“And the award goes to… Chef Valerie, who so artfully displays her vegetarian stacked risotto dish with walnut topping,” announces the culinary instructor for the week’s competition. Valerie loves food – cooking with it, eating it, and playing with it. Even without formal training, we can all be winners when it comes to the game of eating.

If you read the title of this article, you might have thought about making food art on your plate or a cafeteria “Food Fight!” Perhaps, you imagined a picky kid pushing food around to hide his peas under the mashed potatoes. We don’t mean just arranging your food into pictures, but playing with your food is about spending time to manipulate and use your ingredients in unconventional ways. Okay, and having fun eating it, too!

See our previous article, 10 Surprising Food Combinations You’ll Love

Playing with your food could mean experimenting with unusual combinations, using an alternate preparation method, trying a foreign dish, or following a new recipe. You might put sandwich fixings on flatbread, or salad in a jar. The trend of bowl meals (usually grains, vegetables, greens, and protein) is a great example of adopting a foreign dish like Korean bibimbap and tailoring it to American fare. Maybe have an “opposite day” where dinner and breakfast are swapped. Hurray for French toast in the evening!

Why create and have fun? Playing with your food may have a secret side effect – lower weight! Eating quickly is associated with overweight status1, more so than are late evening meals or skipping breakfast. A body mass index (BMI) 25 kg/m2 or greater is considered overweight. Those that eat at a slower pace tend to be a lower weight, to the tune of an average 4 lower BMI2. Keep in mind that the healthy BMI range is 18.5–24.9 kg/m2, so a difference of 4 represents a lot! A slower pace of eating lets the satiety hormone leptin kick in so that you feel full sooner and eat less.

Therefore, slowing your pace of eating is an integral part of weight control. Lining up green beans, turning all your shrimp the same direction or arranging your potato wedges by size may have been stalling techniques when you were a kid. Now, they are valid ways to lengthen eating duration and eating slower! Two food games for adults and children alike are: 1) put a bit of each type of food on the fork for every bite, and 2) leave a symmetrical plate of food after each bite.

If poking around your food seems juvenile, take an epicurean approach to slow down: Once served, spend a moment to appreciate your meal. Inhale the aroma. Notice the colors and details before you savor each bite like it’s the last on the planet. Use a fork and knife (or chopsticks) for finger foods. This especially works well for pizza, burgers and comfort foods!

No matter how you play, keep meals healthy and balanced (and we don’t mean juggling).

References:

  1. Combined eating behaviors and overweight: Eating quickly, late evening meals, and skipping breakfast. Lee JS, et al. Eating Behaviors. 2016 Apr;21:84-8. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2016.01.009. Epub 2016 Jan 21.
  2. Association between eatingrate and obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ohkuma T, et al. International Journal of Obesity (London). 2015 Nov;39(11):1589-96. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2015.96. Epub 2015 May 25.

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