Shoving a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into her mouth, Kelly Slotin, 21-year-old from Buford, Ga., sprinted into her apartment for two minutes before running back out again to catch her next class. “I don’t even have time to sit down and enjoy a real snack if I wanted to,” said Slotin.
Studies show that Americans enjoy food less. In 1989, 48 percent of U.S. adults said they enjoy eating “a great deal.” Since then, the numbers dropped to 39 percent, according to Pew Research Center.
Eating is a huge part of American social culture, and if we want to keep meeting our friends for dinner or a Sunday brunch of avocado toast and mimosas, we want to be able to enjoy food ourselves. Dietitians and nutritionists have used research to show that there are habits we must break if Americans want to enjoy their food again. Supersized portions, unmindful eating and being overweight are the triggers we need to stop.
Supersizing Your Portions
Food portion sizes have increased both in homes and restaurants since 1977, as shown in a study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sharon Palmer, nutrition expert from “The Plant-Powered Blog,” said that people who are served larger portions are not mindful that they are eating more.
“People tend to finish the portion size they are given, despite their feeling of fullness,” Palmer said.
She suggests sharing food when you’re eating out to reduce the urge to finish the entire plate. When eating at home, she said to use smaller serving dishes so that even clean plate club members eat less.
Allie Teilhaber, a 22-year-old studying dietetics at Augusta University, said that most restaurants serve more than the recommended serving sizes, leading to excess consumption of saturated fats, trans fats, and “bad” cholesterol. On average every meal eaten away from home is 134 more calories than the same exact meal that people could prepare at home, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
To combat this, ask restaurants if they serve half-portions. This way if you feel motivated to finish everything on your plate, it is a much smaller portion that you have in front of you.
Courtney Ferreira, a dietitian nutritionist from Baltimore, Maryland and writer of “Real Food Court” blog, said that our perceptions of how much we need to eat are skewed because growing up, most people were told to finish all of the food on their plate.
So next time you’re out to dinner at your favorite restaurant, remember that the 8-ounce steak, mac-n-cheese, and roasted potatoes on your plate is probably more than enough food which your body needs to become full. Stray away from the supersized portions to avoid overeating and dissatisfaction.
Being Unmindful When Eating
“Every single person, myself included, has work they can do about tuning in when they eat,” Ferreira said.
Rachael Hartley, dietitian and nutrition expert from Columbia, S.C. and writer of “The Joy of Eating” blog, encourages her clients to slow down and really taste their food. She said this will not only let their brain be more aware of when they are full, but also eating mindfully will help them enjoy food more.
Similarly, Ferreira has her clients eat at a pace where they do not put food on their utensil until the food in their mouth has been sufficiently chewed and swallowed.
When sitting in front of a TV it’s very easy to overindulge, Teilhaber said, because rather than focusing on your body and how much you’re eating, you’re busy keeping up with who’s going to receive the final rose on this episode of “The Bachelor.”
Palmer said that not only are people eating in front of screens, but also in the car when most of their attention is directed on the road. “People are snacking more than ever,” she said. “They’re eating mini-meals instead of solid meals in the company of others.”
Always sit down at the table with your food, and take the time to enjoy it. This way, you are 100 percent focused on eating and are able to tune in with the cues your body is giving you when you become full.
By not paying attention to their food and how it makes them feel, people pick up unhealthy eating habits, Hartley said.
Teilhaber advocates keeping only healthy snacks on hand to reduce cravings of junk food–plus, it’s much better for one to overindulge on carrots and roasted red pepper hummus than an entire row of Double Stuf Oreo cookies.
Not Happy Being Overweight
Over 50 percent of the people who reported “enjoying food less” in the Pew Research Center study also reported that they consider themselves overweight.
Since portions have grown and people feel obliged to finish them, obesity has raised from 10 percent of U.S. adults in 1950 to 35 percent in 2012, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I think sometimes the health messages about the overweight and obesity ‘epidemic’ can cause some people to get ‘too healthy’ and obsessed with eating clean or counting calories to the point that they are disconnected from their body’s internal signals and no longer actually enjoying their food,” said Kristina LaRue, sports dietitian and author of “Love & Zest” blog.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has launched many campaigns to reduce sodium in processed foods at restaurants, improve food safety laws, and reduce consumption of soda and other sugary drinks. We must stand next to them by taking charge of our own diets so we can make eating more gratifying.
Just Enjoy Food And Maintain Good Health
Now is the time to take control of our own happiness. If we take the extra few minutes to measure food before putting it on the plate and sit down at the table to eat, enjoying food won’t feel like a burden, but a luxury. After all you need food to live, so you might as well make it as enjoyable as possible.