Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Ritual of Food

Whether a habit, a rite, or a ceremony, most of us have food rituals. Do you tap the top of a can before pulling the tab? Do you eat the filling first and then the cookie? Do you dunk an Oreo in milk? Do you cut the crusts off of your bread? Do you slice your sandwich in half or at an angle? Do you stir your coffee exactly 12 times and then tap the spoon against the mug three times? 

If yes, you’re not alone. A recent study published last month in the journal Psychological Science finds that the little rituals you bring to the table make eating and drinking more enjoyable. Flavor is intensified and the meal enjoyed more.  

In the study, those participants who performed rituals reported they savored the items more than those who did not engage in rituals. The rituals that study participants exhibited boosted involvement in the eating and  drinking experiences. Here’s the bad news. The study also found that performing a ritual enhanced the amount consumed.

It seems the ritual becomes a mindset, a way we approach food. And, if it at least in part determines the way we think about and approach food, it also in part determines the way we eat it. Now here’s an interesting idea...

What if we develop new rituals? Rituals that revolve around healthy food choices. How about a broccoli or squash ritual? And, can rituals work in the other direction? What if we have negative rituals around white carbs, soft drinks, donuts, ice cream and cake? Well, it doesn’t sound like much fun, but it is food for thought—and maybe action. With a little practice, maybe a new habit is just waiting to become a future ritual. 

What food ritual would you develop? Let me know.

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