All too often, I hear from patients that in order to eat “right,” they have to give up everything that tastes good. I wholeheartedly disagree! First of all, nothing is off limits on a healthy diet, but there are certainly foods to enjoy in moderation (such as highly processed foods).
That leaves a plethora of plant foods that are packed with both flavor and nutrients. For those who feel that eating well means eating cardboard, I encourage you to try these three tips to heighten your enjoyment of healthier meals.
1. Eat seasonally.
Eating produce at the peak of freshness significantly improves the flavor and the nutrients. Anyone who has tried a tomato in February knows that it doesn’t compare to a red, juicy tomato in August.
If you’re feeling limited with fresh produce options this winter, try frozen fruits and vegetables, which are often even more nutrient-dense than fresh because they are harvested in season and frozen immediately (rather than being shipped fresh from many, many miles away).
2. Broaden your recipe repertoire.
Trying to modify your old recipes to be healthier is usually a step in the right direction to eating more healthfully, but just leaving out the fat or sodium often leaves the meal rather tasteless.
Try out new heart-healthy recipes that incorporate herbs, spices, or vinegar to season the meal and are brimming with whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. I love Million Hearts as a source of heart-healthy nutrition information and recipes, along with 28-day meal plans that include recipes and grocery lists.
You can also look for new cookbooks at the library to get some fresh ideas.
3. Eat mindfully.
Sometimes, we tend to eat in autopilot, sitting at our desk or in front of the TV, only to look down and find an empty plate with no real recollection of the meal. By eating more mindfully, not only do we enjoy the food (and if I work hard to prepare a meal, I definitely want to enjoy it!) but we also tend to reduce portions which helps with weight management.
To begin practicing mindful eating, try savoring your food by putting down your fork between bites and chewing thoroughly. Focus on the meal (put down the phone and turn off the TV), slow down and recognize your body’s cues that tell you to stop eating once you feel satisfied but not stuffed.
For more tips on eating mindfully, check out this handy chart.
March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” I hope you use these tips to truly enjoy healthier foods, making better choices because they are delicious, not just because they’re “right.”
Tracy Severson, RD, LD, is the dietitian for the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute. She specializes in nutrition counseling for cardiovascular health and weight management.