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How to Feel Satisfied with Smaller Meals

When you start paying more attention to your eating habits, you may find that you don’t need as much food as you thought you did. A smaller portion may be enough to address your physical hunger.

At the same time, if you’re someone who loves food, you may wish you could eat a little more, so you could have longer to enjoy your meal or eat more of your dessert.

I experience this occasionally, especially if I see someone else eating a larger meal or a big dessert. I know in my head that not all of us need the same amount of food, and what we need can vary by day, but it can still be hard to shake the emotion.

If this is something you’ve felt, too, here are some suggestions for how to be satisfied with smaller amounts of food.

Practice gratitude before eating

After you’ve gotten your food but before eating, pause for a moment to feel grateful for what you have. Even if you’re not eating a lot, someone spent time growing or raising what you’re eating, harvesting it, packing and transporting it. And a lot of resources went into it – sun, water, fertilizer, and more. It’s worth remembering and appreciating that.

Put down your utensils

When you eat mindlessly, it’s all too easy to keep eating, to prepare for the next bite as soon as you’ve taken the first one. That might be efficient, but it’s not very satisfying.

If you put your utensil down after a bite (or put down the food itself, depending on what you’re eating), you’ll be more inclined to notice and enjoy what you’re eating in the moment. You’ll more fully experience the texture, temperature, and flavor.

And since you’re getting the full experience, eating less food is okay since you won’t feel like you’re missing out.

Baby bites

We’ve all heard of baby steps, and you may also be familiar with baby bites. If you’re not, take a look at a baby spoon sometime – they’re quite small. You can’t fit a lot on there, and that’s the intent.

Now, you might want slightly larger bites than what a baby would eat, but you could try using smaller utensils to see if they encourage you to take smaller bites. Doing this has a few advantages:

  • You’ll taste more of the food – when you take big bites, you lose a lot of the taste because not everything will hit your taste buds

  • This gives more time for your hunger/fullness signals in your brain to catch up with what’s going on in your stomach

  • The meal will be longer, so even though you’re eating less, you’re less likely to feel deprived than you would by eating quickly

Eat food you enjoy

This one applies no matter how much you’re eating. Having food you like and enjoy, instead of food you think you “should” be eating, dramatically increases your satisfaction. And when you’ve had food that appeals to you, you’re much less likely to go foraging for something else afterward.

Include some variety

It can also help to have different types of food. Maybe one part is hot, another is cold. The meal could include a creamy component as well as a crunchy one.

For example, the other day I had yogurt with fruit, some cucumber, and a piece of toast. That covered cold (yogurt), hot (toast), creamy (yogurt), crunchy (cucumber), sweet (fruit), and savory (yogurt and toast). It wasn’t a huge amount of food, but I found it very satisfying.

Small meals don’t have to leave you wanting

When you see people around you eating a lot of food, it can sometimes feel like a letdown to have a smaller amount of food. You may even feel somewhat resentful.

But you can prevent those feelings if you appreciate your food, build in pauses by putting down your utensil, take smaller bites, eat food you love, and include variety. If you do all that, the odds are good that even if you don’t have a lot of food, you’ll be happy with what you have.


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