When you hear the term “eating healthy” do you envision plain oatmeal, lack luster salads and boiled chicken with brown rice? Do you associate eating healthy with being miserable?
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be boring! To commit to a lifestyle long term, it’s important that you enjoy it, which is why many people fail when starting a diet. They either jump in too fast without adequate planning or don’t enjoy the journey – so they abandon ship.
When approaching a healthy diet, you should approach it like an artist approaches a blank canvas. The basic food items, like fruits, veggies, protein, etc, will be your apparatus that you can transform into a work of art.
A lot of people just focus on taste while creating a meal, which makes sense, but all 5 of your senses are heavily involved in the enjoyment of your food – from grocery shopping to cooking to eating. Today we are going to help you make sense of your senses so that you can enjoy the food you eat more, allowing you to stick to your goals!
Your sense of smell and taste are directly used together when eating. (1) If you have ever had a cold, you know what I mean. When your sinuses are congested and you can’t smell, your sense of taste is dampened to a certain degree.
Smell also comes into play while you prepare your meal. The aromatics that you use while cooking, such as garlic, onions, spices, etc. prepare you for eating by increasing salivation and hormone production that will later help in the digestion and absorption of the nutrients from your meal. (2)
In a 2015 University of Stockholm study showed that sustained exposure to a smell can actually increase satiety. (2) In other words, the more you sense the aromatics of your food while preparing and eating your meal, the less you tend to eat overall. The degree at which this happens needs further research to be conclusive, but the point is that enjoying the smell of the food you eat may help you eat less, which in turn could help you to lose weight.
If you attend a tasting event (wine, cheese, chocolate, etc) one of the first steps the connoisseur will have you do is deeply smell your food (wine/cheese/chocolate whatever it may be). Why do they do this? Because it increases the taste and satisfaction you get from that food, as indicated by the above Stockholm study.
Before you begin eating at each meal, try taking a moment to fully smell the aromatics of the food on your plate as it will increase your satiety, taste and satisfaction of the meal.
There is a reason why expensive restaurants go to great lengths to make their dishes look esthetically pleasing – the prettier a plate looks, the better the food itself will look to you. This doesn’t mean you need to go full Gordon Ramsey on every meal you make, but by adding some color, variety and creative platting your meals will look a little nicer giving you greater pleasure in them.
Sight is important because it helps us with quality assessment such as identifying spoiled food items before we have a chance to taste and smell them. (3) It has been shown that green and bright colored food items look “fresh” to us, which makes us more likely to subconsciously enjoy the food more than bland looking plates without color. (3)
Don’t neglect the appearance of your meals – use as much color as you can (Eat the rainbow!) as this will make it easier to enjoy your food. Plus it’s fun!
Touch & Sound
Touch in this context isn’t so much with your fingers and hands, but with your mouth. The texture of your food plays a big role in how much you enjoy it. Everyone is going to like different textures of their food, so it is up to you to find what you like and apply it. For example, some people don’t like tomatoes or peas because of the texture. If that’s you – avoid that texture or mix it up to make it more appealing.
For instance, if you don’t like the texture of yogurt, try throwing in some granola or fruit to help change the texture and give the yogurt some substance, which might make it more palatable for your tastes.
While it doesn’t seem like it’d have much of a role in the eating experience, hearing plays a similar role to smell in that it plays as a sensory evaluation of food. (4) We can hear food cooking and we can hear the crunch of food that we eat. All of this plays a role in preparing our body for the intake of food, similar to the sense of smell.
Tying it all together
Now you are more aware of how our senses interact with the eating experience, you may be thinking, “what can I do to appeal to all my senses?” The key here is to experiment what appeals most to your senses! Try smelling your food before eating or try a new cooking method or even plating your food – you may discover something about yourself you didn’t know before.
If you’re still stuck, here are a few tips you can use in your cooking to fully enjoy the experience.
Try New Cooking Techniques: Crock pots, pressure cooking, sous-vide, ovens, grills, etc. The different techniques can change the flavor, texture and many other aspects of the food that you eat. Don’t be afraid to do some research, because foods that you thought you didn’t like may just be prepared improperly or in a manner that you’d like. A famous example of this are Brussel sprouts. Many people hate them because they have only had them boiled in water. However, when tossed with a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, then roasted in the oven, they come out completely different!
Try Spicing Up Your Meal: Seasonings and spices are the most under-utilized tools in your kitchen. They can be mixed and matched in endless combinations to create unique tastes and smells to almost any food you eat. They can turn boring and bland into exciting and new. Initially it might seem overwhelming, as there are a lot of options out there. Just start out simple and look up recipes online, after some time and tasting of various seasonings and spices, you will get an idea of what you like and what would go well together.
Try Creating “Instagram Worthy” Meals: Spending a few extra minutes on the presentation of your meals can go a long way toward helping you to enjoy them. There are a lot of tips and tactics available online, but a few things you can do include garnishing with fresh herbs, avoiding overcrowding the plate, paying attention to details like colors and dimensions of food, and lastly using sauces to accent the meal/serve as a dipping flavor. You don’t have to go all out, even doing just one or two of these techniques can wow you and any of your dinner guests.