Being satisfied with a meal doesn’t always equate to being full from a meal. Think of a time that you ate something less than stellar or something that didn’t quite live up to your expectations. For me, it was this vegetarian shepherds pie that I made. I didn’t follow a recipe because I thought how hard could it be? Sauté some vegetables (aka all my CSA vegetables), add some tofu and top with mashed potatoes. Done, done and done!
Well, not quite. It was missing something. At first I thought it was flavor related like something creamy and rich (fat!). Then I thought maybe it was texture related like something crunchy. What if it was food group related like a grain? And finally maybe it was temperature related since my microwave takes a wee bit too long for this impatient girl and it could have been hotter. Whatever it was, I was left feeling unsatisfied.
Then I think about meals that have truly satisfied me. Homemade pizza. Pesto spaghetti squash. Shakshuka with the doughiest bread. Pumpkin pancakes. Cadbury eggs. My mouth literally starts watering.
The satisfaction factor of a meal or a certain food is not going to always be the same. It’s what stands out about the dish. It’s what makes your body think this is the good stuff. Like the crunch of freshly popped popcorn. Or the creaminess of your first Creemee if the season. Maybe it’s the balsamic cranberry flavor of the chicken your mom made. Or the sweet and cold temperature of real maple syrup on waffles.
When you don’t feel satisfied with a meal it’s easy to want more of anything. Maybe you find yourself grabbing some chocolate or a glass of wine. Maybe you snack on some pretzels after dinner. Without satisfaction a meal doesn’t feel like much other than energy. It’s boring and incomplete.
So why do we think of food solely as energy when even our body craves for more? Why do we rely on counting calories when there’s more to food than a calorie. There’s texture, flavor, temperature, satisfaction. I’m not going against counting calories. It’s a tool among many others in my dietitian toolbox. Today I loosely tracked my calories. I don’t even really have a calorie goal, I’m just tracking to see where I can scale back (hello, wine). Sure I ate enough calories for my body to be energized and properly fueled, but not to be satisfied. So right after dinner I found myself with a handful of dark chocolate Easter eggs (yes, it’s October). So what’s the lesson here? If you’re concentrating on calories and not thinking about satisfaction you may in fact eat more than you plan to. Whereas if you factor in satisfaction when planning and thinking about food you’re less likely to need additional snacks or calories throughout the day. And that means a little doll up of cream in your coffee or cheese in your shepherds pie is going to go a lot farther for you and your health than trying to avoid it.