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Feature Articles: Eating Well


Eat Good Food and Enjoy Good Nutrition

Linda Rellergert, Nutrition Specialist in St. Charles County
University of Missouri Extension



Eating nutritiously is a very important part of good health. Unfortunately, too often people equate good nutrition with rules and restrictions about food choices. Many people think they know what they should and shouldn’t be eating. The shoulds include all the foods they don’t like; the shouldn’ts include all those they do. It is time to put aside this myth for the sake of good nutrition and good health.

Restricting favorite high fat or high calorie foods for the sake of better nutrition often sabotages attempts to improve nutrition. Read the following scenario and see if it sounds familiar.

Sarah would like to eat a few cookies, but feels that she should eat fruit instead because she is concerned about her nutrition and her weight. She eats the fruit, despite desiring the cookies. Even though Sarah likes fruit, she feels dissatisfied.

Nevertheless, for the next few weeks, Sarah chooses fruit over cookies for her snacks. After the initial few weeks, she breaks down and buys a bag of cookies. She eats the whole bag in two days. She vows never to allow cookies into her pantry again.

The next day she stocks her kitchen with fresh fruits. After several more weeks of fruit-only snacks, she finds fruit totally unsatisfying. She now only eats cookies for snacks. Sarah feels guilty about the cookies, but she doesn’t eat fruit again for a long while.

In this scenario, although Sarah tries to eat more nutritiously, she ends up disliking nutritious eating. This is because she ‘forced’ herself to eat something she really didn’t want just then and to not eat the food she really wanted. Even though fruit is a nutritious food choice, it does not satisfy her. The result is less enjoyment of nutritious eating. Sarah now associates fruit with deprivation, instead of enjoyable, nutritious eating. In other words, Sarah feels that to eat nutritiously means she must give up cookies and other foods she loves. No wonder healthy eating isn’t thought to be fun!

It is important to pay attention to food cravings or desires and to eat food you want. If you give yourself permission to eat the cookies or other food you desire, over time they will become less important to you and you will eat less of them. Eventually, you will choose a great variety of foods including fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fresh dairy products often because you desire and enjoy them, not because you should.

To enjoy nutritious eating, end food restrictions and eat the foods you love. Remember, all foods, yes, ALL foods, can be part of nutritious eating.

Here are some ideas to help put more enjoyment in nutritious eating.

  • Stop forcing yourself to eat ‘good-for-you’ foods that you don’t like. Making yourself eat an apple when what you really want is a piece of candy will only make you feel resentful, cheated and unsatisfied.
  • Eat what you truly desire and recognize that good nutrition can also be achieved while enjoying high and low-calorie foods.
  • Say NO to fat-free, low-fat, calorie-reduced versions of foods you don’t like. On the other hand, if you like them and want to eat them, enjoy!
  • Use positive self-talk about eating and your health. Instead of saying to yourself, “I’ve blown it. I didn’t have any fruit today,” say, “I forgot to bring fruit with me today. Tonight I’ll cut up a cantaloupe and take it with me tomorrow. That will allow me to choose fruit if I want to eat it.”
    Keep snacks where they are easy to find, yet not constantly visible, like in a cupboard, desk drawer or glove compartment. Include high and low-calorie foods, ready-to-eat fruits and veggies—anything that can be safely stored at room temperature. Research shows that even children will choose fruits and vegetables more often for snacks if they are ready to eat and they can find them easily.
  • Season vegetables to make them more flavorful and add considerably to their appeal. A little salt and pepper, or a sprinkle of herbs with just a teaspoon of butter or olive oil drizzled on before serving will help carry and enhance flavors. Remember, just a little dab will do!
  • Likewise, a spoonful of sugar will mellow the tartness of fruits and bring out additional flavor. Try a dash of almond or vanilla extract to make them seem even sweeter.
  • Texture is another attribute of food that affects our enjoyment of it—just ask someone who has had to eat a soft or liquid diet for medical reasons. Think about the way food feels in the mouth and how much effort is required to chew. Foods can be soft and creamy or soft and juicy, crisp and crunchy or crisp and succulent. They can be chewy or gooey. Meals and snacks will be more satisfying when you give some thought to this aspect of food.
  • Vary the temperature of food as well as the texture. Include at least one hot food when the rest of the meal is cold, or one cold food in a hot meal. The contrast will add greatly to eating pleasure. The season of the year and weather also affect food temperature preference. Naturally, cold foods like salads, iced drinks and cold soups are much more appealing in hot weather than they are in winter.
  • Color and appearance are also an important part of food’s appeal. A monochromatic plate is less appetizing than one with splashes of color. Vegetables cooked until just tender have brighter colors than those that are overcooked. Observe how restaurants use garnishes or take care in “plating” foods to make the presentation special. Copy some of what you see at home to make your meals a feast for the eye as well as the palate.



Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








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