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Meal Satisfaction: 12 Ways to Increase It

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Meal satisfaction is key to food pleasure–and intuitive eating. When we are satisfied we feel content. So why is it that sometimes we don’t feel satisfied and how do we increase meal satisfaction? 

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Have you ever eaten a meal or snack and felt physically full but not satisfied? Chances are, this has happened to you.

There is in fact a difference between being full and being satisfied. Fullness is a physical feeling while satisfaction is a mental feeling. Ideally, you should feel both at the end of a meal. While this may not always be possible–perhaps because of the food choices or eating environment, it should be something you aim for with most meals.

Satisfaction is Key to Intuitive Eating

Satisfaction is often considered the “hub of intuitive eating”. That’s because each of the 10 principles influences satisfaction. For example, the first principle is to reject the diet mentality. This relates to satisfaction because if you still have the diet mentality you may choose foods based primarily on their perceived “healthiness” or you may feel guilty if you choose foods perceived as “unhealthy.”

Another principle is “honor your hunger”, this relates to satisfaction because food is most delicious and satisfying when you are a little hungry. If you aren’t hungry at all it won’t taste very good. Likewise, if you are ravenously hungry you will probably eat so quickly that you barely have time to feel when you reach meal satisfaction. (Read more about hunger and fullness here.)

Not being satisfied with a meal can lead to overeating in an attempt to feel satisfied, seeking out extra food to feel satisfied, or obsessive thinking about the food you really want. Not to mention, it can take the joy right out of eating! After all, finding pleasure in food and meal times is so important to the human experience.

12 Ways to Boost Meal Satisfaction

Creating a satisfying meal is often as simple as making sure you are choosing the foods that you really crave. Sometimes it’s adding a piece of chocolate to the end of the meal. Other times it’s enjoying your meal with a friend. There are in fact many factors that play a role and can affect how you feel at the end of your meal.  Here are some suggestions to boost meal satisfaction. 

  1. Choose foods that you enjoy and honor your cravings. It’s easy to get caught up in what you think you “should” be eating (thank you diet culture). While nutrition is important, it’s also important to choose foods that taste good to you! Imagine if you had never heard about nutrition. What foods would you choose if it was based solely on satisfaction and how the foods made you feel? Is it possible to find a balance between nutrition and taste? 
  1. Include a variety of food groups at each meal. The food groups include grains/starches, vegetables, fruits, protein, and dairy/non-dairy alternatives.
  1. Aim to have all 3 macronutrients–protein, carbohydrates, and fat–present.
  1. Add a variety of colors, textures, and flavors to your plate. Variety will help satisfy all your senses, keeping it interesting for your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  1. Mix it up. Aim for variety from meal to meal and day to day. Eating the same thing every day can lead to boredom.
  1. Eat mindfully when possible. This means being fully present in the eating experience. Suggestions for more mindful eating include plating your food, sitting down, slowing down your eating pace, and putting away distractions such as phones.
  1. Choose a pleasurable setting. Where you eat, and with whom, makes a difference. Setting the table with nice dishes, napkins, and candles can elevate the meal, enjoying the meal with your favorite people, and eating outside can all lead to greater satisfaction.
  1. Wear comfortable clothing. Yes, what you are wearing makes a difference! If you are wearing pants that are too tight in the waist it may impact not only your digestion but also the thoughts that arise while you eat.
  1. Be a little hungry. As mentioned earlier, it’s good to be a little hungry when you eat. This will increase meal satisfaction a lot. But don’t let yourself get too hungry, as this could lead to ravenous eating, which will have a negative impact on meal satisfaction. 
  1. Don’t forget the “finishing touch”. Sometimes a little sauce or dressing is all that is needed to add the finishing touch that completes the meal and really satisfies. Other ingredients like cheese, butter, chocolate, herbs, spices, and salt can also add that finishing touch.
  1. Consider dessert. Whether you choose to finish your meal with a few squares of dark chocolate or a strawberry rhubarb crumble topped with ice cream, there is no denying that a little dessert can sometimes add the magic touch when it comes to satisfaction.
  1. Eat enough. While fullness does not equal satisfaction, I think it’s fair to say that in order to feel satisfied you need to be full. So don’t be shy about eating until you feel that comfortable fullness set in. Ignore the calorie labels or diet mentality images of what a portion looks like and listen to your own body.

It should be noted that sometimes, especially with emotional eating, none of these suggestions will help. In these situations it’s usually not about food satisfaction, but about life satisfaction. If this resonates with you, try sitting with the discomfort and figuring out the root cause of your feelings and emotions. Make a plan for self-care and seek out support from loved ones and a therapist as needed.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, everyone is unique, and what makes a meal satisfying to you is probably different from what is satisfying to someone else.

Satisfaction is key to having a good relationship with food and pleasurable eating experiences. Fortunately, intuitive eating guides us to seek out foods and meals that provide satisfaction.

You Might Also Like

How to Create Satisfying Snacks

7 Concepts of Mindful Eating

References & Resources

Intuitive Eating, 4th Edition by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Unapologetic Eating by Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD

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