When you think of a fine-dining experience you most likely don’t think of it as a diet-friendly meal. Instead, you are blown away by the romantic atmosphere of the quaint cottage-like interior and candlelit table, and more concerned with the several tasty dishes you’ll be eating. And of course, the meal isn’t complete without a glass – or bottle – of wine, friendly service, and a final plate of a chocolatey, decadent dessert.
Well, believe it or not, a lot of characteristics about a fancy, fine-dining experience may help to curb your appetite (no wonder they get away with serving such small portions!). The long duration of the meal, separation of courses, and order each component of the meal is served plays a major role in enhancing fullness.
Learn how and why I take these characteristics and apply it my evening meal each night of the week so that you, too, can reap the many benefits this approach provides!
COURSE #1: The Appetizer
Like any fine-dining experience, I begin mine with an appetizer.
In this case, it’s a delectable, colorful salad that’s rich in some of my favorite vegetables and smothered in a low-fat, oil-based dressing. This portion of the meal provides a jumpstart to curbing my appetite because of the high-water and high-fiber content of the vegetables. Both water and fiber work to take up space in your stomach, which helps you to begin feeling full because as the volume of the contents in your stomach increases, stronger satiety signals are sent to your brain to curb all feelings of hunger.
COURSE #2: Protein and Vegetables
After finishing my salad, I next turn to what I refer to as the main component of my meal: the protein and vegetables. Most restaurant experiences will deliver a protein, starch, and (hopefully) vegetable on the same plate. I prefer to separate the starch from my main portion and to leave it for a later part of the meal and instead focus on enjoying protein and more vegetables first.
Protein slows down digestion.
This means that food sits in my stomach longer, which becomes advantageous as I continue eating and increasing the volume within my stomach. As more food accumulates in my stomach, the nerve endings lining my stomach wall – known as stretch receptors – become stimulated. When they’re stimulated, they send signals to my brain to stop eating.
Furthermore, eating protein signals the release of several satiety hormones that communicate directly with the appetite control center in your brain and transmit a “cease eating” order. The two hormones involved in this communication include cholecystokinin (CCK) and peptide YY (PYY). And even better, the more protein I eat, the stronger this “cease eating” signal becomes as more CCK and PYY are released.
This approach always leaves me pleasantly content before even having enjoyed a starch. And of course, enjoying this lean protein alongside freshly steamed vegetables only further enhances fullness.
You can read more about this phenomenon in my FREE eBook, “Eat More Protein To Lose More Weight.”
Course #3: Carbohydrates
At this point in the meal, I’m beginning to feel physically full. Not uncomfortable, but if there was no more food left to be eaten I’d be ready to clean my dishes and move on. This is a highly desirable state to achieve while dieting!
Why eat carbohydrates last?
In my experience working with more than 600 people 1:1 the past few years, I’ve learned that carbohydrates are a trigger food for most, meaning that once they start with one bowl of pasta, or one cookie, it can quickly turn into three or four. This is especially true when approaching carbohydrates when hungry.
I’ve learned this is the case for me, too, when dieting.
By placing carbohydrates at the end of my meal – a time when I am already experiencing physical and psychological fullness – I significantly reduce the likelihood of overindulging in this calorie-dense option. And because I choose premium carbohydrates – which are high in fiber and very filling – I usually struggle to finish this portion of the meal because I’m too full to continue.
Course #4: A Night Cap of Water
To remove any lingering thought or feeling of hunger, I finish my meal with an additional 20 – 24 ounces of water.
Yes, I know, not quite the type of dessert you were expecting.
This additional fluid further crowds and stretches the stomach, which enhances the strength of satiety signals being sent to my brain. When I’m craving something sweet, I will swap water for a diet soda or flavored water, which provides even more hunger-fighting benefit due to the added carbon dioxide taking up more space in your stomach.
Why Eat Like This?
The driving force behind treating myself to a four-course meal every night is that it helps me experience both physical and psychological satiety. As portions are reduced during a dieting phase, the urge to want to eat a large volume of food intensifies by the day. By splitting my meal up into four courses, and casually eating one before the other – in a specific order – I can recreate a large-volume experience and “feel” as if I am overindulging. This helps to ensure I feel physically and psychologically full when finished, yet, because I chose foods strategically, allows me to stay within my calorie goals for the day.