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Why Food Satisfaction Matters

by Haley Osborn

Food satisfaction is an extremely important part of intuitive eating, possibly even the most important! It allows us to fully appreciate the food we put into our bodies, leading to a better relationship with food.

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Food satisfaction refers to our ability to enjoy foods we eat and how we feel before, during, and after consuming a meal or snack. There are many different factors that affect the level of satisfaction we feel about a food. Some of these include how much we focus our attention on enjoying the food, the environment in which we eat, the people around us, the taste and texture of the food, and the staying power of what we eat. All of these things either increase or decrease our food satisfaction. They can also vary from day to day or from meal to meal.

Intuitive eating is basing eating choices off of internal cues (like hunger, fullness, and satisfaction) combined with gentle nutrition while rejecting the idea of relying on external cues like diet rules. Of course, food satisfaction plays an important role in the intuitive eating mindset. Oftentimes, restricting a certain food from a meal, like a tasty sauce or add-on, can lead to decreased food satisfaction. The less satisfied we are with our food, the more we will crave that satisfaction from what we are restricting ourselves from. This can lead to longing, unhappiness, and overconsumption the next time we allow ourselves to have that restricted food. Intuitive eating can help us to increase our food satisfaction, and the benefits work the other way around too!

Our emotions have a direct correlation to the food we eat, and vice versa. What is a comfort food for you? How do you feel when you eat it? Is there any time of year or feeling that makes you more likely to want this food? As we eat things we enjoy, our mood and mental wellness tends to improve. Understanding the way foods affect our emotions helps us to solidify a healthy relationship with food and improve overall food satisfaction. If you feel that food is the primary way you’re coping with emotions though, you may want to read this article about “Emotional Hunger”.

Cultural influences on food vary vastly. Our own personal experiences, culture, religion, beliefs, morals, and upbringing affect our level of food satisfaction. If someone from another country moves to the United States and is forced to modify the things they eat, they may begin to long for the comforting feeling of home. This may also happen if someone is used to eating cultural foods with their family then decides to go on a diet (diet foods almost never include diverse cultural foods), or has a life change like moving away to college and eating dorm food.

The affect of this can manifest in many different areas of life, including, but not limited to, food satisfaction and enjoyment. It can be beneficial for people affected by cultural food change to connect with people from their particular walk of life and seek ways to include foods they used to enjoy into their lives, whether that may be learning to make it themselves or finding an authentic restaurant to go to.

Consuming foods you enjoy among the people you love can greatly improve food satisfaction. This factor can also go hand-in-hand with culture with things like consistent family meals. Intentionally and consistently eating can improve mental health and the food-emotion connection. For example, sitting down at the same time every day with your family can be beneficial because food is a great way to disconnect from the world and be in the moment with your loved ones. Discussing ways to implement regular conversational meals with friends and family is a great start to improving overall food satisfaction! Eating around family and friends could also potentially decrease satisfaction if the environment is negative or you’re struggling with social eating. If this is the case, professional help from a non-diet dietitian and therapist can help immensely.

When striving to increase our food satisfaction, we may add seasonings, sauces, or other toppings to enhance the flavor of our food to help us enjoy it more. We also like to align temperatures of our food to make them more enjoyable. For example, ice cream is best eaten frozen and tacos are (usually) preferred warm or hot! This could be a great place to start when looking for ways to increase enjoyment while eating.

Another factor that plays into our overall food satisfaction, especially after a meal, is the combination of food groups you consume. Consuming a combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the same meal increases satisfaction and can keep you energized throughout the day. One of my personal favorite breakfasts to have is avocado toast and eggs. This breakfast is so tasty, and it contains starch (from bread), protein (from eggs), and non-saturated fats (from avocados). This meal keeps me satisfied and energized until lunch, and it’s so easy to make! Your meals don’t need to be complicated to be complete!

Actively engaging in your meal can help create a healthy environment for your mind to enjoy what you’re eating. This can mean many different things, such as paying close attention to the taste and flavors, the textures, the way the food looks, the way it smells, etc! Taking the time to focus on these things can help to improve food satisfaction by helping us pay attention to our internal cues. One way to increase mindfulness is to remove distractions like TV, social media, and excess noise.

The media often overcomplicates and adds anxiety to food where there shouldn’t be. A few ways to improve food satisfaction are being aware of emotional connection to food, cultural influences, social eating, and mindfulness. Talking to someone to create a plan of action can be a wonderful idea as well! Increasing food satisfaction is well worth it to be able to enjoy food and turn our attention to other things after eating (instead of always feeling like you’re missing something)!

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