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The Clean Plate Club

Brett Florence/

The Clean Plate club can lead to weight gain for adults and frustration for parents who want their kids to clean their plates.

Dr. Brian Wansink: You know what my problem is that I belong to the Clean Plate Club. 

Ditmire: Dr. Brian Wansink says he hears that a lot from people who say they can't seem to lose weight.  

Dr. Wansink: They make it sound like it's seven exclusive members. 

Ditmire: Wansink and his research team at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab analyzed over a thousand meals of adults and children to look at how much food people leave behind on their plate. 

Dr. Wansink: They end up eating 92 percent of everything they serve so basically the entire world is a member of the clean plate club. 

Ditmire: He says that's because as adults we know what we like and don't like to eat.

Dr. Wansink: If you know you don’t like eggplant you just don’t put any eggplant on your plate

Ditmire: And when we do like something, we tend to fill up our plates.

Dr. Wansink: Make sure there’s nothing that causes you to over serve in the first place. Make sure you are not serving onto a big plate, because you will serve yourself 25 percent more but eat it. Make sure you're not using a big serving spoon because you’ll serve about 14 percent more with that.

Ditmire: When it comes to kids, it's a different story.  

Dr. Wansink: If we look at kids who self serve, they only eat on average about 56 percent of what they serve. They eat just little over half of everything they serve. First of all, they don’t what's going to fill them up or not because they don't have that much experience. Second they don't really know what they like or not. They don’t know that they don’t like eggplant. They don’t know that Jamaican jerk chicken is spicy, so a lot of it gets thrown away not because they're full but because they say "ugh I don’t like it."

Ditmire: Which makes it frustrating for parents who want their kids to be members of The Clean Plate Club, too.  

Dr. Wansink: On average, the typical kid will only eat not much more than half of what they serve themselves. And knowing that is what is normal for kids can be incredibly comforting for parents who maybe until this time have been really frustrated. 

Ditmire: Including members of his own research team.  

Dr. Wansink: Within about two days of doing those studies and doing those analysis, about half of the people in my lab changed the way we eat with our kids almost overnight.