Take a minute and rank each of these four criteria in order of importance to you: cost, taste, convenience and health. Are you surprised by your ratings? Do you think what is number 1 should be number 1? Do you wish it were different but reality is what it is?
As a dietitian I like to ask my clients this question because it helps to prioritize where we need to start when working on improving ones diet. I’m not denying all are important, but how we rank them tells a lot about what you should focus on first in order to achieve optimal health. Let’s look at each one on their own.
COST – If cost is your number one priority then what we need to learn is it is possible to choose healthy foods AND keep costs under control. It takes discipline and planning ahead to get there though! For example, you probably realize that buying in bulk saves you money. But only if the food doesn’t go bad before you can eat it all. Now that my family size is dwindling as I send kids off to college I do need to pay attention to cost of foods (so I can afford to send them to college) as well as controlling food waste. Food waste is the biggest obstacle to controlling costs. So sometimes buying in bulk does not save money. But when you can buy in bulk and learn to freeze or better yet, find a way to get two (or more) meals out of one purchase that’s when you are eating to control costs!
TASTE – Of course we all want to eat food that tastes good to us! I’m sure you know someone who likes to tease that “If it’s healthy it doesn’t taste good”! That perception can get in our way sometimes. Our taste buds do change over time and it is well known that we lose taste buds as we age. I used to tell my youngest son “your taste buds change every 7 years” as a way to get him to realize it’s okay to try foods again and again. So when he turned 7 and I served him one of his favorite meals he said to me “Mommy, I’m not sure I’m going to like that now that I’m 7.” So maybe it’s not that drastic but let’s give ourselves a chance to keep trying foods even if we don’t like them on the first try. While researching and updating myself on taste I also just learned there are five taste categories: check it out here!
CONVENIENCE – Need I say more? In our busy lives most of us feel we don’t have time to eat sometimes, let alone care about what we are putting in our bodies! Convenience is key, why not have it all? Cost, taste, convenience as well as health (we will get to that in a minute)! This is where planning ahead is so important. When you plan ahead you can make it convenient. For example, I typically plan on having salads at least 2 times a week with our dinner or as the main course of our dinner. But that would not happen if I had to clean and tear the lettuce each time it was on the menu. So I will buy the lettuce on the weekend and clean it, tear it and put it in a large bin in my fridge. All I have to do when it’s a salad night is take out the bin, put the lettuce in the bowls, cut up a few carrots or veggies on hand, throw on a sprinkle of cheese, nuts for crunch and salad dressing and voila! Salads on a busy weeknight…
HEALTH – Last but not least I hope! As a dietitian, I know how what we eat is utilized and processed in the body. I know we have made this comparison in the past many times, but you wouldn’t let your car run out of gas. We tend to take care of everything our car needs but care less about what we put into our bodies. Just like our cars our bodies need the proper fuel (carbs, protein, and fats) in addition to all the fluids to make the fuel work. In a car that’s the oil, the wiper fluids, etc. and in the body that’s the water, vitamins and minerals. There is always new technology being produced to help our cars run more efficiently and we are still learning about phytochemicals, bacteria and hormones that make our bodies run more efficiently. While there’s a lot of confusing information out there on what type of oil to buy or what type of carbohydrate we should be eating, we do know the more natural the food and less processed the better it is for our bodies. This gets us back to eating foods with minimal processing and controlling what is used to prepare the food.
So whichever of these aspects are your highest priority, all can and need to be achieved by taking a step back and planning ahead!
Need help planning? Contact me, Laura Poland RDN, LD your “Dietitian In Your Kitchen”!