How to eat to satisfy your tastebuds and your thighs… Part III: changing your mindset
I’m not a dietitian or food scientist, so while these tips may not be the be-all and end-all of eating well, they are realistic, and I would argue totally achievable. As in, they come from a real person, with realistic cravings for delicious things. Despite all these cravings, and despite giving in to a lot of them, I manage to stay a healthy size (although yes, I will admit it helps that my family are all thin so there’s some genetic advantage I have), keep all my official nutrient levels normal (I will admit I’m a little low in iron though), and keep my food budget in line with my occupation as a full time student. I decided to write this up after lots of contemplation because most of the posts I see from nutritionists and well meaning doctors require way too much translating into normal speak and also don’t clearly help with actual meal planning. They also don’t seem to consider the taste factor – no one wants to eat food that tastes bad, at the end of the day. So I’ve decided to start a several-part series of tips that I find help me (healthily) enjoy everything I eat. Originally it was going to be one long post but a few steps at a time are generally easier to make than one great big leap.
If you hate leeks, think again: try caramelising them into a creamy sauce with mushrooms to stir through pasta
Be open minded
This is easier said than done, but most essentially, do not rule out a certain food point blank. For example, I hate hate hate brussels sprouts, but cooked in a specific way, even I had to admit they weren’t too bad. Often people’s preconceptions of foods are based on their mothers being useless at cooking those foods but trying to force the stuff down their kids’ throats. Pumpkin was my nemesis when I was younger, but now I really like it, just cooked my way. Some things also only taste good when paired with other things (personal example: fresh coriander/cilantro), so try not to let tradition and past experience totally limit your palate.
Make your own junk food, and share!
Not only do you get far more active, it is also incredibly rewarding in terms of taste and savings. If you do share your home made treats, you’ll also be rewarded with ego-boosting comments, hugs and kisses. It’ll also help you eat slightly less of the stuff!
Reassess your priorities
I know what you’re thinking after the previous tip: “I don’t have time” or “I can’t be bothered.” How is it that people can be bothered working extra hours to pay for sub-par-tasting junk food, or have time to go to the gym? Hello, but making your own food addresses both those issues. Even if you hate cooking or baking, you have to admit, it’s practically rewarding. I realised the other day as I resolved to knead some dough for ten minutes that I was not only saving money and time going to a gym, but that I’d have a loaf of delicious home made bread at the end of my efforts, for next to nothing. While I have baking failures, I like to think of these as challenges, which actually act to make baking and cooking far more interesting and enjoyable, because it’s a constant learning process. The more opportunities you get to learn, the more creative you can be and the more fun you’ll have in the kitchen. Plus when you do get success – well. Just try telling me a bit of kneading wasn’t worth the taste and texture of that perfect slice and all the compliments that came with it.
above: coconut feijoa cake, delicious and not too bad for ya
Prioritise healthy treats, but don’t go overboard
Instead of eliminating certain treats, I just tend to pick the healthier version. This is far more realistic than banning certain foods. Cakes are the easiest thing to make healthy. However, you don’t have to compromise on every aspect of the cake, or it will cease to be tasty cake (Dad’s health cakes taught me this the hard way!). For example, if you’re already making carrot cake, don’t go overboard and halve the amount of sugar and use all wholemeal flour. Your tastebuds will not be fooled, and most likely you’ll snack on some chips later to make it up to them. I usually alter at most two things about a cake recipe or cake choice, out of the following potential switches:
- Using a wholegrain or nutrient-dense flour
- Using olive oil instead of butter
- Incorporating veges or fruit in the cake
- Using a fruity icing or topping
- Using dark brown sugar, or adding molasses.
There are plenty of other options, those are just easy for me. When using wholegrain flour, I sometimes switch out 1/4 white flour for wholemeal, or follow a recipe that intentionally uses wholegrain flour. A similar philosophy actually guides my cooking – while I use lots of veges, etc, all my friends will tell you I am a salt fiend, and I know I use a generous amount of fat in my cooking. Some people might balk at my liberal use of both, but my sodium and cholesterol levels have always been healthy. I certainly consider this better than eating bland food all the time. That said, you can also use herbs and spices in cooking to add flavour.
Let those “specials” be your guide
This not only helps you with the tip above, but it also opens your eyes to consider eating a greater variety of foods (generally).
Evidence that I let others cook tasty treats for me: J’aime les macarons
As I’ve previously stated, don’t go overboard. This is super important, or you will quickly resort back to eating nasty-but-tasty, because eating healthy will become tiring and onerous if you try to eat or do things you don’t want to. This isn’t true for everyone of course, but generally I find that “diets” don’t last precisely because they are inflexible and unrealistic. Also, an overindulgent treat will often remind you afterwards (with all the euurrrgh stomach groans) why you started eating healthy in the first place – to feel better.
Change your scales
I do not own any scales, and the only time I’ve ever been “weighed” is at the doctor’s when I have my routine check up. If you look a healthy size, you feel great, rarely get sick, and don’t have any serious shortfalls at your next blood test or check up, why worry about weight? My scale of whether I’m eating well is whether I feel good, which also helps with the looking good thing, because I smile more and am not a grumpy pants to be around.