The sheer number of calories in a plate heaped with pasta alfredo may not be the only reason you push away from the table feeling stuffed. A study presented at a 2017 meeting of the British Psychological Society suggests that sensations of hunger and satiety may be linked to how we perceive a meal, not just how many calories we consume.

On two occasions, British researchers served study participants a three-egg omelet for breakfast—but told the volunteers the first meal had two eggs and the second had four. When people thought they’d eaten a smaller breakfast, they reported feeling hungry sooner afterward and also ate more throughout the day than they did when they thought they’d consumed a larger breakfast. The study detected no changes in hunger hormones, suggesting our mental perceptions of a meal can significantly influence food intake later on.

To stay full on fewer calories, try adding low-calorie volume to meals; for example, fill out a plate of pasta or scrambled eggs with veggies. Putting more food on a plate or in a bowl can trick the brain into thinking you’re consuming plenty of calories and, in turn, you’ll need less food in subsequent meals and snacks.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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