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.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I LIKE you!!! You eat cheeseburgers with no meat AND you prefer cake over cabbage but still are trying to maintain a healthy weight and continue to eat healthy? You remind me of me! No wonder I like you. :-)

    I think I'm too attached to wanting food to taste good, but so far it's only a problem when I'm NOT counting calories. When I stick to my calorie range, I tend to eat a lot more veggies and fruits because otherwise I will be STARVING and those fill me up pretty well without adding too many calories. And I like a lot of them. BUT...not if I've been on a NON-calorie counting streak. Because when that happens, I tend to eat a lot of breads, cakes, and other sugary things and then the healthy things don't taste anywhere near as good as the unhealthy things. Plus, the healthy things really are more work to prepare and sometimes I'm starving RIGHT NOW, not after I get done washing, peeling, chopping and cooking a bunch of stuff.

    So I think the prepared meals are a good way to go to keep it quick and healthy. Maybe that's just the trade-off for not making it yourself, because if you made it yourself, I'm sure you'd make stuff that you really do think tastes good. But I think sometimes it's worth it to give up taste in order to stick to a plan.

    But food definitely can still be REALLY REALLY good and also healthy. I usually just have to make it myself so that it fits my definition of delicious. :-)
    3100 days ago
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    I find that healthy foods do taste good, but rarely preprocessed foods, if that makes sense. Fresh potatoes chopped into fries, tossed in olive oil, and baked are delicious -- as good as pub fries, to me. My breakfast muffins give me chocolate and cakeyness without added sugar and fats.

    The downside to preprepared meals is that food often ends up overcooked in the reheating process. If you're finding that, try asking them to toss the veggies in to prepackaged meals uncooked so that they come out just cooked when you reheat as a whole. Then they'll be less bland.

    The key with things like spaghetti and lasagna is the sauce. Instead of buying pasta sauce, I buy jarred strained tomatoes, or roast ones that have gotten old in my drawer. I set that on the stove to heat with onion, herbs, and veggies before browning the beef with garlic, draining and combining into sauce!

    *sorry for the extra-long post, I just absolutely LOVE the taste of food, and won't eat things that don't taste amazing... but I also love healthy food!*
    3216 days ago
  • DR1939
    For many things eating them 12 times results in their tasting good. I did not find that true for fat-free cream cheese, but it has for many other things. It's a case of retraining your taste buds. I would say if after 12 times (spread over time) something is not tasty, then don't serve that again. I could have brussels sprouts a million times and I'm pretty sure it would never be palatable.
    3223 days ago
    I see nothing wrong with wanting to have food taste good. Of course it can taste TOO good, which tends to make me throw my good intentions out the window.

    I do prefer cabbage (in almost any form) over cake in most cases...

    3224 days ago
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    3224 days ago
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