Should food taste good?
Thursday, August 16, 2012
I guess so. There's even a chip company that says so.
However, I've recently been thinking that I've sometimes confused learning to enjoy the taste of healthier foods with the mandate that food should always, without exception, taste good.
It's a reality for me (and I think for many) that I have been conditioned to love the taste of certain foods over others, especially sugary and salty foods. Even when I make a concerted effort to eat veggies and fruits, I tend to crave the sugarier options. I do find that I enjoy healthier foods more after a sustained period of cutting back on processed foods and sweets.
For the past week, I've been working to re-set my commitment to maintenance in part by eating prepared meals at a set calorie amount. I'm lucky enough to live in an area where prepared healthy meals are available (not frozen, not processed) from a local company.* Not having to think about cooking and knowing I'm getting enough of all the main nutrients has made it possible to eat within my calories while focusing on visual tracking rather than actual calorie counting for each meal (which I find makes me too obsessive if I don't take breaks.)
The prepared meals are pretty good, but they're often bland or boring. They contain way less sugar than I would prefer. Even a candied orange glaze on a veggie loaf had only the tiniest hint of sweetness. This is likely in part to please diverse palates. But I think it's also because part of eating healthy is including things in your diet that may not taste as"good" as something sweet, startchy, cheesy, etc...
And that's okay. I'm not forcing myself to eat awful things. I enjoy some meals more than others. And on my own I would stay within my ranges, but I'd eat lots more sugar and salt.
I can respect the conventional wisdom that dieters need to learn that foods that are healthy can also be tasty and well-prepared. But maybe there is room for a little bit of wiggle room when it comes to the mandate "food should taste good." Food is an experience and often emotional...taste is part of the picture. But food is also fuel and foods might vary in their tastiness in a wider range than the "healthy foods taste good, too!" mandate suggests.
For me, I fall into the trap of not wanting to "waste" calories on non-tasty things. But eating what's put in front of me has helped me to focus on other joys...mindfulness, healthfulness, and feeling sated without feeling over-full.
Are there things you eat because you know you should that maybe -- sometimes -- don't taste awesome? Are there tricks you use to balance taste and health? Do you, like me, prefer cake over cabbage at all times but enjoy knowing you're eating healthy?
*If you are in the Atlanta Metro area, the service is called "Good Measure Meals." I do enjoy them and recommend them. The breakfasts, in particular, really do taste GOOD and the food is fresh and varied on a five-week cycle.