Health Watch -- Clean Plate Club

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

If you're a member of the clean plate club, you may be eating more than you need.

Many of us learned a bad habit in childhood when we were taught to clean our plates. This is a habit that apparently carries over into adulthood. A recent study released by the American Institute for Cancer Research found that most Americans clean their plates at mealtime -- no matter how big portions are.

People surveyed in the study said they usually ate their whole meal when they were eating at restaurants. People also tended to eat more food in a clinical setting when a larger portion was put in front of them. Most people in this study didn't even realize they were eating more.

This is particularly troublesome when you realize that restaurant portions have grown significantly over the past few decades. For example, an order of fries in the 1950s was less than half the size of a typical order of fries today.

Dietitians at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that restaurant servings are generally much larger than the portion sizes that nutrition guidelines are based on. To get a sense for what a serving really should be, use measuring cups at home when you serve your food, so you'll have an idea what a proper serving size looks like. A serving of rice, vegetables or pasta is about half a cup. When was the last time you had that small a serving at a restaurant?

Instead of cleaning your plate, ask for a to-go container and save the rest of your meal for later.