I’ve learned a few things about food from having a child. Some days it feels like nothing will be eaten unless it has a minimum sugar content of a cup. Talking to other parents, the paranoia and judgment you get for what goes in your child’s mouth can cause one to do crazy things! A few of the better techniques I’ve learned to stuff healthy food into people:
- If you don’t like something, work out why. Is it the texture (too crunchy/soft/firm), awkward to eat, does it remind you of a bad food memory (like the taste reminds you of that time you vomited black bean noodle?), are you aware that there’s something wrong with the food (when preparing it, you dropped a bit on the floor and put it back in, so you keep thinking you can taste hair…), or, a common one – is it too hot or cold?
- Have a fallback for your meals. If you made a crappy pasta sauce, try adding tomato or barbecue sauce to it. If your veggies are too dull and bland, try tossing them in grated cheese, breadcrumbs, a spot of melted butter, salt and pepper, and some crushed garlic (in any combination, but I do all at once and chuck it under the grill for a few minutes). If you bake a cake, think through ways to keep it interesting – like heated with ice-cream for dessert, when it gets a bit dry. In general, if something isn’t tasty enough, try it with something which will add a bit of salt or sugar to it.
- When cooking a meal, ensure that there is at least one vegetable which you know you’ll scoff down. For instance, in a stir fry you can add mushrooms, mini corn cobs (buy them canned), etc.. Or, if a meal is predominantly vegetables, eg baked potatoes, chop up some nuts or meat (something you’ll really enjoy getting to), to motivate your serving size.
- Look at things you can have with your meal that will help you eat the boring bits. Some people always have buttered bread handy (lasagna sandwiches are the best), and if you make sandwiches you can add salad to them and be healthier. Some people like mashed potato, and mix it all up.. it’s about finding what works.
- Mashed potato is great for hiding things in. For every three spoons of potato, you can hide in about one spoon of mashed broccoli. Also, if you hate baked beans and need a cheap protein source, mash baked beans up with potato and it’s delicious.
- Generally, spreads or sauces aren’t the best for you. Hummus, even, is high fat (and often high salt), so really get into reading the packet before you buy. What spreads and sauces are good for, however, is enticing you to eat boring things. This only works if they taste good with whatever you’re eating.
- If you need to eat, but aren’t hungry, get involved with preparing your meal. Get excited about your food. Think about what you’ll drink with it and get that ready too. If possible, cook it in a frying pan and smell it cooking – even reheated food. See if there’s anyone around to share it with. You’ll find yourself snacking on it before it hits the plate.
The biggest hurdle to eating often, well, and healthily, is pressure. Make it a joy to explore your tastes, ignore everything but your health, and you’ll do fine.