Increasing Food Satisfaction: Going Beyond “Something Sweet”
One of my favourite topics to talk about as a dietitian is ‘Satisfaction’. In the pursuit of health and improved nutrition, the pleasure and enjoyment that food and eating can bring to our day often gets pushed to the side. Discussing satisfaction helps to bring those ingredients back to the table. ‘Discover the satisfaction factor’ is one of the ten principles that make up Intuitive Eating1, and it’s a great place to start for anyone ready to begin improving their relationship with food.
Most of us can describe what it feels like to be very full after a meal, but can you describe what it feels to be very satisfied? Fullness doesn’t automatically equal satisfaction, and it’s possible that you may have not given much thought to how to increase the satisfaction factor of your meals and snacks. Feeling a greater level of satisfaction after eating means you are less likely to keep thinking about food or browsing the pantry for just that extra little bite long after the meal is finished. Being satisfied means you can move on with your day and your thoughts can move on to other important things.
One way to move towards greater eating satisfaction is to expand your vocabulary in relation to words you use when talking or thinking about food. This is where I want you to go beyond “I feel like something sweet”. Let’s get more specific when trying to identify what it is we really feel like eating, in order to choose foods that match the craving. We want to be thinking about all the different words we can be using to describe the various sensory qualities of food.
So let’s take that phrase “I feel like something sweet” and pretend you’ve popped into the supermarket to grab something to eat. There are a range of options available to you: Ice-cream, gummy bears, watermelon, chocolate bar, donut, flavoured milk, dried apricots, honey flavoured instant oats, strawberry yoghurt, cheesecake, choc-chip cookie. How do you choose? Let’s go beyond sweet and consider:
Temperature. Does icy cold and refreshing sound appealing, or does warm and comforting better describe what you want?
Texture: Do you feel like something chewy to sink your teeth into, or are you desiring something smooth and creamy, that melts in your mouth? Perhaps you’d actually like a liquid?
Taste: Subtly sweet or intensely sweet? Sharp and tangy, or a deep, rich flavour?
By considering these other sensory qualities, you can try to make a choice that is more likely to hit the spot and leave you satisfied.
Imagine it’s morning tea time and you’ve identified that you feel like having something sweet, rich, creamy and chewy. Now picture yourself choosing a sweet, crunchy, juicy, tangy apple instead. How would you rate your satisfaction level after eating it? Probably low, right? You might end up continuing to think about the caramel chocolate bar you really wanted for the rest of the morning and afternoon, and stop on your way home from work to buy one (or more), then gobble it down without really enjoying it. Can you relate to this situation?
Conversely, imagine it’s a hot summer day and you feel like something sweet, cold and slightly acidic. There’s a punnet of ripe red strawberries in the fridge and you sit down to enjoy them. Your satisfaction level will probably be higher in this scenario, and you go on to enjoy your day without thinking about food until your next meal.
So give it a go! Next time you are trying to decide what you want to eat, try using at least 3 descriptive words to pinpoint the kind of food that will lead to greater meal satisfaction. This may feel challenging at first - perhaps you are used to considering other people’s food preferences before your own. Remember that this is a skill, and skills need to be practised to see improvement!
1 Tribole, E. & Resch, E. 2012. Intuitive Eating - A Revolutionary Program That Works. 3rd Edition. St. Martins Press, New York.