You wish you could find healthy food that tastes good, but you feel like there’s nothing to eat. Are you trying to come up with food that’s delicious but no carbs, low calorie, with lots of good fat, fiber, and protein?
It feels impossible. It IS impossible because the “perfect” food doesn’t exist.
But there are lots of realistic possibilities for healthy, high nutrient food that tastes good. Read on to learn how to make your own plan with healthy food that tastes good.
It is normal to feel like there’s nothing to eat.
We feel like there’s nothing to eat because of all the messages we see and hear about food and nutrition. We are bombarded with this information everywhere. Some of the information is right. And, some of it is wrong. It might be an honest mistake that it’s wrong. Oops! It might be exaggerated to get attention. Clickbait alert! Or it might be intentionally misrepresented to make money. Cha-ching!
Whether the information is right or wrong, once we put together all the messages we see and hear about food, there is nothing left to eat. (I was going to say the only thing left is lettuce leaves, but then I thought of stuff I’ve seen that says not to eat those either.)
We could use all the information that we see and hear in our process of elimination to determine what to eat. But then we eliminate everything. We are left with nothing to eat. Which doesn’t work.
Or, we could decide to let go of the information that we see and hear that doesn’t serve us. Nonsense like “If it tastes good, spit it out.” The information that leaves us feeling like we’d rather eat cardboard, than the few foods we’re “allowed to have” or we “should eat.”
The fact is we know what to eat, but we don’t. We don’t choose what to eat because it’s healthy. We choose food that tastes good.
We don’t choose what to eat because it’s healthy. We choose food that tastes good.
A recent study out of Stanford University explored how labeling foods influenced the selection and consumption of vegetables. In dining halls, they used taste-focused, health-focused, or basic labels. For example, the same recipe of green beans was labeled “Sizzlin’ Szechuan Green Beans with Toasted Garlic,” “Nutritious Green Beans,” or “Green Beans.” Taste-focused labels were associated with a 29% increase in vegetable selection compared to health-focused labels and a 14% increase compared to basic labeling. Taste-focused labels were associated with a 39% increase in vegetable consumption compared to health-focused labels (Turnwald et al., 2019).
So more people chose vegetables and they ate more vegetables when the vegetables were labeled in a way that focused on taste. We choose food that tastes good.
An important part of finding healthy, high nutrient foods that taste good is taking the time to experiment and figure out personal preferences. The trial and error of figuring out what you like IS harder than someone else telling you exactly what to eat. It is especially hard to know personal preferences when dieting for years and denying yourself preferred foods. But you can do hard things.
You’re probably like most of the people I’ve worked with and you’ve already tried eating exactly what someone else told you to eat. But that didn’t work. Maybe it’s time for you to try something different.
Consider making your own plan specific to your nutritional needs, your food preferences, the amount of time, energy, and money you have to spend on food. You have permission to make your own rules.
We live in a world of “eat this, not that” messaging. But there are a lot of options in between this and that. It is possible to find ways to eat better without giving up on taste.
Here’s how to make your own plan with healthy foods that taste good.
When you decide to make your own plan, you might consider the concepts below. Each concept is explained and illustrated with examples. The examples are probably not exactly what will work for you. It is intended to help you think about the concept and how you could apply it in a way that does work for you.
Concept: determine non-negotiables
I suggest starting with non-negotiables, the things you know you are not willing to change right now. We all have something that we are not going to give up. That’s okay. There are so many ways to make changes to eating. It’s not necessary to give up all the things you enjoy.
As an example to illustrate this concept: Many people I have talked with have strong preferences about milk type. You may prefer whole milk, even though general recommendations suggest low fat or fat-free dairy products. If that’s one point you’re not willing to change, that’s okay. Instead, focus on the other areas of change that aren’t as important to you, that you don’t feel as strongly about.
A note: Sometimes people have a lot of non-negotiables. But if everything is non-negotiable, no changes will be made, and things will stay the same. When thinking more about the non-negotiables, is there a possibility to make situational changes? For example: maybe you only want whole milk to drink, but you could try using 2% milk in recipes.
What are your non-negotiables?
Concept: make what you already eat a little better.
Consider what you know you like and think of ways to add to it or make a small adjustment. Maybe increase the fiber by incorporating whole grains, fruits, or vegetables. Maybe decrease the amount of fat or change the type of fat or decrease the sodium.
As an example to illustrate this concept: Imagine a ham and cheese sandwich on white bread and chips for lunch. It’s not necessary to make a drastic change like eating a salad every day. There are lots of possibilities to make small changes.
- switching from white bread to wheat bread
- choosing lower sodium meat
- choosing low-fat cheese
- including fewer chips
- adding a few raw veggies on the sandwich or on the side
- adding a fruit cup
What ideas did you think of?
How could you make what you usually eat a little better?
Concept: make healthy, high nutrient foods more appealing
Consider a nutritious food that you’re just sort of meh about. Think of ways to add flavor to it to enjoy it more. It is not necessary to force yourself to eat something you don’t like just because it’s healthy and full of nutrients.
To illustrate this concept: Vegetables are the obvious example. We know we “should” eat more vegetables because they are low calorie, high fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Since vegetables are what we are “supposed” to eat, they are already less appealing. And they are often boiled until limp or served plain. It’s common to think that adding sauce to vegetables or eating them with dip negates the whole purpose of eating them. But adding a little healthy fat improves the flavor and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
- adding a healthy fat
- adding salt-free seasoning, herbs, or lemon juice
- varying cooking methods, like grilling or broiling
What could you do to add interest to the foods you want to eat more?
Making healthy, high nutrient food more appealing, making what you already eat a little better, and determining non-negotiables are all concepts that can help you discover your own plan for eating better with healthy foods that taste good.
Turnwald, B. P., Bertoldo, J. D., Perry, M. A., Policastro, P., Timmons, M., Bosso, C., … Crum, A. J. (2019). Increasing Vegetable Intake by Emphasizing Tasty and Enjoyable Attributes: A Randomized Controlled Multisite Intervention for Taste-Focused Labeling. Psychological Science, 30(11), 1603–1615. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797619872191