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Can Colorful Fruits and Veggies Help You Eat Less?

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We all know the feeling: you want to eat healthier and maybe even lose some weight but the idea of a plain grilled chicken breast, boiled string beans and a small scoop of rice does not get you excited for dinner. This “dieters dilemma” is one I hear all too often. But there are 5 easy tricks you can adapt to quickly and easily enhance the satisfaction of even your healthiest meals.

 1. Color

Color plays a huge role in our perception of a meal. In a study published by the journal of Food Science and Technology International, it was found that people thought orange juice tasted sweeter if it was more orange in color. The study also found that people perceived fruit drinks as having more flavor when the beverage’s colors were richer and more saturated.

This study perfectly demonstrates that we tend to “eat with our eyes” and that color alone can influence how sweet or flavorful we perceive a food to be.

To enhance overall satisfaction with your meal and avoid overeating, try adding some color with the use of fruits, vegetables and herbs. The luscious red in tomato sauce, the vibrant green in fresh cilantro, and the bright orange in a sweet potato are great examples of healthy foods that contribute to a beautiful, well-rounded meal that is rich in vitamins and minerals, which are sure to satiate your taste buds.

BONUS:

The color in fruits and vegetables also signifies that the food is rich in powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals. For instance, the purple-red color found in beets is derived from betalain, a powerful antioxidant that may have cancer fighting properties. So opting for more color will not only trick you into feeling more satiated, it will also add a nice punch of nutrition.

2. Variety

Variety is a key component to a healthy diet. Every meal should contain foods from a variety of food groups, namely, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, dairy, and whole grains. Even within these foods groups, though, it is important to diversify your food choices because some foods contain more essential nutrients than others. For instance, spinach may be very high in vitamin K but does not have as much vitamin C as red peppers. When your diet consists of a variety of healthy foods, you are more likely to stimulate your senses and meet your nutritional needs.

A study published by the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found a positive correlation between food variety and quality of diet among children. When children increased their intake from a range of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meats, they were found to get more fiber and vitamin C in their diet. While this conclusion may seem elementary, it has significant implications regarding how we think about food. Focusing on dietary variety rather than just “eating well” can trick you into consuming more nutrient-dense foods.

Make a goal to try one new vegetable or fruit every week for three weeks. Who knows? You might discover you love kale!

3. Texture

Texture is essential to a satisfying meal. Think about the difference between chunky versus smooth peanut butter, lumpy versus creamy mashed potatoes, no pulp versus with-pulp orange juice; these differences strongly influence our eating enjoyment. In fact, one of the most-used  tricks by professional food photographers is to incorporate a variety of food textures in a dish as to attract and seduce the reader more. Basic food textures include chewy, crunchy, crisp, smooth, creamy, tender, grainy and tough. To some, for example, a soggy French fry will never taste as good as a crispy one. So always cook your food to the textures you desire to increase your delight with every bite. My Tortilla Pizza recipe is one of my favorites for a satisfying meal full of texture and flavor.

4. Flavor

Flavor might sound like an obvious strategy for increasing your satisfaction with healthy food, yet, it is incredibly underutilized. Technically, the flavor of a food is defined by its taste as well as its smell.For instance, vanilla pudding would not be a vanilla flavor if it tasted like vanilla yet smelled like chocolate. So it’s important that a food have an appealing taste as well as a pleasurable smell in order for your brain approve. Luckily there are many flavor boosters that are not only delicious but are also healthy!

Garlic, for example, vastly improves the flavor of a dish. In addition to being fragrant and savory, garlic has historically been used for its medicinal properties and may be helpful in preventing heart disease and even some cancers. Other excellent flavor enhancers such as onions, herbs, spices and vinegars can be added to several dishes and are wholesome, low calorie ways to elevate food’s flavor and help boost your gratification.

5. Eat More! (Of the right things!)

It is important to get savvy and optimize your meals in a way that helps you enjoy food without sacrificing taste or nutritional quality.

Spaghetti squash, for example, is a highly underestimated substitute for spaghetti. It looks and tastes almost the same, yet 5 cups of spaghetti squash has fewer calories than 1 cup of regular spaghetti. Additionally, spaghetti squash has more than four times the amount of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and calcium than spaghetti. So you can bet that you will feel a lot more energized and satisfied by the end of your meal!

Other foods that are great at adding sustenance to meals without adding unnecessary calories are broccoli slaw, which is great in stir-fries, and cooked cauliflower, which is completely undetectable in mashed potatoes.

These tools are great for dieters and those looking to boost the nutrient value of a meal so the next time you are planning your meal, remember to consider color, variety, texture, flavor, and portion size.

Sources:

Falciglia G, Troyer A, Couch S. Dietary Variety Increases as a Function of Time and Influences Diet Quality in Children. Journal Of Nutrition Education & Behavior [serial online]. March 2004;36(2):77-83. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 1, 2012.

Bayarri S, Calvo C, Costell E, Durán L. Influence of Color on Perception of Sweetness and Fruit Flavor of Fruit Drinks. Food Science & Technology International [serial online]. October 2001;7(5):399. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 1, 2012.


Ilana Muhlstein completed her bachelor of science degree in dietetics from the University of Maryland and currently works as the Dietetic Intern at City of Hope hospital in Duarte, California. Muhlstein has also worked as a nutrition consultant, contributing writer for LiveStrong.com, and researcher for acclaimed cook books and published journals. She is also a private yoga instructor in Los Angeles where she lives with her husband, Noah.

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