I once had a man ask me what I like doing for fun. I told him, "I love making healthy and delicious food!" He gave me a strange look. His response didn't really surprise me. "I didn't know those two things could go together!"
Well, my friends, they can! And no, I'm not going to tell you anything about kale, or brown rice, or vegan cheese, or anything of the sort.
Just as many of us forget that nourishing foods can also be delicious foods, many of us forget that it is possible to enjoy fancier or better foods without breaking the bank. You may not be able to eat filet mignon every night, but you aren't stuck with balogna sandwiches and carrots dipped in Ranch Dressing.
You can enjoy most of the same foods you love now in a completely different way. A more satisfying way. A more interesting way. With an elevated sense of pleasure.
If you don't recognize yet that food is meant for pleasure, as well as nourishment, then you must not yet have encountered a "favorite food" or run to grab take-out because "it's so much yummier!" I'm sure you'll experience it one day. Food is pleasurable.
These are a few of my favorite ways to trick my brain into acknowledging that what I am eating is satisfying and pleasurable, without requiring any sort of extreme dietary upheaval.
1. Switch Up the Bread
This one is perhaps the simplest. If you eat toast in the mornings, try buying an artisan bread! They're easy to find in almost any grocery store, and they are typically healthier than your average shelf bread, since they have less preservatives. Such an easy way to elevate your breakfast! Now you have a cafe-worthy meal, instead of boring old toast.
2. Put everything on your plate.
Instead of eating the leftover pizza, and then going back to the kitchen for a piece of fruit, and then back to the kitchen again for a bite of chocolate, bring all of it to the table in advance. Peel an orange and set the slices on your plate next to the pizza, and put the chocolate-covered espresso beans in a little bowl. Pour yourself some water or make some tea, and bring all of it to the table at once. (This is a personal example - I ate this for lunch.)
Eating is a multi-sensory experience. Allow yourself to see all of the food together, and take it in at one sitting, and you'll experience a lot more satisfaction. Suddenly, your meal becomes, as it should be, a meal, not a series of mindless snacks within 10 minutes.
3. Find the way you like it.
No wonder you hate salad. It's virtually flavorless, unless you count Ranch Dressing as an adequate flavor experience to satisfy your brain. Reach for interesting flavors that you enjoy, and use them!
I hated salad until I found the way I liked it. I heat up my protein - Italian Sausage or leftover chicken - and put it on a bed of greens. (I only like soft lettuce, no romaine for me!) A few pieces of Cambazola cheese, slightly softened by the warm, flavorful meat, gives a full-bodied element to each delightful bite.
I reach for something like this when I need a salad. I suppose I could go back to Romaine lettuce with pre-shredded cheese, a few pieces of raw bell pepper, and some Ranch Dressing. But I won't.
4. View every preparation as a different experience.
Just as the salad with Ranch Dressing and the salad with warm, fancy cheese are completely different ways to eat my dark leafy greens, each way you prepare any food will bring its own pleasures.
Perhaps you must eat zucchini with dinner... again. Spiralized into "noodles" and topped with a warm sauce is a very different experience from the roasted slices you usually prepare.
Do you hate broccoli? Maybe you'll never like it. Or, maybe you just don't like it steamed. Try it chopped in a soup! Or in a casserole. Try smaller pieces, or bigger pieces. Each method will bring a unique perspective.
Not only will variation help you recognize enjoyment from foods you had given up on, but it will also bring you more satisfaction, even if merely by reducing boredom.
5. Splurge a little.
I won't tell you to put yourself in debt or skip paying your bills for the sake of fancy food. But I will urge you to reconsider the way you are using your food budget. Are you actually as confined as you think you are?
A few of you are already doing everything you can. You don't have even a penny to spare for different food.
A lot of you are paying less on groceries because you keep spending your money on take-out instead. You know... because your groceries are boring and you just want something delicious! Plain toast and steamed broccoli sound gross, and you're tired of Ranch Dressing! Chinese it is!
Splurge a little on your groceries first, and buy something interesting, and tasty! It can be something very, very simple. A steak, some fancy-looking pasta and some store bought Alfredo sauce can be a very easy, quick meal to prepare. Throw on a little chopped fresh parsley and some Parmesan, and you may as well be in a restaurant!
Hate the idea of cooking anything? Buy an artisan bread, some prepared meat, a bag of grapes, and your favorite dark chocolate. It takes almost no work, it's not overly "health-food-ish", yet it's not junk food! That's a pretty good start!
Will this grow your grocery budget? Sure. But compare it to your entire food budget, including take-out. Is it breaking your bank? Or is it simply a shift? There is a difference. And the shift is worth it, for so many reasons!
I hope you give some of these a try! Which of these appeals to you the most? Have you already experienced the difference one tiny tweak can make in your pleasure with food? Please share it!