Portion control – it matters even when you’re making smarter food choices. For example, nuts are a heart-healthy option and certainly better for you than a bag of chips. But eat a whole canister of nuts in a sitting and you might discover you tip the scales a little higher. No wonder they tell you to set aside a certain quantity of nuts and hide the can! That’s good advice. The key is to feel satisfied without overeating.
Foods with Texture Are More Satisfying
According to a new study published in the journal Appetite, a factor that impacts how much you eat is the texture of the food you have on your plate. Based on this study, foods that have a more complex texture satisfy you faster so that you eat less.
In this study, researchers prepared foods that were equal in nutrient density, but one group of meals had a more complex texture. For example, the foods with more texture contained ingredients like nuts and seeds that elicited more sensory stimulation when chewed. What they found was when participants ate an appetizer with a complex texture, they consumed less pasta in a subsequent meal, as much as 360 calories less. The foods with more pronounced texture seemed to curb calorie consumption in the meal that followed
This study suggests that adding more texture and sensory qualities to a meal help may help you feel satisfied with less food. However, prior research also shows that we tend to consume MORE foods that are appealing in terms of taste, aroma, appearance, and, questionably, texture. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If a food looks good and smells yummy, we want to keep eating it, whereas if food is bland and boring we stop eating it sooner.
So, which is it? Does more complex texture help you eat less or does texture make a food more appealing and cause you to eat more? The answer seems to be that humans are subject to sensory-specific satiety. This means we satiate quickly after eating a single food. What happens is we become de-sensitized to its texture and sensory qualities after eating it continuously. BUT if someone serves us another food with a different texture and sensory qualities the desire to eat is rekindled. After all, that food offers a whole new experience! As you can see the desire to eat stems from more than just hunger.
So, if you eat a food with lots of texture, like a salad with berries, nuts, and seeds, you may be satisfied with less but only if no one offers you a completely different food with a different texture and sensory qualities. That’s one reason it’s hard not to overeat at a buffet. Once you tire of one offering, you have umpteen more to choose from. A number of studies show that having a greater variety of food choices contributes to overconsumption.
What about Processed and Packaged Foods?
Manufacturers of processed foods are particularly skilled at getting you to overeat. Their trick is to give a product a certain texture and feel that keeps you munching. For example, what Dorito lover finds it easy to stop at only a few chips? Ever wonder why? The manufacturers work hard to create the perfect amount of fat, enough fat so that the chip melts in your mouth and you don’t notice that you’re eating too many. This is called “vanishing calorie density” and applies to a variety of snack foods, including popcorn and cotton candy. The calories seem to dissolve on your tongue and you don’t get the feeling you’re eating a lot. Sneaky, isn’t it? The take-home lesson: Never trust yourself with a big bag of Doritos.
The combination of fat and salt is another appetite stimulator. A study showed that you’re likely to eat more of a fatty food if it’s also high in salt. Now, you know why nuts are so hard to put down. Yes, they have healthy fats, protein, and fiber but are also among the most calorie-dense foods. Enjoy them in moderation, and, remember, moderation is easier if you buy unsalted nuts.
Why Do Unhealthy Things Taste So Good?
Sadly, the odds of eating healthy are stacked against you from birth. A love of sweet tastes is inherent to humans and is even present at birth. Fortunately, it’s something you can alter through experience and knowledge. If you’ve ever stopped eating sugar for a long period of time and tried to eat something sweet, you may have found a piece of cake or a cookie to be sickeningly sugary. Being away from sugar for a while can reduce your desire to eat it. The key is to consistently avoid it.
Here’s another thing to consider. Most of us aren’t good at estimating the number of calories in food. Studies show we tend to overestimate the calories of foods we have to chew more and are prone to underestimate the calories in “smooth” foods. We also tend to perceive foods that are hard or rough in texture as having fewer calories. Maybe we’re equating roughness with fiber? The take-home message: Don’t try to guess the calorie content of food – get the facts.
The Bottom Line?
Eating foods that have more texture and not having too much variety at a single meal could help you reduce your calorie consumption. Keeping the salt content down, especially if you’re eating fatty food like nuts, may help you avoid dipping your hand back into the jar too many times. Avoiding processed foods is another way to avoid overeating. A lot of time and money goes into making packaged snack foods so appealing you can’t stop eating. Finally, stick mostly with whole foods that are high in fiber and contain protein. Fiber and protein are two dietary components that fill you up and help you reign in cravings.
Engineering Evil. “The science behind Doritos – ” the chip avoids so-called sensory-specific satiety ”
EUFIC. “The Determinants of Food Choice”
Women’s Health. “How Food Texture Influences Your Calorie Intake”
UniversityHerald.com. “Hard and Rough Texture Foods Perceived to Have Lesser Calories, Study”
Appetite. Volume 105, 1 October 2016, Pages 189-194
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