Why don’t we choose nutrition as a primary reason to eat? Of course it’s awesome when foods taste amazing and fulfill a craving, but should that desire override or be more important than nutrition and health when choosing what to eat?
I’ve been struggling with this lately as I’ve been trying to incorporate more foods into my diet that I would not choose to eat except for their insane nutritional benefits; two examples: liver and sardines. I know there are people out there who genuinely enjoy eating these foods, heck they even crave them. I’ve been trying to become one of those people, but it’s been a struggle.
I’m always looking out for that special recipe that will suddenly make me “crave” liver or sardines. But alas they are still not foods I would choose to eat based on taste. But why does taste always have to win the battle?
There was no such thing as the “clean plate club” in my house growing up, but I did always have to have a bite of something green. Broccoli was my nemesis. We did not see eye to eye and I did not understand why anyone would intentionally want to eat it. But there was my mom, making sure that I at least took a bite, not because it tasted good but because it was good for me.
But now that I’m a grown up my mom is no longer there making me eat things purely for nutritional and health reasons. I now have to do it for myself. I have found this to be difficult at times - especially when I moved to New York and away from the food culture that I grew up with. We do not live in a world that supports the approach of choosing nutrition over taste. At the very least we try to tell people that you can have both, but we almost never say: “you might not like how this tastes, but you need to eat it anyway.” We try to hide “healthy” ingredients within foods or alter them so that they still “taste like normal.”
I think we need to own the fact that it’s OK for things to taste differently or to not necessarily taste “good.” When I’m eating liver I have to remind myself that it’s not going to taste like muscle meat, it’s going to taste like liver. It will have a certain taste and texture that’s unique to liver. When I expect it to taste like steak or chicken breast, I will always be disappointed when it doesn’t. It’s liver, not steak. I might not crave liver like I do steak, but I need to accept the liver for what it is: ridiculously nutrient dense.
And as I’ve gotten more comfortable with accepting liver (or sardines) for what it is, I find it easier to eat. I still don’t crave it, but I will choose to eat it, knowing full well that I probably wont have my taste satisfied, but I will be satisfying my health.
When was the last time you made a food choice based on nutrition and health, without taste being a factor? Maybe you are better at this then I am – more power to you – but I’m going to continue to work on making nutrition my first priority (most of the time.) Hopefully amazing taste will go along with it, but it needs to be OK when it doesn’t.
P.S. Broccoli and I eventually made peace and are now great friends.
Here are some ways that I've tried liver that are pretty good:
Adding some pureed liver to ground meat to make meat sauce or meatballs (there is no link for this.)
Do you eat anything purely for a nutritional reason, without expecting it to taste "good"? Do you have any liver recipes for me to try?
Apparently when you put it out there that you've been having problems with things - like finding a tasty way to enjoy liver and sardines - the Universe hears you and sends you the solution! Seriously, it was kinda crazy how after I posted this, I found a way to enjoy both of "problem" foods when I'd been struggling with them for months! I still stand by the idea that we should allow nutrition to drive our food choices instead of taste, at least occasionally, but it is great when nutrition and taste come together!
I found a decent recipe for liver! Holy goodness was it good. I also realized that if I let it cool a little bit some of the chalky flavor that I find liver to have is no longer as pronounced. The only two things I'd say about the recipe are to use as many hot peppers as you can stand, it definitely helps, and personally I found myself really jittery when I ate the whole recipe's worth of liver in one sitting. Liver can be a crazy powerful stimulant, so if you aren't used to it, I'd suggest easing in! Check out the recipe at The Paleo Chef - Banging' Liver Recipe
AND, I found a way to eat sardines that was totally yummy! I emptied a tin of sardines into a bowl, squeezed the juice from half a lemon over it, sliced up half an avocado over it, squeezed the juice from the other half of the lemon over that, sprinkled with a little salt and then, the piece de resistance, a lot of Paleo Nom Nom's Whole30 sriracha! When I made it I didn't have any fish sauce so I just used a little extra apple cider vinegar; it tastes amazing and it makes it a more general "hot sauce" than "sriracha."