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Make healthy delicious

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Make healthy delicious

Scott Miker

I have often commented to friends and family members that I think it is crazy that we spend so much time and effort adding seasonings, dressings, sauces, flavorings, etc. to most of the food that we eat that is unhealthy but never do that to healthy foods.

I love eating broccoli. But I always season it a good deal. I will add salt, butter, cheese, garlic, olive oil etc. in order to improve the flavor. More than once I’ve heard someone tell me that adding butter suddenly makes the broccoli an unhealthy food option.

If we looked at fatty meats and many traditional carbs as a treat that doesn’t need any help making it delicious, would we suddenly not enjoy plain burgers and chicken sandwiches? Is part of the reason we love those foods because of how they are prepared?

When I was in college I ate a lot of fried chicken sandwiches covered in hot sauce. To me this, dipped in blue cheese dressing, was the most incredible food I have ever eaten.

Fast forward about 10 years, in which time I changed to eat much healthier foods, and I was at the store and found a bag of steamed cauliflower with hot sauce.

I had to try it. I found it to be incredible. It was very tasty. It reminded me of those fried chicken sandwiches. At the end of eating it, I felt energized because of the vegetable content yet satisfied because of the good flavor.

Did adding the flavoring make the cauliflower less healthy than eating plain cauliflower? Yes it did. Did adding the flavoring make the cauliflower a horribly unhealthy food? No it didn’t.

The point that I’m making is that if we start with a healthy base level of eating and then work to prepare the foods so we can enjoy the taste, we will be much more likely to be able to sustain a healthy diet. If we shift our mindset to be that a healthy dish prepared with seasonings is healthier than an unhealthy dish prepared with seasonings suddenly we can slowly shift how we eat.

We make slight changes to our eating preferences but gain a great deal of value. We can make healthy foods taste great to get them worked into our normal diet. Over time we will need less and less of the seasoning to enjoy it but in order to get some of these positive foods into your diet, don’t feel that adding a little salt to broccoli makes it just as unhealthy as French fries from a fast food place.

In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, author Scott Adams says, “My argument in favor of butter is similar to that for salt. Butter is a good appetite suppressant, and like salt, it helps me enjoy healthy foods. Steamed broccoli with some butter and pepper is delicious. Plain broccoli is boring. If butter helps you eat more vegetables, and your weight is under control, butter is probably an acceptable risk. Check with your doctor to be sure.”

Most people that I know spend a lot of time and effort thinking about, researching and preparing foods that aren’t very healthy to begin with and adding flavor, usually making it even unhealthier. If we shift this mindset and find new ways to make boring, bland, healthy food more desirable we might be able to shift our eating enough to form a healthier diet. Then the next step is to lower the amount of flavoring you use so you are getting the most out of the food you eat while still enjoying every bite.