Balance is a major component of “healthy” meals and snacks. This means incorporating all three macronutrients– carbohydrates, protein, and fat– because each holds specific responsibilities that collaboratively work together to enhance energy, sharpen mental clarity, and keep us feeling full for longer periods. But there’s another component to a “healthy” meal that oftentimes takes a back seat when we’re hyper-focused on the “nutrition facts” of our meals.
What Is Taste Hunger?
We’ve previously discussed how to identify biological hunger and what to do when your biological hunger cues go missing. But what about when you want to eat simply because you enjoy the taste of a particular food?
Taste hunger occurs when you’re not feeling biologically hungry, but you have a desire to eat. Here’s an example: as a dietitian, I’m constantly checking out new recipes and formulating new snack combos for dancers. Because of this, my taste hunger shows up quite often. Without feeling too hungry or too full, the mere experimentation of a delicious snack often sparks my taste buds to want some.
And that’s okay! Because NOT honoring that taste hunger might lead to growing cravings. Now, if you’re eating just because you feel bored, then I recommend you dig deeper into that desire for food. Despite what diet culture says, emotional eating (such as what we do when we eat out of boredom) is necessarily a bad thing. However, we want to make sure food isn’t the only coping mechanism we have during these times. Read more about this topic here. Regardless of your intent to eat, we need to consider the fourth macronutrient of your balanced plate.
Aim For Satisfaction
Ever find yourself staring at the bottom of the salad bowl wondering where it went? Perhaps you wanted pizza, but instead, you chose the salad for the sake of health. Amongst the chatter in the wellness world, we often prioritize nutrition before personal preference.
Though “taste” might not provide the “energy,” “muscle-building,” or “immune-boosting” physical benefits of the other macronutrients, personal taste preferences help to cultivate a connection between you and your food. When we give ourselves unconditional permission to eat the foods that we have a taste preference for, we’re more inclined to eat any and all foods mindfully. From here, we can work to lessen learned feelings of guilt, stress, and anxiety- all of which have no place in our eating experiences (you can read more about food guilt here).
This is how we choose foods that satisfy.
Through the lens of diet culture, we often envision “moderation” to be a limit upon how much we can eat. This is code for restriction, which subconsciously leads to a stronger reward response from the very foods we’re aiming to “moderate.” The end result? An increase in cravings and susceptibility to “overdoing” it.
When you’re placing any limit (even that “in moderation” limit) upon yourself and food, you’re setting yourself up to want more. Yes, it can be scary to attempt a lifestyle without any limits over your food choices. “I can’t trust myself, Rachel!” is a common response I hear from dancers. And in the beginning, it might be hard for you to find a comfortable middle ground between under-fueling and over-fueling… especially if you haven’t given yourself unconditional permission to enjoy your favorite foods in years. Your body will need some time to rebuild that trust. It needs to know that it will in fact receive adequate nourishment tomorrow, the next day, the next day, and so forth. Eventually, if you’re listening to your body and staying present at some or most mealtimes, you’ll start to understand what feels good and what doesn’t. You’ll discover what “enough” really is for you and what it means to feel satisfied.
The Bottom Line
Consider this fourth macronutrient (satisfaction) and honor your personal preferences and cravings. Experience the tastes and textures of your meals. If you do this without judgment or criticism, you’re better equipped to listen to your body. Learn more about mindful eating here. You may feel full sooner and as a result, be more likely to go home with leftovers. Including satisfaction as part of your balanced plate will help you to find an intuitive “moderation…” not a forced one!