As kids we learn a lot of lessons. One that probably rings a bell in many of our heads is to “eat all of the food on your plate!” And I must admit that every time I am down to the last few bites of food for each meal, there definitely is added pressure to eat all of the food, even if I am full.

In addition to childhood pressures that were developed many years ago, I also consider financial pressures — all in the last few bites of food. I mean, I paid for this food. It wasn’t necessarily cheap, so it shouldn’t go to waste! Right?

Finally, every now and then, I make the mistake of cooking food that actually tastes good. So, although I am as full as can be, I am proud of the fact that dinner is tasty tonight and again, feel more pressure to clean the plate.

For some reason, I forced myself to evaluated these traditional thoughts that seemed so concrete in my head.

The other day, I was eating some good ‘ole boiled New Orleans seafood. For those of you here in New Orleans, you know exactly what I mean. To those from outside of the region, eating boiled seafood is a “spiritual experience.” You can taste centuries of cultural development in the seasoning and feel the endorphin rush from the spiciness of the seafood, followed by the satisfaction of chewing wholesome seafood protein.

With this particular dining experience, I challenged myself to try to be present in the moment of eating and actually really enjoy every bite of food that I ate.

A few realizations came to me:

First, I enjoyed the food much more! I clearly already love boiled seafood, but taking the time to appreciate every bite simply made the food taste that much more fantastic! Because I enjoyed every single bite, I ate slower, which allowed my body’s “full” hormones to kick in. Before I knew it, I was full and my mind was telling me to stop eating.

But wait! I couldn’t stop! There was still more food to eat!

Then, I reflected on this mental battle I was continuing to have with myself.

  • Why did I feel so pressured to eat all of this food?
  • Because I didn’t eat the last bit of food on my plate, is someone else starving because of it?
  • Does leaving the food mean that I didn’t enjoy it?
  • Will I miss out on more eating pleasure if I don’t eat everything?
  • Am I wasting my money?

The truth of the matter is that the answer to all of my questions is no.

Nobody is starving because I didn’t lick my plate clean. Besides, I make it a point to donate regularly to organizations that support the hungry in the community. So, this isn’t a reason for me to stuff more food in my stomach. Even if I eat it, it’s not helping someone else.

What about manners?

Well, I realized that it is silly for me to offend myself for not eating all of the food I cooked. I honestly just never thought about it!

What about manners when visiting another who cooked?

Try with not being greedy to begin with, which your host will probably appreciate up front. And if they put too much food on your plate, just politely ask them to take some back. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, just be honest when you are full. Ask to take home the remaining food on your plate, which will actually flatter your host.

What about missing out on all of the eating pleasure?

For me, feeling bloated and stuffed takes away from the pleasure of eating. Why not save your left over food until later, when you can enjoy it more without the negative feelings of satiety?

Finally, when it comes to feeling like I should eat for money’s sake — it quickly realized how much money I can save by eating less. I now buy less food, don’t stress out as much about purchasing healthier options (like salmon) and don’t have to cook as frequently.

After this reflection, throwing away food (or saving it) is connected with different feelings:

  • I thank God for allowing me too much food to eat.
  • Extra calories are better suited for the trashcan than my stomach.
  • Nobody is suffering because I did not clean my plate.
  • I can save food, which results in saved money
  • I have forced myself to be more present with my meal.

The key is to take your time when you eat. Be present during your meal and don’t fret about left over food! If you can’t keep it, toss it!

If you can save it, consider it a free future meal.