Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire
You likely know that I’m a total foodie. I love dark chocolate, Gruyère Mac & Cheese, and Indian Red Quinoa. You also likely know that I’m incredibly passionate about health and wellness and how they correlate with what we eat. Striking that balance between the enjoyable experience of eating and ensuring those foods are wholesome and rich in “good-for-you” ingredients can be challenging, particularly when dining out.
I find that it’s very easy to cook healthy meals at home. We are fortunate to live in a city that supports organic, sustainable, green living. But what I often find myself doing on those nights I don’t want to cook, is wondering how to truly experience the pleasure of dining out without the guilt of eating foods that aren’t necessarily optimal for my body.
As people continue to become more involved with what they eat (via label-reading, online research, etc.), there is an increasing demand for healthier menu options that don’t compromise on the flavor or experience of dining out. I always tell people that my criteria for choosing a restaurant is mainly determined by whether or not I can experience foods I would not readily or easily make at home, and based on food psychologist Dr. Wansink’s support of the concept of Seductive Nutrition, I’m not alone.
According to Dr. Wansink, small changes in our everyday food decisions can make an overall positive difference in health. Seductive Nutrition is a concept that supports an approach to menu development whereby slightly healthier recipes are created via some small changes. The overall goal is to preserve the feeling of “indulgence” when dining out. Dr. Wansink wants to help industry professionals, restaurant operators, and patrons make quick, easy meals utilizing Unilever Food Solutions‘ Seductive Nutrition approach to make a positive impact on how people eat and in turn, how they live.
Very often when I’m perusing my local market for fresh lunch options, I’ll “eat with my eyes,” a phenomenon that isn’t uncommon for most people, according to Dr. Wansink’s research. If we think a food is going to taste good, very often it does. I approach the creation of my own meals from this perspective so that my children learn that healthy foods can taste good. Whether it’s adding color or varying the presentation, very often I can, at the very least, get my children to try new foods if I present them attractively. Presentation is vital and contributes to the overall pleasure of the experience of eating.
In addition to presentation, how a food is described can deem it appealing or unappealing. The use of vivid adjectives like silken and creamy foster the expectation that a food is going to be indulgent. There are a variety of ways foods can be described and seductively named. For example, a geographic label, such as Country Peach Tart can help diners associate that area with food. Using a nostalgic label like “Old World” can trigger positive associations with family, tradition, and a sense of wholesomeness. And because we as humans are highly sensory, describing the taste, smell, and texture of a food can enhance the dining experience. Words like “velvet” and “sizzling” create an expectation for the food experience (including what the food looks like, how it smells, and how it tastes).
When we look at eating as an experience, we recognize that even the setting where the meal is being enjoyed can make a difference. If I take out our casual dinnerware (or better yet, disposable items), my family will assume we will be eating something just as casual…perhaps we will have a barbeque or even a ready-prepared food. But the situation becomes very different when nice dinnerware, a matching tablecloth, and soft lighting come in to play. I would even add that the presence of a view (particularly at a restaurant) can be very tranquil and comforting, thereby contributing to the overall dining experience.
I love the quote above because I think Voltaire had some incredible insight as to how eating should be approached. There are so many diverse varieties of foods that can be prepared in an endless number of ways. If we take a seductive approach to how we eat, we’ll find that there can be immense joy and pleasure in something that would otherwise be mundane.
What do you think of Seductive Nutrition as an approach to both creating meals at home and dining out?
I received compensation for this post as part of a sponsored opportunity from the Mom It Forward blogger network for Unilever Food Solutions. All ideas, images, and opinions are my own.