Having a Ritual Makes Your Food More Special

Have you ever noticed how much better your food tastes when it’s preceded by a ritual?

Liking singing “Happy Birthday” before eating cake, or swirling your coconut milk around in your coffee?

A new study from the University of Minnesota has found that what you do before you eat– how you prepare yourself for a certain eating experience– can enhance your enjoyment of that food.

If you perform a short ritual before you eat, you’ll enjoy your food more.


The study found that the ritual can be as seemingly meaningless as breaking a cookie in half before dunking it into some milk, or as elaborate and meaningful as singing Happy Birthday.

The researchers found that rituals we’re all familiar with — such as singing “Happy Birthday” before cutting a cake — can change our perception of our food, and even help us better “taste” the flavors of  that celebratory dessert. (Source)

The key is that your ritual has to be a part of your routine: “Only repeated, episodic, and fixed behaviors seem to change our perception of the food.” (Source) Random behaviors just don’t do the trick.

Any ritual — big or small — increases anticipation and makes food seem more special.

You also have to have some direct involvement in your ritual in order for it to work

“When participants in the study watched someone else methodically make lemonade, they didn’t perceive the same  flavor boost as when they made it themselves. We have to be willing to squeeze some lemons (or belt out that birthday tune) if we want to trick our tastebuds to pick up more from our meal. (Source)

Creating a ritual to go along with your meal will not only help you enjoy your food better, it also effortlessly cultivates a mindful eating experience.

When you take some time before you eat to tune into the food you’re eating with a ritual, you increase your awareness and thus mindfulness of the food.

My favorite food ritual surrounds my daily two cups of coffee.  I take some time to stir in my coconut milk (or whip in my grass-fed butter) and watch it swirl around the mug before taking the first sip. It might sound like something really small, but I think it helps remind me that my coffee isn’t about caffeine: it’s about enjoying the taste, the warmth and the comfort that it brings me when I’m starting my day.

Having a ritual makes your food more special.

What do you do before each meal to make it a little more special? Share your rituals in the comments below.

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3 Responses to Having a Ritual Makes Your Food More Special

  1. healthyservesone August 1, 2013 at 7:12 AM #

    Hmmm…interesting. I know that sometimes I have to stop myself from shovelling food in my mouth and stop to taste the goodness (smell the daisies?). I need to cultivate some more rituals with my food. For religious people, does saying grace make their food taste better or more special?

    • Allison August 1, 2013 at 9:21 AM #

      I would say that saying grace is definitely a ritual! I think every ritual is a way of giving thanks/saying grace.

  2. Jennie August 2, 2013 at 4:38 AM #

    I love the idea that a ritual can change how much you enjoy food. Thank you or the encouragement. i think it will be a fun challenge to think of ways to ritualize my experience, as I make healthier food choices. Today I tried drinking my chilled green tea out of a margarita glass. Silly, but fun. It added a festive feel that I don’t get much of as a stay at home mom. I think this may be my first ritual.

Thoughts? Feel free to comment below!

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