The sights, smells, and even sounds of food can be quite tempting—not surprising, considering our senses play an enormous part in our overall pleasure in what we eat. By considering the visual, aromatic, and auditory components of food, you can smartly strategize a way to accommodate and satiate your hunger without compromising your waistline. Preparing or selecting meals and snacks that satisfy your senses will increase your enjoyment without carrying additional calories.
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Your eyes receive the initial impression of food, so a visually interesting and stimulating plate is especially important to your eating experience. Include at least three different colors and shapes in your meal to enhance its visual appeal. A plate filled with plump red beets, fluffy green kale, and an orange smashed sweet potato provides visual interest and a colorful pop. Luckily, colorful fruits and vegetables add key vitamins and nutrients to your plate. Beets, kale, and sweet potatoes add folate to support red blood cell production, vitamin K for blood and bone health, and the anti-inflammatory vitamin A, to name a few.
When evaluating a food’s desirability and quality, smell is nearly as important as taste, and in fact, may increase your pleasure in eating that food. Enhancing the smell of food is as easy as adding herbs and spices to your cooking. Concentrate on herbs and spices that bring flowery, fruity, or fragrant scents to your dishes. Stock your pantry with everything from cinnamon to curry powder, and sprinkle at whim!
“Mouthfeel,” that physical sensation you get when taking your first bite, is built on both the taste and texture of the food. Taste refers to the sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or umami nature of the food. To enhance your pleasure in a meal, add foods based on the tastes you enjoy. For example, if you enjoy bitter foods, add fennel to your meal. Fennel not only contributes a slightly bitter taste but also a cool, bright essence, and the antioxidant vitamin C.
Turgidity, the amount of water in a plant’s cells, lends itself to the crisp texture of food—which also appeals to the auditory senses. Select meals based on your affinity toward smooth or crunchy foods, or combine the two if you enjoy both. You may choose hummus (made of garbanzo beans, a manganese and folate champion) for its smooth texture, or yogurt topped with walnuts for a combination of smooth and crunchy.
Consider the following:
- Create an overall ambience. The environment in which you eat further enhances your experience. Light a candle or two (unscented, so as not to compete with your meal) and set your table to enhance your eating experience.
- Smell with your mouth. There are receptors for olfaction (sense of smell) in the back of your oral cavity that detect aromas just as much as your nose does. When you lean in to take your first bite, breathe in the delicious scents first through your mouth to enhance your overall enjoyment of the meal.
- Savor your food. Before you begin eating, take a moment to be grateful for the food before you. Chew slowly, sipping water between bites. Embrace the flavors and textures in your mouth before swallowing.
Eating healthfully does not mean you have to sacrifice enjoyment. Understanding your sensory preferences and identifying your preferences in relation to healthy foods makes the act of eating all the more pleasurable.
[A version of this article was written for and published on YoffieLife.com on November 22, 2014.]