In Praise of Healthy Food

Many people seem to have the opinion that ‘healthy food’ and ‘tasty food’ can not be synonymous, that something can either be good for you or make your tastebuds tingle with excitement.

Well, I disagree. I do not think that healthy food needs to taste boring or bad, it doesn’t need to look ugly, it shouldn’t have to be expensive, and it is not only for those are following some kind of strict diets.

I like to believe that my food choices are healthy, tasty and look great. I’m really not so easy to please when it comes to food, and I definitely eat with my eyes, so if I don’t like how the dish looks, even if I know that it should actually be delicious, then I will probably pass without even trying it.

With time I have learned, or actually am still learning, to think about food from what I would say is a holistic perspective. As important as the way it tastes is, everything else matters too; where the ingredients come from, how they were grown, how they were prepared, the nutritional properties, how are they beneficial to me, how to get the best out of them, how to end up with less food waste. Of course, it matters that I like the flavours and smells too, and it needs to be presented on the plate in a way that looks enticing.

See, not so easy to please, but I think that is ok.

I was even more difficult as a child, but over time I became a bit more open to taste weird looking and never-before tasted foods. To read about them and give them a try before deciding if they will continue to be involved in my diet.

Sometimes, with a bit of time I will even give a second or third chance to something that I never liked before. Our tastes do change over time and I have discovered new flavours or ingredients that I would never have put in my mouth before.

Mushrooms for example, as a child I couldn’t stand them. Now by trying different varieties, and different ways of preparing them, I have actually started to enjoy them. Or beetroots, I really couldn’t eat them before, but after trying their juice I realised I liked the raw flavour. So now I like raw beetroots in a salad and I discovered by trying some different ways of cooking them that I also enjoy my homemade beetroot burgers, or maybe some small pieces roasted in the oven (but they should be small pieces, big ones make me upset).

I haven’t eaten meat since I was a child, I could claim that this was some kind of ethical choice from a young age but the reality is that I didn’t want to eat it as a kid because it just didn’t agree with me, it made me feel ill. I’m also allergic to a few things, like oranges, so my choices have always been slightly limited even without me being picky about things, it’s amazing the amount of products that have orange juice added to them that you might not even think about.

So it is important to me that the things that I both can eat and want to eat should be good and healthy as well as tasty.

It’s not so hard at all to achieve that with a little bit of thought, you just need to pay attention to the nutritional value of the things that you buy and cook and eat a wide enough variety of different fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses and seeds to cover all of the bases.

It all starts out with what you buy when you are out shopping, or maybe with growing some of your own food if you have a bit of space to plant something and a little bit of green fingered ability. If you don’t have any gardening skills then John suggests growing garlic or radishes because even he managed to grow those without letting them die. We’ve spent most of the last few years in different places so haven’t had much chance to grow anything ourselves, but we sent exciting seeds back home and got my parents to experiment with them on our behalf.

Assuming you go to the shop instead of the greenhouse, buy products that are ecologically grown with as few chemicals as possible, your apples and bananas may not all be the ‘perfect shape’ but they will be tastier and better for you. If they are grown locally then even better, you are supporting local farmers and saving a lot of food miles which is better for the planet. Where and how things are grown really does play a big part in how they taste. If you can buy ingredients without packaging so much the better, it makes little difference to their taste but the less plastic packaging the more sustainable it is.

Don’t be too afraid to try new things. That might sound a little hypocritical after everything I’ve just written, but if I can manage to turn myself on to beetroot and mushrooms then anything is possible. Just stick to new to you actual natural food things and not highly processed and nutritionless bleh stuff.

Finally, once you get all of those exciting and colourful vegetables and fruits and seeds and other pretty things home then do not be afraid to play with your food. Experiment and use things in ways that surprise you and whoever else you might serve them to. Healthy food is much more than the stereotypical salad, it can be vibrant and bright and full of colours and scents and textures.

Remember, there are very few things that you can do to a carrot that will stop it being yummy and healthy apart from boiling it to death, please don’t do that!

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