Play with Your Food
Yesterday, we talked about tuning into our internal hunger scale. This will help you know when it’s time to eat. Today, we will learn how to have fun with food!
We often think about food just in terms of how it looks and tastes. But using all our senses when we eat will increase enjoyment of the meal. If you take the time to appreciate your meal, it will be far more satisfying. We often taste what we think we’ll taste; eating a lukewarm meal from a tupperware box balanced on your lap won’t taste as good as if the same meal was put onto a plate, served hot at the table, and eaten with metal cutlery. It’s the same food, but knowing how to best use our senses will improve our eating experience.
Our brains evolved to help us find food, and making food look more visually appealing can improve our expectations and therefore, enhance the taste.
Improve how your meal looks by:
• putting your meal onto a nice plate
• eating at a table with cutlery
• garnishing your meal
• arranging the food to look visually appealing on your plate
• dimming the lights or use candles
Taste is a powerful sense. Human recognize five tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami. The flavor of food is actually a combination of taste and smell. You can use taste to your advantage. Here are a few tips:
• Temperature of a food affects how you taste it. Lukewarm food doesn’t taste good, so make sure you serve your meals cold or hot, depending on your preference.
• New condiments can help boost the taste of your meals. Look for horseradish, chutney, relish, flavored mustard, wasabi, or tapenade.
• Spices matter. Take the spices from your spice rack, close your eyes, and sniff each one with the cap off. What smells good? Can you incorporate that spice into your food?
• New flavors are essential. Force yourself to try new foods and tastes. At dinner, order something you have not tried before. Mix it up, and be open to discovering new flavors.
Even the sound of food as we eat it can affect our enjoyment. A study found people believed potato chips to be “fresher” if they sounded louder while being eaten. So, improve how food tastes by being conscious of the sounds you hear while eating. You may try the following:
• Play relaxing music.
• Turn the TV off.
• Buy crispy vegetables, as they will taste fresher.
Our sense of touch is often an undervalued sense when it comes to eating. Babies explore the world with their hands and mouth, but this is a habit we lose as we get older. Try using your sense of touch to improve your meal by:
• touching the food on your plate—think how enjoyable foods like tacos and sticky ribs are when you can feel them in your hands
• using appropriate cutlery—according to a recent study, food tastes better if eaten with heavier cutlery
• thinking about the texture of the food in your mouth—is it creamy? soft? smooth?
• using your hands when preparing food—toss the salad with your hands; test the doneness of meat with your fingers
Try holding your nose and start chewing a piece of candy. It tastes all right. Then open your nose midway through chewing, and suddenly you can recognize the flavor of the candy; it tastes better now, right? So, take time to smell your food before eating it.
Smelling food can inspire our body to react by our stomach gurgling or our mouth salivating. Your eating experience can be affected by:
• Alcohol. A study found alcohol consumption makes everything smell pretty tasty. As a result, people tend to eat more than they would sober.
• Temperature. Hot foods release more smells than cold foods.
• Chewing mode. Chew food thoroughly, as this will improve how its smell is perceived.
Our sense of flavor and enjoyment of a meal comes from using all the senses together. So, at your next meal, take the time to consider your senses as you eat your food. See how you can affect each one to improve the taste of your meal.
Tomorrow: We will learn how to tweak our environment to reduce mindless eating.
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