We all know that eating nutritious food is fundamental for a healthy life, yet more often than not we don’t perceive healthy food as being the most tempting option. We seem to have the belief that rich foods are somehow more pleasurable than the healthy alternatives.
For many people, a ‘going on a diet’ or a ‘healthy lifestyle’ mindset means focusing on restriction. The emphasis is on the things that they can’t eat or drink which means that they quickly start to feel deprived. They feel that they are missing out on the things that they enjoy and the whole process becomes disheartening and set up for failure. Most popular weight loss methods are based on a principle of restriction: counting calories, weight watcher’s points system, detoxing and the Atkins diet to name only a few. Whilst making often radical changes is a necessity in the quest for a healthier lifestyle, why focus on the negatives? Why spend all that effort bemoaning the fact that you have to cut back on wine or cheese when you could use the time and energy to concentrate on creating exceptional meals from the foods that you are going to eat? Food and eating should be a source of pleasure and enjoyment. But, to really enjoy a healthy diet we need to change our perception that healthy food isn’t as pleasurable as that which is rich and calorie laden.
Although today’s levels of obesity are on an unprecedented scale, the desire to indulge in rich food isn’t a modern phenomenon. For centuries food has been used:
* to provide emotional comfort
* to show love to others
* to celebrate special events
* as a blatant display of social standing and wealth
* to relieve boredom
The food of choice for the above has been, and still is, inevitably calorie laden and high in fat and or sugar. There is no wonder that we associate these foods with pleasure and enjoyment. But, whilst they are fine to eat now and again, to maintain a healthy lifestyle nutritious foods need to be the mainstay of our diets.
Cultivating the belief that healthy food can be as much of a treat as any other type of food, is one way to make sticking to a healthy lifestyle more enjoyable. Whilst the quality of ingredients and the flavour of the food are undoubtedly crucial factors, they are only part of the equation and pleasure can also be derived through the:
* anticipation of the expected enjoyment of the food
* visual appearance
* feelings of contentment when sufficient food has been consumed
So, the way that food is prepared and presented can influence all of the other pleasure inducing factors and consequently can contribute enormously to changing the perception of healthy foods.
The phrase ‘you eat with your eyes’ really is true as the visual appearance of food is one of the first mental stimuli received before the flavour of the food is even tasted. This triggers numerous subconscious responses within your brain and these are a powerful influence on the extent to which you believe that you will enjoy the food.
Any past experiences or beliefs that you have about a particular type of food will consciously, or subconsciously, dictate your expected enjoyment whilst you are merely looking at it. Obviously, the more positive associations you have with the food, the greater the anticipated enjoyment. If you can keep creating beautiful and delicious healthy meals, it will continue to reinforce the belief that healthy food is enjoyable and the perception that it is somehow inferior and less appetising than other foods will begin to gradually diminish over time.
Most of us are attracted to aesthetically beautiful things and food is no exception. The pleasure factor of eating is considerably heightened by the aesthetic appeal of the food. Quite why the brain triggers feelings of pleasure when looking at an innate object of beauty is uncertain, the only certainty is that it does happen!
The experience of beauty in food can be attributed to many factors including:
* Harmonious composition
* Culinary perfection
* Extravagance and luxury
Obviously all the above factors are subjective and the extent to which a particular food or meal is considered to be an object of beauty is entirely dependent on the individual looking at it, but knowing these contributory factors means that creating food with universal aesthetic appeal is slightly easier to achieve.
Eating smaller quantities of certain foods is unavoidable if you want to eat healthily, but if the portions look meagre you’re unlikely to feel satisfied. Fortunately, there are preparation and presentation techniques that can be used to give the illusion of increased volume. For example, if you want to reduce the amount of red meat that you are eating and decide to cook smaller sized steaks than usual, you can slice the cooked steak and fan it out on the plate. This will give the illusion of a larger portion. Grating cheese has the same effect.
Creative food presentation isn’t just for chefs and food stylists. There are numerous quick and simple ideas and techniques that can be used by anybody who wants to add some pizzazz to their food, not just for special occasions when you’re out to impress, but for everyday dishes that can so easily become dull and repetitive. It’s these everyday dishes that are the backbone of a healthy lifestyle, so it’s essential to find a way of make eating healthily a pleasurable experience. Feeling restricted and deprived will only have you succumbing to the lure of the biscuit tin on a regular basis! The goal for a healthy lifestyle is balance and moderation which is far easier to achieve when you are eating food that leaves your senses and taste buds fulfilled and satisfied.
By LollemyArtPhotography from Pixabay