Most of the World Belongs to the Clean Plate Club – Except Children

Brian Wansink and Katherine Abowd Johnson. (2014) The Clean Plate Club: About 92% of Self-Served Food is Eaten. The International Journal of Obesity, forthcoming.

foodandbrandlab@cornell.edu

If you’re a member of the Clean Plate Club – you eat pretty much everything you put on your plate – you’re not alone!  A new Cornell University study shows that the average adult eats 92% of whatever he or she puts on his/her  plate.  “If you put it on your plate, it’s going into your stomach,” says Brian Wansink Ph.D., author of the forthcoming book, Slim by Design, Professor of Marketing and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

Wansink and co-author Katherine Abowd Johnson analyzed 1179 diners and concluded that we’re a Clean Plate Planet.  Although diners were analyzed in 7 developed countries, the US, Canada, France, Taiwan, Korea, Finland, and the Netherlands, the results were nearly identical. If we serve it, we’ll eat it regardless of gender or nationality. “Part of why we finish most of what we serve is because we are aware enough to know how much we’ll want in the first place,” says Johnson.

The finding did not hold true with children.  Analysis of 326 participants under 18 years old, showed that the average child eats only about 60% of what he or she serves. “This might be because kids are less certain about whether they will like a particular food,” says Wansink.  “Regardless, this is good news for parents who are frustrated that their kids don’t clean their plate.  It appears few of them do.”

Wansink says that these findings, published in the International Journal of Obesity, can positively impact an individual’s eating behavior, “Just knowing that you’re likely to consume almost all of what you serve yourself can help you be more mindful of appropriate portion size.” Next time you grab that serving spoon, think to yourself, “How much do I want to eat?” and serve accordingly. 

Summary by Brian Wansink, PhD