The missing piece of the caloric density equation

by | Nov 24, 2021

Raise your hand if you’ve ever eaten a salad, felt full, but found yourself perusing the pantry or fridge for a sweet treat afterward. 

Fact: You can feel physically full, but still want more if the food you eat isn’t satisfying. 

The difference between fullness and satiety

Fullness describes feeling physically full. 

Foods with low caloric density—that is, fruits, veggies, whole grains, and other foods with fewer calories per unit of weight—leave us feeling full.

However, not all foods that leave us feeling full leave us feeling satisfied. 

Satiety describes feeling physically full AND ready to stop eating. Or in other words, you’re satisfied. 

Introducing: The satisfaction factor

The satisfaction factor is a Noom-original that we use to describe the “je ne sais quoi” that certain foods have that leaves you feeling satiated (full and ready to stop eating). 

However, the satisfaction factor is independent of caloric density. That is, foods with low caloric density may or may not be satiating for different people. 

For example, dark sweet cherries (low in caloric density) are one of the most satisfying green foods for me—one serving and I’m ready to continue going about my day. On the other hand, apples (also low in caloric density) usually leave me feeling full afterward, but never satisfied. How do I know? I always find myself perusing the pantry or refrigerator after eating an apple, in search of some chocolate, nut butter, or—you guessed it—cherries.

In an effort to be “healthy” people oftentimes focus their efforts on eating more nutritious or low caloric density foods without thinking about how the food feels in their body. But our research shows that people who eat foods that have the satisfaction factor are more likely to stick to their calorie budget and reach their weight loss goals. Why? Because we don’t feel deprived when we’re full and truly satisfied.  

Finding your most satiating foods

Despite what people think, not all “healthy” foods are unsatisfying, and not all “unhealthy” foods are satisfying. 

The only universal truth about the satisfaction factor is this: Foods that contain the satisfaction factor will differ for each person. 

Here are some signs that a food or a meal has the satisfaction factor for you:

  • When your meal is done, you stop thinking about food 
  • You find yourself adding this food to most meals, be it on top of a salad, mixed into a dish, or anywhere else you can
  • When you’re at a loss for what to eat or make, you always come back to this food as a go-to
  • You always have this food on hand—it’s a staple

An example of what this list looks like for me is: cherries (the dark, sweet kind), avocados, tortilla chips, pesto sauce, pickles, and ice cream (the real, full-fat kind).

3 tips to incorporate more satisfaction into your day

While there aren’t foods that contain the satisfaction factor for everyone, there are some common patterns we’ve observed that make foods more satiating for Noomers. 

  1. Crunchy foods: Whether it’s a crisp apple, carrot sticks, whole-grain tortilla chips, pickles, a handful of nuts, or croutons, many people find foods with a “bite” more enjoyable.
  2. Creamy foods: While creamier foods are often higher in caloric density, they can provide extra satisfaction without an excess of calories if eaten in moderation. Foods like ripe mango, avocado, nut butter, goat cheese, or caesar salad dressing are satisfying for many people.
  3. Treats: Maybe you love churros. Perhaps you enjoy peanut butter pretzles. Incorporating your favorite treats into your diet is inherently satisfying.

Putting the satisfaction factor into action today

If this concept sits well in your mind (and your stomach), you’re ready to start identifying foods that have the satisfaction factor for you. Are you a crunchy person? Or more of a creamy type? What are the foods that make your body feel like it’s gotten what it needs to move on with your day?

To start, reflect on your current diet and ask yourself: Would I feel more satiated if I…

  • Sprinkled a little bit of feta on my salad or pasta?
  • Got hold of some tortilla chips and guac for snacking?
  • Enjoyed peanut or almond butter more often?

Don’t be afraid to spend some time thinking about this. Once you’ve identified the foods that have the satisfaction factor for you, write down ways you can incorporate them into your meals.

One last thing: Feeling satiated isn’t just about not needing to eat more. Feeling satiated means you feel connected to—and happy with—your food choices. So, when you’re in touch with the satisfaction factor and the foods that do it for you, you’re unlocking a powerful tool that can help you not just achieve your weight loss goals, but find a lot more joy around eating. That’s the key to a healthier relationship with food.

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