A new Dutch study shows it is more satisfying to eat LESS chocolate dessert - so long as you take smaller bites and keep them in your mouth for longer. It’s a major discovery for everyone who wants to learn to eat more mindfully. It’s not necessarily easy to start eating in a mindful and healthy way.

People often fear that when they start eating a healthier diet, they won’t feel as full or as satisfied after their meal. They’re often quite simply afraid that they’ll feel hungry again very quickly.  

A scientific study recently addressed this question with a quite remarkable demonstration. It found that feeling of satisfaction, and the enduring appeasement of hunger, don’t just come from the kind of food we eat. They are also in large part a function of… how we chew.

We’ve known for a long time that when food is infused directly into the stomach in patients who cannot swallow, this doesn’t procure the same feeling of satisfaction. To obtain the sensation of fullness this way much larger quantities are needed than if the food is present, giving pleasure, in the mouth. Similarly, although many supermarket-sold sodas contain as much as 12 or 15 little packets of sugar (!), when we drink them the calories we ingest don’t appease our hunger or reduce the quantity of food we go on to eat during the meal. (This is probably because the sweet soda is a little like injecting calories straight into the stomach).

Researchers at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands recently showed that people who used small teaspoons instead of soup-spoons to eat a chocolate dessert – and who let each bite stay in their mouths for 9 seconds instead of 3  -- obtained more pleasure, and more satisfaction. They also ate 23% less dessert, and yet, following the meal they were measurably less hungry. Who would have thought you could have MORE pleasure with LESS chocolate, just because you keep it for longer in your mouth? This is a real discovery for me. It’s more proof that when we do something mindfully, it helps nourish our life -- in every meaning of the words.

I hope we can all benefit from this insight – and particularly when it’s food that we know we should be eating less of, in order to preserve our health.

1.    Zijstra N, Marsa M, Stafleua A, et al. Effect of bite size and oral processing time of food on satiation. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;10th June 2009 [epub ahead of print publication]