Give me real food

Why is it that so-called "healthy" diet food always leaves you hungry? That just the thought of eating a "healthy" meal is enough to make your stomach growl? Is it because it just doesn't fill you up, or is it because it tastes so bad or - even worse - like nothing?

 A recent study came to the very enlightening conclusion that diet food leaves people hungry. And, another small study found that "taste for diet food may wane". The more people eat "diet" versions of richer foods, the less they may actually like what they are tasting.

Yes, (*deep sigh*) scientists have actually spent money to come to this conclusion. They could have saved themselves the money, and trouble, by just talking to normal people who love good food - people like you and me.

Just yesterday I had the unfortunate experience of biting into a "healthy" oats energy bar: I did not get further than the first bite because it tasted like cardboard - really horrible! A colleague of mine recently bought sugar-free, fat-free "health" rusks from a well-known deli shop, she paid a small fortune for them, and they were, well, taste-free! And, seeing as I'm writing this at breakfast time, I'm thinking of that ad that promises you will lose X amount of kilos if you eat a certain breakfast cereal for a certain number of days. Well, I would not only lose the kilos, I would also die of hunger within the very first week, because it doesn't fill me up at all - it's just air!

Let's face it: diet foods are horrible! Apart from the psychological factor of feeling deprived and really sorry for yourself when you have to eat them, the major problem is that they don't satisfy our taste buds - a very important component in the joyful ritual called eating. We are human beings and we have five senses. In food, like everything else, we, in fact, need to satisfy all five of them. For me food must not only taste really yummy, it must also look good, smell good, feel good (especially the texture in my mouth) and even sound good (a lovely crunch, sizzle or splash).

Life's too short to deprive yourself of all the lovely foods that nature has to offer. The only little secret is moderation and variety. Don't overdo things (think about it: stuffing yourself with your favourite snack can make you feel just as sick as when you had a tasteless diet meal) and make sure you eat a good variety from all the food groups. Fruit and veggies are still tops, flavour your favourite meals with herbs and spices and limit your sugar, fat and salt intake. Note the word "limit". I did not say don't eat it, I simply said "limit" it. Your body needs sugar, fat and salt in small amounts, so adding a spoonful of sugar to your tea or a little butter to your cooked vegetables, is not the end of the world. Just don't overdo it.

If you eat a decent medium-portioned meal that really satisfies all your senses, at least three times a day, you will have no need to stuff yourself with unhealthy snacks or junk food afterwards. And you will feel blissfully content.

Here's to healthy and tasty food. Bon appétit!

(Birgit Ottermann, Health24, Nutrition Newsletter, April 2010)  

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