At one point I am sure we have all heard about "foods that fill us up" or tricks to not eat as much in one sitting. This seems to be becoming more and more important in the quest for health as foods or tricks that satisfy us earlier are usually the foods that have been used for thousands of years and by our ancestors in order to regulate appetite and trigger the "full" switch in our brains.
Can it really have a significant effect though? can the way we approach food psychologically as well as what we eat have an effect on how much food we end up eating in one sitting. I myself was once sceptical but now believe there is a definite connection.
What got me thinking about this topic was a recent study which I read suggesting that if people think they are eating a big portion or a poriton that is "the right size" they are more likely to be satisfied and reach fullness quickly.
"The extent to which a food that can alleviate hunger is not determined solely by its physical size, energy content, and so on. Instead, it is influenced by prior experience with a food, which affects our beliefs and expectations about satiation. This has an immediate effect on the portion sizes that we select and an effect on the hunger that we experience after eating,"
"Labels on 'light' and 'diet' foods might lead us to think we will not be satisfied by such foods, possibly leading us to eat more afterwards," added Dr. Brunstrom. "One way to militate against this, and indeed accentuate potential satiety effects, might be to emphasize the satiating properties of a food using labels such as 'satisfying' or 'hunger relieving'."
So it looks like our perceptions of what we are eating as well as the word associations we combine with a food can dictate how satisfied a meal will make us feel. Take for instance fiber rich foods like:
Nuts & Seeds
Grains, Legumes and Tubers
All examples of natural foods which we usually associate with being healthy or at least "filling" and the truth is when we eat these foods in abundance fullness seems to kick in and stay in place for far longer than for instance having a cookie or a piece of cake which has more calories but is devoid of nutrients and fibre, plus we know it is not a filling food…..
This is why I find it is important to read up on all foods and know what their medicinal properties are and what unique benefit they all give. It is fascinating how many whole foods have unique benefits that if we know about not only makes them more satisfying to eat but gives us more pleasure as we learn why these foods are good for us.
Take for example an apple which amongst its thousands of phytochemical's and vitamins contains a unique fibre called pectin which has benefits over other sources of fibre. ApplePectin creates a gel like substance in the gut protecting and soothing the stomach, it also contains certain properties which short-circuit the development of colon cancer and gall stones.
By having knowledge about what we are eating in this way allows us to understand why apple's are filling and satisfying in a way few other fruits or vegetables are. It is thanks to their unique fibre which expands and lines the stomach making for a perfect snack in between meals. So what other ways can we cause satiation?
Smaller Plates- When I first read about this I was sceptical. How could using a smaller plate trick me into eating less, I would surely just fill it up again once the food was gone. Little did I know how dissatisfying it can be to eat food from a plate which is half empty. Recently I have been using smaller plates and bowls but filling them to the brim, as oppose to using bigger bowls/plates and having them half filled. It is weird but this has a definite effect on giving more satisfaction when eating.
You have probably noticed that the asians always seem to eat from smaller bowls but they are filled right up. There is something nice about eating from a full bowl or plate. Give it a try I am sure you will find it beneficial in regulating your eating habits.
Slowing Down- This is something I have spoken about before but feel is worth mentioning in this post. Satiety from food takes a certain time to kick in – Our hormone Ghrelin which is released in the stomach to signal to our brains that we need to eat, is counterbalanced by Leptin which rises as we eat and sends a signal of fullness. In order for these hormones to balance out it takes time, slowing down to eat your food will allow these hormones to kick in and for you to realise that you are actually full and don't want any more food.
Eat slowly and chew your food properly and you will give your body a chance to detect the rising Leptin levels which give you a feeling of fullness. This is also why I suggest layering meals starting with raw vegetables and salad before moving onto the main course.
Avoid Light and Diet- This is for two reasons, firstly light and diet products are normally sugar laden and "fake" foods filled with chemicals or artificial ingredients. The second reason is that when we see the word "light" or "diet" we automatically think that we can eat more of these foods without consequence and this usually leads to overeating, or eating a bigger portion that we would normally. Many of the best foods to eat are naturally light or "low fat" anyway and don't need fancy advertising or packaging to get the message across.
Satisfaction seems to come down to a few key factors that we can all attempt to implement into our day to eating habits:
Learn why certain foods are more filling than others
Use smaller plates or bowls, which you fill up
Slow down eating speed and chew well
Avoid foods marketed as "light or low fat"
Pretty simple really. It would be great to hear any tips from readers for getting more satisfaction from the food we eat, these are things we sometimes learn ourselves as time passes and we experiment with different foods or eating stlyles…..