Monday, July 23, 2012

Minimize Flavor Variety

I'm not talking about limiting flavor. Flavor is good. But variety?
Does less variety mean more satiety? 

Because I love frozen yogurt so much, I couldn't resist reading when I stumbled upon Glamour's The Dos and Don'ts of Frozen Yogurt.  In it, Carolyn Brown (M.S., R.D.), Rachel Beller (M.S., R.D.) and other nutrition experts give great advice involving cup size, toppings, flavors, and more, but the one that most caught my attention was slide 7: Don't Mix Flavors.

"Sure, swirling your two favorite flavors sounds like a great idea,
but there's a good reason to resist. 
'We have a limit to where our taste buds start fatiguing on a certain flavor,' Blatner says.
'If you pick only one topping and flavor, you actually feel more satisfied
than if you were picking multiple things.'" 

Hm.  Interesting.  I thought about this for a while.  I've done both ends of the spectrum; I've swirled 4 flavors into my single cup at 16 Handles, and other times I've gotten one solid flavor (like plain old tart) at Red Mango or Pinkberry.  I also get single flavors when having more indulgent desserts, like frozen custard or ice cream.  Am I generally more satisfied (physically, mentally, however), when I get only one flavor? 

16 Handles

... Maybe.  I'm usually far more satisfied with my one-flavor Red Mango cup than my multicolored 16 Handles (where I'm known to look sadly into my empty cup and ask "Can I go refill?").  Does this just mean I like 16 Handles better?  Again, maybe... but maybe not.  Maybe having only one flavor (and perhaps one topping) allows me to better enjoy and savor the flavors and feel like I've had enough.  I might need to experiment.

More overboard than I usually go
But I ran a race that day.

But then I got thinking even more about satisfaction with enough of one good thing, vs. feeling unsatisfied with just a drop of everything.  This need not apply only to frozen yogurt; what about a salad?  What about a buffet table?  What about hobbies and activities? 

  • Salad: Do you make salads with a zillion different items, or limit yourself to a few?  When I do the former, I get sad when I run out of whatever my favorite item was, so why not only include my favorites, in greater quantity?  Don't get me wrong; I'm not talking about having just lettuce plus one item, but rather just not having, say, 10 different things in one salad. How about 4 or 5 as a limit?  Or maybe when you order a salad from a make-your-own menu, don't feel compelled to get four different vegetables just because you're allowed to without being charged more.  Maybe get three different vegetables, and double up on your favorite. 
  • Buffet: Endless options make us want everything, but taking a bite or two of ten different dishes might only leave us wanting those flavors that appealed most.  (And then, we're more likely to get up and have a second helping.)  A better plan might be to survey the entire buffet first, select two or three items that we want the absolute most, and stick to only those. A single appetizer, entree, and dessert might leave us more satisfied, because we get more of what we enjoyed.
  • Hobbies: Ever fall in the halfway-there trap?  Have so much on your to-do list that you tackle it all at once and then nothing gets done?  f I am forever in the middle of reading a book, writing a blog post, cleaning out my closet, and creating a scrapbook, but don't complete any of them, will I feel satisfied?  It may be more fulfilling to devote all of our energy to only one or two items, just like it might be more fulfilling to satiate our taste buds with only one or two flavors at a time.

Perhaps it's better to truly enjoy less than to go overboard on flavors without really becoming satiated. I might try this "less is more" approach and see how it works.  

What do you think?  Do more flavors inhibit our satisfaction? 

In what other ways might less variety lead to more satiety


  1. for ME less is more.
    for my daughter (a super taster) less is more.
    I think it's all dependent on our tastebuds to a large extent too.

  2. Interesting, I've never thought about this! I think usually fewer flavors is better. But every once in awhile, I love a big garbage disposal salad with tons of toppings, or froyo with all fourteen flavors. Definitely more of an indulgence!

  3. Absolutely. In terms of salad - a leafy green, a contrasting vegetable, a protein like chicken, hardboiled egg OR cheese, maybe a little bit of fruit and something crunchy like a nut.

    But the same is true for wine. When I do in-home wine tastings, sometimes I get hosts who say, "Really, you are only going to bring FIVE bottles of wine for us to taste?" The truth is that after 5 or 6 wines, your palate can no longer distinguish the difference or pick up nuances anymore. Besides, I'm all about quality over quantity. I'd rather learn a lot about a few than just guzzle back a whole bunch of samples. The same is true for food - quality is always better than quantity!

    1. Excellent point about wine tastings! It's definitely a matter of quality engagement over quantity. Thanks, Carrie!

  4. GREAT post. I've never really thought about it, though I think I'm beginning to practice simplicity in my eating. I know I can take it a step further. I like simple ingredients. Sharing this post for others to think on, too. Thanks!

  5. This is such an interesting post!!! I remember reading about a study where they gave people a bowl of different colored M&M's and a bowl of all the same color and the people with the same color M&M's ate less than the ones with multiple colors! I think this speaks to your post! Sometimes simplicity and less variety is enough to satisfy us, but too much variety and we want more! Think about it...if you could cheat on only one food all day, you would eventually get sick of it and have enough, but if you had a variety of options, sweet, salty, savory, you'd probably be more likely to overdo it! Great post!!!

    1. Iiiinteresting! I do think that I read that somewhere in my old psych classes :) Very good point!

  6. Interesting! More often than not, less is more!

    Take salt and pepper for example. So good. So simple. :)

  7. This actually makes a ton of sense. If I get a little bit of everything I'm always thinking "Oh man, I wish I could taste (fill in the blank) more!" So naturally, I'm not going to be as satisfied! Awesome post!!

  8. i have read something about this before, i.e. switching from salty to sweet will make you eat more because you are switching the type of food and your brain will change processes

    1. I don't know much about the biochemistry but you're right - bet it plays a huge role here. Something else to look into!

  9. I've read about this before and do think it is true for me. It's also why chocolate-covered pretzles are so dangerous! ;-)

  10. I've heard this before too! Very interesting.

    I think you and I are EXACTLY alike when it comes to having too many projects going at once. I live with my poor neat-freak-of-a-dad and I constantly have piles of papers with ideas scribbled on them, notebooks with to-do lists, groups of foods and recipes I promise I will make that essence, I hear ya!

    Great post Meredith! :-)

  11. Interesting. I could really follow your logic of less is more. I certainly find when I put more energy into one or two sports or one or two clubs I feel like a more engaged member than when I try to do a different thing every night of the week. Sometimes we all spread ourselves a little too thin.

  12. This is so interesting!! What a great post. It kind of goes along with the idea that if you have the same thing for lunch every day of the week, you won't eat as much/lose weight faster. I'm going to start doing this!


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