Three studies examined how food deprivation influences the immediate valence of food stimuli as well as spontaneous motivational tendencies toward them. We assumed that immediate reactions towards food stimuli should be tuned to the basic needs of the organism. In Study 1, the immediate valence of food names as a function of need state was assessed using an Implicit Association Test (IAT) in a quasi-experimental design. Food deprivation led to a more positive immediate valence of food items. In Study 2, these results were replicated using the Extrinsic Affective Simon Task. In Study 3, immediate motivational reactions toward pictorial food stimuli were assessed. As hypothesized, approach reactions were facilitated for participants tested before as compared to after lunch, even in a sample with eating disorders. We thus conclude that the immediate valence of edible objects partially reflects regulation in the service of need fulfillment. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.