By Masha Fox-Rabinovich, MA, RD, LDN, CDE, outpatient dietitian at Washington Adventist Hospital,
National Nutrition Month each March provides us with a time to celebrate food and nutrition. It allows individuals to focus attention on their eating habits, and to consider how this aspect of their lifestyle impacts their health and the health of their families and communities.
As we reflect on this year’s theme, “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right”, it’s important to recognize that our perception of taste and our enjoyment of food are not merely a function of our taste buds. These ideas are also influenced by:
- How appealing food looks
- How food smells
- How food is served
- How food is experienced (Including the company and setting in which it’s eaten)
Keep these in mind when preparing a meal for yourself or others, or even when making a simple grab-and-go snack. It does require a bit more effort to plan ahead and create nutritious options that take into account the sensory aspects of foods, but the effort is worth it. That extra effort requires increased attention to food. This is a good thing! We should be paying attention to food! If it’s true that “you are what you eat,” then it makes sense for you to eat right.
How can I make easy snacks that are healthy and scrumptious?
It’s easy to grab a cookie, bag of chips, or sugar-ridden granola bar. Although these treats satisfy a craving for sugar, they provide few nutrients for their calories, and do little to support the body’s needs. Here are some healthier options that taste pretty good:
- Vegetables make wonderful snacks; they’re full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Eaten alone, though, they can be kind of bland. To overcome this flavor obstacle, make snack bags of a variety of veggies (carrots, celery, bell pepper sticks, sugar snap peas, raw broccoli and cauliflower, etc.) and enjoy them with a hummus or other bean dip, or with a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar. Hummus and other minimally processed bean dips taste great and are rich in protein, fiber, and many micronutrients, making them a much healthier alternative to commercial dips and salad dressings.
- Whole fruits are great, and they can be even more nutritious – but also more delicious – when eaten alongside a protein-rich food. The combination of carbohydrates (fruits, for example) with proteins, tends to increase satiety (helps you stay fuller longer) and help prevent excessive eating and spikes in blood sugar, decreasing the risks of obesity and diabetes, or helping to manage diabetes. Here are some ideas:
- Mix berries into plain Greek yogurt (not a sugar-rich flavored one!) The sweetness of the berries will complement the tartness of the yogurt, making for a unique and satisfying snack. Greek yogurt is higher in protein and lower in sugar than plain yogurt, and it contains more probiotics – beneficial bacteria that support digestion and intestinal health, immune system function, and other health benefits.
- Enjoy apple and pear slices with almond, cashew, peanut, or sunflower seed butter, a handful of raw or plain dry-roasted nuts, or a slice of cheese or a cheese stick. Pre-make snack bags of fruits and nuts or nuts and cheese. Watch out for dried fruits, though – dried fruits are nutritious, but they’re often packaged with added sugar, and, because they’re smaller and more compact, it’s easy to eat more than the recommended portion size. Limit raisins, cranberries, dehydrated apples, dried banana slices, and other unsweetened fruit (read the label and make sure there is no sugar added) to no more than one closed handful per serving.
The most important thing to remember? Enjoy the wonderful taste of real foods.
- The more you replace processed foods with whole foods (food in forms in which they occur in nature or in which they can easily be made without high-tech methods), the more your taste buds and brain chemicals will sense and appreciate all of the rich and complex flavors of foods that you might find growing in your very own backyard!
- Become more involved in knowing what it is exactly that you’re eating by preparing foods from individual ingredients. Healthy food does taste good.
- Eat mindfully – pay attention to your food when you eat. Tune in with all of your senses, and taste everything that’s going on. Enjoy the taste of eating right!
Do you have questions about food or dieting? We’d like to hear from you! Please share your questions in the comments section below.