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INDULGE YOUR TASTE BUDS, AND YOUR HEALTH
By LT Amescua, RDN, MSC, USN, Clinical Dietitian, Nutrition Management Department, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, and CDR Connie Scott, MSC, USN, DH, Health Promotion and Wellness, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center Specialty Leader, Navy Dietetics
Food is fuel. But food is also so much more than that. It can provide comfort (chicken soup when you have a cold), and pleasure (ice cream on your birthday). But if you’ve ever tried to stick to a diet low in fat and calories you know food can also be frustrating. For our health, we know we can’t just make our food choices based on what tastes, or makes us feel good. While it is no secret that eating healthy isn’t easy, the reasons why are complex. But understanding why we eat the way we do is the first step in changing our dietary habits in favor of healthier ones.
Why is it so hard to eat healthy?
The most obvious reason for why we eat the way we do is because we enjoy it; whether for taste, or for how it makes us feel. Food can provide comfort both emotionally and physically. Many choose food based on what they consumed while growing up, thus nourishing their emotional association with food as well as satisfying physical hunger. It is not uncommon to hear people say “my whole family is big” or “most of my family members are thin.” When you dig a little further usually the size of family members correlates with their family’s lifestyle of food choices and activity levels.
Another possible explanation for why we eat the way we do is the accessibility of high calorie foods. Consuming fat is vital to our survival and brain function. Historically, high fat and calorie dense foods were not as plentiful as they are today. Because those high fat and calorie dense foods were scarce, survival of our bodies adapted by storing calories when possible, and the most efficient nutrient that can be stored is fat. Today we no longer need to hunt or forage for our food. Since cheap, high calorie foods are abundant and readily available, subsequently we have the opportunity to overindulge, which has led to a nation of rising overweight and obese persons. The ever increasing weight and waistlines are in turn increasing risk of chronic disease conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and hypertension.
Tips and tricks for making healthy foods taste better
Since a large part of why we choose to eat what we do is based on how it tastes and makes us feel, it is easier to eat healthy if equipped with the knowledge and skills to make healthy food taste good and have it readily available. Good nutrition or the term “healthy eating” is unfortunately associated with poor taste and bland foods; however this doesn’t have to be the case. Boring or bland meals are kryptonite to the healthiest intentions. Being creative in tempting your taste buds is part of good nutrition. So what can you do?
Other tips and tricks for eating better
Moderation, balance, and variety are the key for sustaining a healthy diet. If your favorite foods are high in fat and calories, try to find ways to make them healthier or enjoy them in moderation. It really is about doing a little bit of everything: getting enough protein, carbohydrate, and choosing healthy fats to keep or return yourself to a good state of health. To achieve balance and moderation, it helps to be practical and realistic.
This month, try some new ways to enjoy eating healthy.
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