Is there nutritional value in eating food you enjoy, and enjoying the food you eat?

My job is a nutritional adviser, my hobby is food and cooking, so my life rotates around food. It’s the first thing i think about and the last thing on my mind at night. I love creating new recipes, feeding myself and my loved ones; but I also have moments where my meal is simply a random collection of food grabbed from my kitchen.

However, regardless of what I eat, I try to make sure that I take a minute to be in the moment when I eat and really taste the food. Why? Because it feeds my soul, I love food, really love food, and so each meal, regardless of where it came from, how it was prepared, always tastes good and I want to make sure that I appreciate it.

I was fascinated, if not entirely surprised, recently to read about how the nutritional value of food varied simply by the enjoyment people gained from what they were eating. In a study carried out in the mid 1970’s the absorption of iron in two groups of women were found to be up to 50% more in the group that ate food they were familiar with and enjoyed.

So its no wonder that when we approach healthy eating (aka dieting) with a mindset of denial and sufferance, we feel unsatisfied and hungry. I have tried diets in the past, I even did the cabbage soup diet years ago, and on all these diets even the ‘better’ ones when my mind knows that I have had enough food to sate me, I still feel hungry.

I took me a long time to realise that the enjoyment I get from food is directly correlated with the feeling of satisfaction and fullness. I now try to teach this to my clients, and it is often the biggest challenge at the start of our time working together, as they expect me to hand them a big pile of meal planners and are often a little perturbed when I tell them that we are going to create their new and improved diet together, based around what they eat now and the food they like – they look at me amazed, and often challenge me with a cheeky reference to their love of chocolate, cheese or crisps. I confidently tell them they will still be able to eat chocolate, crisps and cheese, but we will be making positive choices if we eat these foods and when we eat them we will make sure we enjoy them. ‘Mad woman’ is the thought I see in their eyes.

Frequently, I have clients that are struggling with their food, and are either over eating mindlessly, or spending half their lives unsatisfied and hungry. Often this is for similar reasons; rather than looking at food initially from an taste perspective, and secondary from a nutrition viewpoint, they are eating food that they don’t really enjoy, or worse, eating food they like but not taking time to enjoy them, and overeating as a result.

Food is not evil, we should not view foods as good or bad, unless you have a medical reason not to eat a certain food then it should never be banned from your diet. Yes, we need to eat some foods in moderation, no-one is going to be healthy from eating 2,000 calories worth of chocolate a day, but also no-one is going to be unhealthy from taking time to enjoy the odd chocolate bar when they fancy it. My approach with clients is ‘if you want it have it, but make sure you enjoy it’: I believe there is greater benefit from taking time out to really taste and enjoy food, than there is from denial and resentment of not having a desired food, or even worse, eating with guilt.

I can hear you now crying, how can you say that chocolate is healthy, where did you study? You need to be struck off as a disgrace!

Remember the science? …….

I’ve yet to meet anyone who really doesn’t like any vegetables, salad or fruit at all. I’ve met a lot of people who only like a few; so we work those few into their diet with as much variety as possible, and make sure that the meals they are built around are nutritious, but more importantly tasty and enjoyable. If your diet is filled with food you love, meals you look forward to eating, you will enjoy your food. You will not be thinking about denial, diet and unsatisfying food, you will simply be eating the foods that you love. And back to the science…not only will you be eating healthier, because you are enjoying your food you will be getting even more nutrients from your diet…isn’t that amazing?

So eat up, enjoy, be sensible, but most of all Cook Eat Enjoy



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