In many countries around the world, eating with your hands is the norm and engenders a deep connection with food and the people around you. But more than that sense of connection, eating with your hands can make food more satisfying
. It can also make you eat more, even if you regularly control your portions.
Those are the findings of a recent study by Adriana Madzharov, a sensory marketing researcher. She conducted this study to understand how directly touching food influences people's experience of it.
Touching food makes eating more enjoyable
In her first experiment, Madzharov had 45 participants visually inspect a cube of Muenster cheese
. They had to hold it as well. Half of the participants used an appetizer pick to sample the cheese while the rest used their hands. Madzharov then asked them questions about their eating behavior.
She found that participants with a high degree of self-control when eating food – those who said they can resist food and are conscious of what they eat – perceived the cheese as tastier when they ate with their hands.
However, that finding did not hold true for those who ate with their hands but reported a low degree of self-control when eating food. Both findings persisted even when Madzharov manipulated the participants' thinking on self-control and food consumption, suggesting that a high degree of self-control influences how people experience food when they eat with their hands regardless of whether self-control is real or not.
Overall, the results of Madzharov's first experiment suggest that, for people who regularly control their food consumption, direct touch triggers an enhanced sensory response, making food more desirable.
In the second experiment, Madzharov gathered a new set of 145 participants and split them into two groups. The first group was asked to imagine that they had decided to be careful with their diet and cut back on excessive eating in order to achieve their long-term goal of being fit and healthy
The second group was asked to imagine that they had decided to worry less frequently about their weight. They also had to imagine that they allowed themselves to indulge in tasty foods more often to enjoy life. All participants were then given a cup with four mini donuts, half of which had appetizer picks.
The participants were then asked to visually inspect the donuts and evaluate their freshness, texture, quality and nutrition. They were also asked to report their level of focus and attention while eating the donuts.
Madzharov found that those in the first group evaluated the mini donuts more positively when they touched the food directly than those in the second group. This is likely because participants who were primed for self-control and who touched the donuts directly enjoyed an enhanced sensory experience.
Overall, the findings of the study suggest that such a small tweak as making people sample foods using their hands could change how they evaluate food products.
Other ways to make eating enjoyable
Eating with your hands isn't the only way to make eating more enjoyable. Here are other ways to make your eating experience more pleasurable
1. Eat a variety of foods
Many people who follow fad diets make their food choices based on what their diet allows. But this usually only leads to people not really knowing what foods they like anymore. If you find yourself in this situation, take a few weeks to test a wide assortment of foods. Take note of which flavors, textures anslenderd aromas you prefer.
Over time, you'll "discover" the foods you really enjoy. Once you do, try to incorporate them into your meals.
2. Tune into your senses
Your five senses play a role in your perception of the food you eat. Like windows to the world, your senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste tell you a lot about the shape, texture, taste and temperature of your food. Tuning into your senses when you eat allows you to feel more connected to your food
, making for a more enjoyable eating experience.
Things like eating while working or running errands can get in the way of that. If possible, set a certain amount of time aside to enjoy your meals every day. Simply sitting at a dinner table instead of in front of your computer, for instance, can make eating feel more like a break instead of just another thing to do.
3. Pay attention to hunger cues
Some people eat quickly and ravenously because they go for too long without eating. This is usually the case for people with very busy schedules. If you rush through each bite, you won't notice the flavor and texture that your food offers.
As such, it's better to eat before you become very hungry. To do that, you need to pay attention when your body tells you it's time to eat. Try not to eat past your comfortably full stage as well. Eating won't be as pleasurable if you're already full.
4. Remove distractions
Mealtime should be for eating and eating only. Don't watch television or use electronic gadgets when eating. Studies have shown that people take longer to feel full when playing computer games or watching television while eating.
Even if you're following a strict diet
, eating shouldn't feel like a chore. Touching your food directly is just one of the many ways you can make eating a more enjoyable experience without giving in to cravings or overeating.