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How Your Taste Buds Can Help You Lose Weight

Trick your appetite!
As anyone who has ever stuffed herself at dinner but still had room for dessert knows, the stomach works in mysterious ways. This tendency to feel too full for one thing on your plate but not another impacts all kinds of tasters, says Barbara Rolls, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University and author of The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. “It’s called sensory-specific satiety,” she explains, “and it happens when you eat one type of food to the point where you don’t want any more, yet you can still be hungry for foods with other flavors, textures and smells.”

Sensory-specific satiety can actually be a valuable weight-management tool. In fact, it’s the basis behind one-note eating plans (like the grapefruit diet), which take the idea to the extreme. “People who limit their diets while trying to lose weight are more successful,” says Kristen Kizer, RD, a dietitian at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas. “Our human tendency is to sample as much as possible, so if you have a whole buffet of options, you’re more likely to overeat.”


Related: 20 Filling Foods That Help You Lose Weight

Of course, restricting yourself to a single food is unhealthy, not to mention boring. So try these ways to rejigger your taste buds.

Cut back on processed foods. They often contain hidden additives, like salt in breakfast cereal or sugar in some tomato sauces and salad dressings, says David Katz, MD, founding director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. You may not consciously notice these flavors, but your individual taste receptors do—and they keep you craving more and more, Dr. Katz explains. Read labels on prepared foods, and cook from scratch when you can.

Have one cheat food. Instead of keeping five types of treats in your house, choose one you really enjoy and stock up on just that. You’ll be less tempted to go overboard.

Eat the same shade. At least when it comes to splurge foods. Research shows that people may chow down more when offered candies in a combo of colors instead of ones that are all one hue. (At last—a reason to munch only on green MM’s.)

Cook with a dominant flavor. Rather than making a dinner that has a variety of notes, Dr. Katz advises, stick to a one-pot meal with one herb, spice or prevailing taste (like a Greek lamb shank and polenta dish accented with oregano). “You’ll want to stop eating earlier than if you were jumping back and forth among three or four side dishes that taste very different.” Bottom line: When you eat too much of one flavor profile, you grow tired of it.

Be present. “It’s more difficult to feel full when you’re not focused on your food,” Rolls says. Tap your senses to savor your meals. That could mean lingering in the kitchen while dinner simmers on the stove or giving your lemon rosemary chicken a big whiff before you dig in. And during mealtime, Rolls adds, “eliminate television and email so that you can concentrate on smelling, tasting and chewing. Enjoy the experience!” Take pleasure in your food and you’ll just know when to stop.

By Amanda MacMillan

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