There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).
As a nutrition professional, I often get asked what is my best advice for things like eating healthy, losing weight, or balancing hormones. While there is no perfect diet, magic pill, or guaranteed solution, the one piece of advice I can give pretty much everyone is to eat great food.
Everyone has their own idea of what “great food” is and it’s usually based on some past diet advice and preconceived notions of healthy foods, but what I mean is to eat food that tastes really, really good.
Usually, this is where I get a blank stare and slight chuckle. “But I love bread and chocolate,” is a common response, “and I’m guessing I shouldn’t be eating those.”
As with much of our modern concepts of healthy eating, there are so many stigmas that healthy food is bland and boring while food that tastes good, that you actually want to eat, is bad for you. But these misnomers couldn’t be farther from the truth!
Food in its purest form is a beautiful gift from God; however, much of the food marketed to us today is nothing like the gift that God gave us. It’s imbalanced in both nutrients and flavor, leaving us unsatisfied, always wanting and craving more.
Genesis 9:2-3 tells us that at the very beginning of time, God gave us plants and vegetables and every living creature as food, but many of the foods that fill our plates today hardly resemble what God gave us. I don’t just mean junk food and things we all know aren’t real foods—even many seemingly healthy foods have become distorted versions for the sake of convenience and “fun”. Whether it’s American cheese or dried chicken tortilla chips or vegetables coated in a sugary sauce, none of this embraces the beautiful bounty that God has given us.
If we want to be truly healthy, we need to change how we eat. We need to see food as the gift God created it to be. We need to savor the fullness of His glorious creation, because let’s be honest, having the ability to taste, in and of itself, is a gift.
For me, great food is food that doesn’t need to be covered up with sauces and sugars, but rather complimented and enhanced to maximize all of it’s flavor and nutrient value. I think of herb crusted lamb chops, smashed sweet potatoes with garlic confit, and lemon roasted asparagus. Or a sourdough pizza crust topped with kale pesto, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and a goat milk cheddar cheese. These are real foods—God-given foods—that when paired together create a magical melding of flavors that are both satisfying and nourishing.
I truly believe that many health stresses, obsessions, and even illnesses could be remedied if we started eating wholesome foods that we actually loved. We wouldn’t fight cravings for more chocolate or candy or chips because our body would be satisfied. We wouldn’t have to count carbs or eat foods high in certain vitamins because we would naturally get more of what we need. Understand that I’m not suggesting that eating a gourmet meal or “clean” ingredients is a cure for all that ails you, but it’s certainly not a bad place to start.
As with anything new and different, there’s a learning curve. There is necessary time to allow your palate to adjust to these flavors. Time to learn to cook in new ways. Time for your body to heal from imbalances that drive your cravings, hormonal swings, or reactions to food. As difficult as these may sound, the process may be easier—or at least more enjoyable—than you may initially think.
The best place to start is exactly where you are with whatever feels manageable. Big changes don’t happen overnight because of big steps, big plans, or even big goals. They happen because of small habits that you do over and over again, and then when those feel easy, you add more small habits.
Today, I challenge you to start small and choose one step you can take to make a change in the way you eat. Here are a few key tips to keep in mind as you make the transition to enjoying pure and natural foods:
1. Tweak Your Favorite Meals
When working to eat better quality foods, it can feel like a culture shock to the way you currently eat. Slowly adjust by swapping or changing ingredients in the foods you are used to eating and cooking. Reduce the sugar in your favorite banana nut bread recipe or swap canned tomatoes with fresh, ripe tomatoes. Look for little changes until you’re ready to venture into new recipes and meals.
2. Eat Seasonally
Foods that are in season taste wildly differently than foods out of season. Take a strawberry, for example. In January it is white, dry, and almost bitter, but in May, its bright red flesh is dripping with natural sweetness that will have you eating one after another. Choosing foods that are in season will make your meals so much more flavorful and satisfying. If you’re not sure what’s in season, look for what’s on sale at your grocery store, do an internet search for ”seasonal foods,” or check out your local farmer’s markets.
3. Be Inspired
If you want really great food, I would skip Pinterest and instead head to places like FoodandWine.com or BonAppetit.com not only for recipes but also for suggestions on chefs to follow, cookbooks to read, and ideas of the latest trends in the culinary world. When you read cookbooks and online recipes, instead of feeling tied to following every ingredient and measurement perfectly, use them as inspiration for flavors to pair together or ideas for new foods to try.
4. Change Your Mindset
Last but not least, change your mindset around food. Forget what you’ve been taught about “healthy” foods, leave your ideas of what you like and don’t like behind, and allow yourself to explore. I always tell my son to eat three bites of food before he decides he doesn’t like it. Even if he’s had a food before; if it’s prepared differently, he may like it this time. Occasionally there will be foods you just don’t like—and that’s okay—but always come to the table with an open mind.
As you venture into trying new foods, remember food is a gift from God that was meant for both nourishment and pleasure. God created our bodies and our food sources to work together and our job is to tap into that gift to receive the fullness of it’s blessings for our health and our enjoyment.
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