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Learning How To Enjoy Healthier Foods

Learn simple decision-making strategies that influence eating satisfaction while still nourishing you.

Lesson Objectives:
• Understand the psychology of feeling full and nourished
• Learn how texture, flavor, color and temperature influence our eating habits
• Understand techniques that elevate flavor and texture

Lesson Summary:
Getting bought into eating well can be a challenge. Because many of us associate healthy eating with flavorless foods that don’t satisfy. When we lose the enjoyment that eating brings us, we lose the motivation that fuels our health goals. In this lesson, we’ll crack the code on understanding what behaviors and patterns will support and influence you to fill up on the foods you need and the flavors you love! 

Satiety & Satiation

Satiety is the duration of fullness until next meal. Satiation is the feeling of fullness or satisfaction. Satiety and satiation are influenced by a number of factors in a meal. The key is to include a variety of all of these factors to create a satisfying meal.

Factor 1: Texture

Good eating and the enjoyment of eating starts with texture. There should be no sense of monotony with textures. You want to include contrasts because this will make you think about what you are eating.

  • The first texture is chewy. Chewy is not just caramel or tootsie rolls, it represents other savory elements. Chewy textures include whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins.
  • The next texture is crunchy or crispy. Fried foods are crispy so we tend to associate crispy with comfort. By adding a crispy element to your food, you can gain some of that comfort.
  • The final texture is creamy. Creamy foods have moisture, whether it is dips, sauce, or even mashed potatoes. Creamy foods also provide comfort, and comfort fills our bellies. Including creamy texture on your plate is what will truly win you over.

Try it at home: To get a better idea of chewy texture, grab a couple dried cherries or raisins and slowly eat them to experience what chewy texture is like, and how it can elevate a dish. Next, try sprinkling some of those crumbs at the bottom of a chip bag or even rice cereal on your salad to take it to the next level. As for creamy, try some hummus or greek yogurt. What are some ways you could include that creamy texture in your meals?

Factor 2: Flavor

Flavor should be a rollercoaster ride on your tongue. Believe it or not, flavor is about 80% aroma or smell. Only 20% is taste, so we want to make what’s on our taste buds count. Heating food releases aroma thereby enhancing the flavor. For example, the Maillard reaction occurs when amino acids and sugar come into contact with heat, creating golden brown deliciousness. This not only changes the flavor but also the texture. Manipulating heat to change flavor is crucial to winning yourself, and others, over with healthy food.

  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Bitter
  • Salty
  • Umami – discovered in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda, it translates to “savoriness”. Examples include cheese, mushrooms, or miso soup.

Umami Taste Test: Take a cherry tomato or a piece of cheese. Close your eyes and hold your nose closed. Start to slowly chew the food, but don’t swallow yet! After about 5 seconds, let go of your nose and take a deep breath in through your nose. Notice how intense the flavor of the food is!

Factor 3: Temperature

Temperature of foods will influence satiation. Ice cold drinks and hot foods provide more satisfaction than room temperature drinks or cold food. Temperature also can affect the nutrition of the food. Heating food denatures protein, meaning that it will unbind and loosen up so that our bodies can absorb it more easily. Protein helps keep us feeling full so if we absorb more of it, we are likely to be more satiated.

Experiment time: Get two glasses. Fill one with room temperature water. Fill the other with ice and cold water. Now take a drink from both of the glasses, which is more satisfying?

Factor 4: Color

Color reveals flavor. As Americans, the affinity for all that is quick, cheap, and convenient is directing us to the cracker, cereal, and cookie aisles which leads to a high-fat and highly processed “beige diet” that is nutrient impaired. Instead, eat the rainbow! We need phytochemicals and micronutrients from our food rather than excess sugar and starch. Contrasting the colors of the food with your plate tends to make foods look more appetizing. The same goes for contrasting between the different kinds of food on your plate as well.

Eat the rainbow! Check out your plate…how many colors do you have on there? Aim for at least three different colors.

Factor 5: Plate size

When our plate is not full of food, we will perceive this as not being enough food to satisfy us. The Delboeuf illusion is an optical illusion that the size of an object is perceived to be smaller when it is on a larger surface. Check out the images below; it is the same amount of salad, but it looks much smaller on the 12 inch plate compared to the 8 inch plate. A study was done to examine the Delboeuf illusion on plate and portion size and it was found that people consistently overate if they were served on a larger plate. A simple fix for this is to just use a smaller plate!

Challenge: Did you know that on average, eating out adds an extra 134 calories per day? And most Americans eat out 4-5 times per week. That’s almost 700 extra calories every week! Next time you go out to eat, ask for a salad plate. When your entree comes out, fill up the salad plate and take the rest home. Not only will you save yourself the extra calories, but you get two meals for the price of one!

Factor 6: Communal eating

Nearly half of all adult eating occasions are completely alone. However, research from University of Oxford shows us that the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives. Satiation goes beyond meals.

Think about it: Did you know that 65% of Americans eat lunch alone at their desks? When is the last time you ate a meal with someone? Maybe take your next lunch break with a coworker or sit down at the table for family dinner.