Why Eating Your Kids Leftovers Is Always The Right Move

In praise of the "Nuggetarian" diet.

by Chris Shott
An illustrated man with a variety of fast food and junk food in his body

As a parent, it’s important to set a good example. That’s why you should stuff your face with pizza crusts, half-eaten cupcakes, and other delicious debris that your picky-ass children leave in their wake.

America has a disgusting food-waste problem — and our adorable little offspring, yours and mine, rank among the worst offenders. According to the USDA, an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the entire food supply goes to waste in this country. We’re talking about billions of pounds worth of perfectly edible, wholesome food thrown out every year.

People of all ages are complicit in the squandering, of course. But, as any parent of young children will tell you, a close inspection of landfill contents would reveal unconscionably high levels of soggy Cheerios, crumbled Goldfish crackers, and other clear evidence of juvenile culpability.

Walt Stoneburner via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

All that food left to rot in the landfill doesn’t just smell bad. The funky fume is called methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Landfills are one of the biggest sources of methane emissions in the United States, and the single biggest component in landfills is wasted food. You can probably see where this is headed: we, as a society, are not eating ourselves to death.

Even if you don’t buy the whole climate-catastrophe thing, it’s hard to ignore the financial hit. U.S. consumers wasted some $161 billion on uneaten food in 2010 alone, according to one government estimate — and that was before many American kids even discovered the GoGo Squeez.

For the sake of your own home economics, if not humanity itself, it’s your duty as The Man Of The House to literally step up to the plate. To confront this crisis, America needs new kind of hero, someone quick and able to eliminate food waste right at its source.

Enter the Nuggetarian.

My friend, Washington Post food writer Tim Carman, coined the term, which aptly describes that unique breed of parent who can subsist almost entirely on his children’s leftovers. The word makes a lot of sense, because most meals involved with this progressive style of eating will inevitably include one wad of breaded protein or another.

Think of him like a Freegan, only instead of dumpster diving, he simply scavenges his kids’ scraps, dutifully helping to cure society’s ills in the process.

Sure, you could try a different tact. But simply launching into a lecture at the dinner table doesn’t go nearly far enough. Generations of parents preaching clean-plate ethics have done little to sufficiently increase kiddie appetites in most cases. Worse, they’ve frankly failed to generate even a hint of goddamn appreciation for how good these frickin’ kids have it these days. This is really nobody’s fault. Children are picky eaters by nature. It’s how they develop independence and decision-making skills, and it’s infuriating.

jcreed via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

Though clearly not innocent in this whole mess, most children are not old enough to take on the karma of wanton first-world excess on their own, so it’s up to us, the parents, to help make things right. That means finishing off an endless buffet of partially nibbled chicken nuggets, rapidly congealing mac and cheese residue, and completely untouched produce of all kinds, among other delicacies.

To be clear, Nuggetarianism doesn’t need to be a rigid, all-or-nothing proposition. Simply adhere to the practice whenever your children fail to finish their own meager servings.

At breakfast time, gobble up all remaining specks of cereal, frozen waffle, yogurt and fruit. At lunch, it’s severed sandwich crusts and shards of discarded potato chips. And then, in the evenings, just follow the old TV weight-loss slogan, and have a “sensible dinner” — the adult kind.

The perks of a Nuggetarian lifestyle are multifold. It’s easy, it’s cost-effective, and it embraces the same sort of childhood nostalgia that fuels all those gussied-up comfort-food fads that you enjoyed before you had children of your own. (Lobster mac and cheese, anyone?)

Whether they know it or not, an astonishingly high percentage of Americans already show an inclination toward a Nuggetarian lifestyle. In fact, about 81 percent of moms “admit to eating off their kids’ plates,” according to a recent survey.

Critics, like the weight-loss company that commissioned that survey, complain that this is unhealthy. They call it “mindless eating.” One particularly scary factoid suggests that committing just a single act of Nuggetarian-style domestic foraging each week can pack on up to six pounds of extra weight over the course of a whole year.

Stop body-shaming the moms! The Nuggetarian philosophy champions these noble matriarchs for their selfless acts of environmental stewardship.

As modern Dads, we must handle our equal share of the leftover lifting, too.

So the next time your first-grader bails after two bites of his kid-size burger, it’s important to make the right move. Don’t stand idly by, clinging to the desperate hope that the little scamp will circle around and take another bite. Don’t launch into a lecture on how lucky he is and how other kids are starving in Syria. And, for chrissakes, don’t carelessly toss his partially nibbled patty in the trash.

Just eat it already.