You can retrain yourself to like healthy food
Consistently tasting once-rejected food, such as vegetables, can help that food ‘grow’ on the taste buds
Beetroot, Basil and Hazelnut salad.Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons 05/07/2013-HEALTH-Beetroot, Basil and Hazelnut salad.FOR JULY 30th.Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / IRISH TIMES
Mixed veg coleslaw with cashew mayonnaise. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
We eat foods we learn to like. Yes, learn to like. For anyone interested in improving or changing their food choices, this is really critical to remember. We should expect to struggle a little and accept that introducing new tastes requires time and multiple tastings. I frequently hear blanket statements such as: “I don’t like vegetables” or “vegetables are tasteless”.
These assertions are often bolstered by food beliefs, constructed years beforehand. Remaining open-minded and challenging our thinking allows us to change. Consistently tasting the once-rejected food can actually help that food “grow” on the taste buds.
Five a day
While many of us claim to have “healthy diets”, the reality is we don’t. The World Health Organisation and the Department of Health recommend we eat 400g of fruit and vegetables every day (not including potatoes), where one serving is about 80g, hence the “five a day”. In Ireland, the average combined intake of fruit and vegetables is only 192g per day, less than half the suggested intake. As little as 9 per cent of 18-64 year olds and 15 per cent of those over 65 years meet the target.
In an adult nutrition survey, 41 per cent of participants ranked taste as the most important factor when making food selections, while 36 per cent ranked health first. The findings suggest that while many of us place great importance on health and nutrition, we are reluctant to compromise on flavour. And why should we?
Wanting to lose 7kg of weight over seven weeks is a realistic goal for many, but the real question is what are we prepared to do to get there? Personally, I love spending time strolling around a farmers’ market. They provide a great opportunity for us to buy seasonal produce and if it is in season, the flavour is much better too. Compare a dark red, vine-ripened tomato still warm from the summer sun with a winter greenhouse tomato that’s barely red and lacking in flavour – you get the point.
When foods are in season we are also rewarded financially (Bord Bia has a seasonal calendar online at bestinseason.ie). There’s the argument too that seasonal foods are typically less processed. Foods that have been picked too early won’t look as appealing, so chemical ripening agents, wax coatings, and other preservatives may be more frequently used.
Boring salads are boring. Colourful, nutritious and seasonal salads are anything but! While I often stick to mixed leaves, some nuts or seeds and a nutrient rich veg if I need something quick, I’ll also spend a little more time dicing and slicing if the recipe looks good.
I tried out this coleslaw and beetroot salad from Liz Nolan’s cookbook My Goodness. The verdict is “big on taste and nutrition”.
MIXED VEGETABLE COLESLAW WITH CASHEW MAYONNAISE
This recipe makes a large quantity, which holds well when kept in the fridge. It’s delicious served with the beetroot, basil and hazelnut salad. (Serves 8)
2 tbsp raisins
Small sweetheart or savoy cabbage
2 medium carrots, grated
1 medium courgette, grated
2 sticks celery, sliced thinly
1 small green pepper, sliced thinly
1 small red pepper, sliced thinly
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 eating apple, grated
Handful fresh parsley, finely chopped