Food effects your mood. We’ve all experienced that feeling when you arrive home after a particularly stressful day, sit down with a bowl of something soothing, and feel the stress melt away. They don’t call it comfort food for nothing! Food psychology is the study of how, and why, we eat certain foods, and suggests that food is linked to our psyche. Whether we eat something or not is driven by numerous factors- not just whether we are hungry. Here are our top five food psychology tips that can be used at home to make food more appealing.
- Make food beautiful. American celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse, once said that ‘Food that’s beautiful to look at seems to taste better than food that isn’t’. Aesthetics are important if you want your food to be a success. Before we even taste something, we’ve eaten it with our eyes, so if food doesn’t look appealing then people are less interested in eating it. To increase aesthetic appeal, make food fun and colourful, and arrange it on the plate in a well thought out way.
- Link food to the mood you wish to create. Different types of food and drink are linked to different emotions. We’ve already mentioned comfort food, but there are also foods that we link to feeling healthy, or those that make us feel festive or celebratory. What you serve will have an impact on you and your family/guests’ emotions, so your menu should provide foods that match the mood you want to create.
- Make people feel full with portion psychology. Our brains are not very good at telling us when we are full. Many experiments have studied the effect of portion sizes, and most find that if people are given more food than necessary, they will eat more food than necessary. In order to serve the right sized portions whilst also ensuring that people feel full, serve your food on smaller plates. This can have the effect of tricking the brain into thinking the portion size is bigger.
- Enhance food with your surroundings. Context and surroundings have a huge impact on our eating habits. If it is too early in the morning, or too late at night, people are less likely to want to eat, and some studies have shown that food actually tastes different to us at these times of day. Good lighting, pleasant ambience, and nice surroundings are also all important enhancers of food and drink, and can make or break a meal.
- Eat together, away from distractions. Eating is a highly social act. A quick look at the Animal Kingdom shows food to be at the centre of many animal interactions, and the same can be said for humans. Food is part of culture, and part of our socialisation, so when we eat at home, it is important to maintain the social links that we have built up around food. In the modern day, not enough time is taken to truly appreciate food, or to feed ourselves properly, as we are too busy with being plugged into electrical devices, or catching up on work. Whilst it is not always possible to have sit down dinners every day, it is important to at least try to do this a few times a week. This way you will be feeding not only your body, but your soul, taking time to truly appreciate food, and appreciate those around you.