This week I became inspired by the article: No Diet, No Detox: How To Relearn The Art Of Eating. This remarkable article discusses the myriad reasons as to why the Western world continues to struggle with food choices. If you like any of my thoughts on the matter, please read the article for yourself. It truly is a gem.
Author, Bee Wilson, remarks on the struggle with learned preference, preconceived ideas of food, and willpower to eat “healthy”, when we may not have learned how to enjoy eating healthy.
A huge take away from the article is the art of learning how to enjoy vegetables. Across the board nearly any health care professional will agree that most of us need to eat more vegetables, as well as more variety of vegetables. Variety is the spice of life afterall. It is also the micro and macronutrient foundation for the health of our bodies. As Wilson points out: “Many people, however, have absorbed the lesson from childhood that vegetables and pleasure – and more generally, healthy food and pleasure – can never go together.”
This belief that vegetables cannot make pleasurable meals is cultural, and according to the article, it is learned behavior. Learned behavior can be unlearned. Further, the stubborn belief against veggies bringing culinary joy to our tables is actually a preference. Again, research shows us that we can change our preferences.
As someone that lived off of a highly processed food diet until roughly eighth grade, I can attest that with an open mind, a will to try new vegetables, and new cooking styles for previous disdained vegetables, my flavor and ingredient preferences changed drastically– for the better.
For individuals that wish to lower their blood pressure and cholesterol without medication, and avoid developing diabetes, finding joy in vegetables is paramount to achieving these health goals. Eating more vegetables and the wide array of nutrients they contain will also improve your general quality of life, energy, mood, muscular pain, and protect your kidney and liver function.
If your immediate reaction is to think, well, I just don’t like vegetables, or if you feel a wall of resistance to the idea of increasing vegetables in your diet, then I challenge you to look at other cultural cuisines. Look at how Thai cooking utilizes vegetables, check out mediterranean use of vegetables, spices, and flavors versus french cooking.
In Thai cooking, vegetables are often stir-fried with a heavy emphasis on one spice such as ginger broccoli, or basil mixed vegetable stir fry, or garlic eggplant. Other meals pair aromatic spices such as lemon grass, garlic, mint, and shallots, or a dry curry stir fry of vegetables with a Thai curry paste and a medley of vegetables; such as broccoli, carrot, pea or snowpea, onion, mushroom, et cetera. Or try a simple vegetable: dry curry green beans garnished with minced cilantro. This dish takes 10 minutes.
Mediterranean flavors change based on Italian, Greek, Spanish, or Turkish cooking. I know I left some countries out, but that can also be exciting research for you. Often I find combinations of any of the following are emphasized in the healthier mediterranean recipes: lemon juice, tomatoes, capers, olives, garlic, basil, thyme, and olive oil. These flavors create bright, engaging flavors, packed with nutrition. Think of puttanesca sauce, pesto, primavera, or simply tossing basil or thyme into an otherwise normal salad.
Another take away is to experiment with cooking your vegetables instead of trying to just eat raw, plain carrot sticks, raw broccoli, or a salad of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and carrots with a bland or high fat dressing. Nothing in this paragraph excites me, and I absolutely love eating vegetables.
A great place to start is to look at vegetarian food blogs. I am an omnivore, but when looking for truly inspired vegetable dishes, you can find a great deal on vegetarian sites. Or look for cooking blogs that focus on italian cooking or thai, but remember to steer clear of the obvious dishes that have little to no vegetable matter in them; for instance pad thai. Tasty, but little to no vegetables. Ginger fried eggplant, yes! Puttanesca with zoodles instead of noodles, yes!
Another great resource that my dad recently turned me onto was an app called ‘Yummly.’ In Yummly, you can look up one ingredient: green beans, or an entire country’s cooking style: Thai. Yummly will fill your device’s screen with recipes that you can scroll through. You can personalize your preferences over time.
But in the beginning, use it to try to change your dietary preferences from a high salt, high sugar, and high unhealthy fat diet, to one that includes a variety of vegetables, culinary herbs, and spices. Try searching for just broccoli recipes, or turnips, or green beans, or shallots. See if anything sounds interesting or worth a shot. If you approach this project with an open mind, and a sense of childlike wonder to create new favorites in your life, then you can truly change your life.
And finally, read the article: No Diet, No Detox…I know I’m repeating myself, but it truly is a gem.