19.06.2020 – 11:43
The sweet temptation
Dessert always works: Why do we feel like having sweets after dinner?
Even though we were sure we could not eat another bite, there is usually room for dessert. We explain the simple reason behind it.
You may well be familiar with this situation: You’re in a restaurant, you’ve had a small starter, a sumptuous main course and you feel really full. But then the waiter comes with the dessert menu and the thought – which is perhaps even spoken out loud – follows: Dessert is always possible!
But how can that actually be? Why do we still feel like eating sweets even after a sumptuous meal? In fact there is a simple explanation for this.
Where the desire for sweets after dinner comes from
The reason why we feel like having dessert, even though we may already be stuffed, is that full does not mean full. It is because of our relative sense of satiety. Because feeling full does not necessarily mean that the stomach is full. Rather, we are full of a certain type of food, such as a hearty plate of noodles. If another kind of food is then offered, such as a sweet tiramisu, there is room in the stomach again.
Behind this phenomenon lies the technical term specific sensory saturation. This is an evolutionary-biological program of our body with which it ensures food variety and thus nutrient diversity. So the desire for dessert is all about variety. Which also works the other way round: You might think of a situation where you’ve eaten too much candy. This may well be followed by a craving for salty food.
But it is not only the taste that plays a role in specific sensory saturation, but also the colour, shape and consistency of the food.
The phenomenon “desire for dessert”: Habits also play a role
Eating habits also play a role when the desire for sweets comes up after a meal. For example, if you were often given ice cream or other desserts after meals as a child, you may have simply gotten into the habit of having a sweet tooth after a meal. This is also reflected in country-specific and cultural eating habits. For example, the French traditionally eat cheese for dessert.
To give up sweets after dinner: Here’s how
While specific sensory saturation is a very valuable mechanism of our body to ensure an adequate supply of nutrients, it can have quite negative consequences in today’s world where we are constantly surrounded by food. For example, the desire for food variety or even simple eating habits can lead to too much food overall, which in turn can lead to weight gain, among other things. But how can this physical mechanism be overcome or how can the eating habit be broken?
These tips can help:
- Strengthen the awareness for oneself and one’s own body in order to better perceive and distinguish between feelings of satiety or to uncover eating habits – in this respect, for example, careful eating can help.
- Make individual dishes colourful and varied in taste and consistency to satisfy the desire for variety.
- In general, pay attention to diversity and variety in your diet in order to provide the body with sufficient nutrients – a colourful selection of foods or seasonal eating habits can help here.
- Instead of spasmodically forbidding yourself to have dessert, enjoy it consciously. Often a small amount is already enough. Why not share the dessert?
Conclusion on sweet temptation after dinner
The fact that there is an evolutionary biological mechanism behind the desire for sweets after a meal almost provides a good excuse for the dessert. But the real issue here is to ensure a nutrient diversity in our diet that may not necessarily be found in the dessert. But enjoyment and joy of eating are also important components of a healthy diet, and abstaining from them should not be the issue here.
Nevertheless: Next time the thought “dessert always works” comes up, just pay attention to whether you really need this dessert, or whether it is a desire for a variety of foods or a habit.
Fancy some dessert? On our theme page we have delicious Dessert recipes for you! If you’re more interested in losing weight, you’ll be on our Diet topic page found.
Source: Dr. Thomas Ellrott, Food needs to be learned, Starting points for a favourable development of eating behaviour in childhood and adolescence, Modern nutrition today, May 2010