When you eat chocolate do you tend to nibble, or tear into it with sizeable bites? And do you take a whiff before it crosses your lips? Important questions if you’re trying to slim down because according to a new study published in the journal Flavour, taking small bites of aromatic foods may be a powerful weight loss strategy.
According to the scientists we tend to bite big when it comes to foods we’re familiar with or foods that require less chewing. That makes sense, because we kind of know what we’re in for. But they also found that the stronger the smell, the smaller the bite. When the test subjects had the ability to control their own dessert portions they ate five to 10 percent less when it came to more aromatic samples.
I’m fascinated by this research because it is completely in line with my newest book S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim. Each of the four daily meals in my plan are flavored with aromatic natural seasonings from fresh mint in the mango mint avocado smoothie to fresh ginger in the edamame ginger stir fry. The plan also includes a daily dose of dark chocolate, which I encourage eating without distractions, when you can truly savor every morsel and let it melt on your tongue.
In my experience, when a meal is a true feast for your senses it’s much more satisfying, and smell is a big part of that. Try this fun experiment: hold your nose then put a small piece of chocolate in your mouth. With your nostrils blocked you won’t be able to taste it. Then release your fingers and pow—flavor explosion!
The take away is that scent plays a role in satisfaction, so adding aromatic seasonings to each meal and taking the time to smell your food may help you feel satiated with smaller portions.
Want to give it a try? Here are some of my favorite fragrant seasonings and how I like to use them:
I use ginger daily, in oatmeal, smoothies, whisked into vinegar for salad dressing, or stir fry sauce. It goes well with every food group, from fruits and veggies to whole grains, beans, tofu, chicken, seafood, oils, I even fold it into almond butter!
Delicious in water, iced tea, garden salads, fruit salads, smoothies, and even savory dishes—in my book I combine it with turkey breast.
Garlic goes with just about anything, from hot or cold whole grain pasta to stir fried veggies, chilled bean salads, hummus, veggie chili, you name it.
I add citrus zest to many dishes, from spaghetti squash and beans to yogurt, fruit salad and melted dark chocolate, mmmm.
Simply awesome with potatoes but also delicious with roasted veggies and grilled fruit.
I sprinkle cinnamon into my coffee, add it to smoothies, yogurt parfaits, oatmeal, and it’s a-maz-ing in lentil soup or on roasted chick peas.
I add basil to garden salads and plates of sliced vine ripened tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and I have a recipe in my book that combines fresh basil with hot or cold green tea, cinnamon, and citrus zest.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.