on the type of meter) will still keep that spot legal and someone else could park there for a free hour because of you. If I leave my food on the table and leave the restaurant no one is going to eat it. I could give it to my family, but usually they had their own food and didn’t want my leftovers. And because it was a buffet I couldn’t take it home. So, there’s no option with the food that allows it to not go to waste.
So, if you’re in my dad’s camp of thought, I implore you to think about this. Don’t make your kid eat past full. Instead use the opportunity to teach your kid how much food he/she actually wanted and to use that as a measuring stick for ordering food next time. Don’t feel pressure for yourself or your kids to clean their plate. They’re not wasting it any more or less than if that food was thrown away. And teaching kids what it’s like to stop when you feel full is a way better lesson than forcing them to eat it all.