Many of my favorite foods fall into the unhealthy category. I love pizza, cheese, chocolate, cakes, pastries… I think you get the idea. It seems so inherently unfair that all the unhealthy foods taste better than the healthy ones.
I always remember this birthday card a friend received. It had a picture of God with two plates of food in front of him – a slice of cake on one and a lone carrot on the other. God was holding two signs up, one said 500 calories and the other said 10 calories – and he is about to place the 500 calorie sign on the cake and the 10 calorie sign on the carrot. The caption said something like “God screws up!” Mildly irreverent, but it does sum up my feelings on this subject.
I know the reasons why unhealthy foods taste good – they are mainly packed with salt, sugar or other artificial ingredients designed to keep us coming back for more. They mess with our blood sugar levels, our serotonin levels, and our feelings of hunger.
I’m not a nutritionist so I don’t have much more of an understanding than that, but the practical experience tells me its true as on the days when I eat a chocolate bar for lunch I then often can’t stop eating cookies and cake all day.
I suppose I just need to focus on the healthy foods I DO enjoy. I like smoked salmon, fresh strawberries, avocado, roast chicken, fresh granary bread, and sweet tomatoes… yum!
One day at work I was at a clients with my boss, and the client offered to go and get us a sandwich. My boss told him to make sure he got me a brown bread sandwich because it was my favorite. Now I consciously choose brown bread over white because its better for me – but when my boss said that I suddenly realized that actually I DO prefer brown bread to white – which wasn’t the case a few years ago.
So it is true in some cases that the more you eat a food, the more you will grow to like it. Its the same principle as teaching a child to like new foods. You can’t just try it once – you have to present it a number of times in different ways before its accepted and you enjoy it. I’ve seen them say on programmes like Supernanny that it can take as many as 20 presentations of a food before the child will accept it – why should adults be any different?
I think the other thing is that we have to accept that some foods we will never like, regardless of how many times we try them. I don’t think I will ever enjoy chowing down on a chickpea salad – although I do enjoy hummus. Its okay to have likes and dislikes among healthy foods – the key is finding out which you like and which you don’t.
What would I pick then if faced with a choice of fresh strawberries or chocolate gateau? That’s a tough one and the answer is it depends. Or perhaps the answer would be both together!
The solution has to be everything in moderation. Enjoy your favorite foods and make sure they are a mixture of healthy and unhealthy – preferably saving the unhealthy ones for treats or one off occasions. Don’t forbid them completely, or you will end up having a binge. And try to plan them in advance so that you don’t get distracted and end up having a completely unhealthy day, as seems to happen to me slightly too often.
What are your favorite food items – healthy or unhealthy?!