Healthy Eating Tastes Good! I Promise

Years ago I attended a conference for professionals in the nutrition healthcare industry. It was fascinating.

The keynote speaker was Susan L. Johnson, PhD. She is the Associate Editor of the The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Professor and Director of The Children’s Eating Laboratory at the University of Colorado Denver, Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Johnson’s specializes in research related to factors that influence the development of children’s food intake and eating patterns. Her presentation helped me put together the pieces of how an infant, born with perfect eating habits (Dr. Johnson’s research supports this statement) grows to be an adult whose eating habits may not be so good anymore.

She shared results of her research conducted at The Children’s Eating Laboratory. The children involved in her studies were between 18 months and 5-years-old. She has done a lot of studies that look at how children develop food preferences and eating behaviors.

It's natural for young children to be suspicious of a new food that appears on their plate. When his parent's enthuse, "eat it, it's good for you!" it reinforces his suspicion that it's not going to taste good!

It’s natural for young children to be suspicious of a new food that appears on their plate. When his parent’s enthuse, “eat it, it’s good for you!” it reinforces his suspicion that it’s not going to taste good!

Dr. Johnson said that the fastest way to make a child refuse to try a new food is to say, “it’s healthy!” 

She was talking about children, but that attitude towards healthy food persists into adulthood. The very adjective, healthy, leaves us thinking, “Ugh! I’ll eat it, but I won’t like it.”

She said that when children had food put in front of them and told, “you can’t eat this,” that became the foods they begged and pleaded and cried to have. When the ban was lifted these kids dove into the formerly forbidden food as though they hadn’t been fed for months. Dr. Johnson said that the forbidden food had been offered to them previous to making it off limits, and they showed no particular preference for it over other foods.

The strong desire for the food was only after it became forbidden.
What do we do when we decide it’s time to lose weight?

We clear our fridges and cupboards of foods we think are unhealthy or junk foods and we replace them with healthy food. If we recognize that we all have an inner child in us, it helps explain why sticking to a weight loss plan is so challenging.

We all have an inner child living in our heads and that child influences our eating choices. We need to please our inner child to achieve our grownup weight-related goals!

We all have an inner child living in our heads and that child influences our eating choices. We need to please our inner child to achieve our grownup weight-related goals!

We set ourselves up to not enjoy the healthy food, and increased our cravings for junk foods. If it sounds like a formula for weight loss failure, it usually is!

The solution seems clear to me. Let’s change how we categorize our foods. Let’s stop dividing our food into “Healthy Food” and “Junk Food. categories” I suggest we change it to “It’s All Healthy When it’s Balanced. Balance means we divide food choices up as follows: “Eat Lots of This,” “Eat Some of That,” and “Enjoy a Treat!”

I think “Eat Lots of This (ELT),” sounds so much more delicious. What are those foods? (go heavy, eat anytime you feel hungry or just the need to “eat something.”)

  • non starchy vegetables 
  • fruit
  • broth-based soups
  • fat-free milk

    Starting a meal with this savory, thick, tomato soup is a great way to get control and recognize fullness and reduce calories without having to count!

    Starting a meal with this savory, thick, tomato soup is a great way to get control and recognize fullness and reduce calories without having to count!

If you are looking at that list and you think you don’t like those ELT foods, I bet if you think about it you’ll find some foods in this category that you actually like a lot! Start with them. As you want more variety, experiment by trying other foods that are part of the group. Keep in mind, you’re not eating them because they’re healthy, you’re eating them because you like them. If you don’t like something, don’t eat it. If you can’t stand the sight and smell of cabbage, no worries, you don’t have to learn to eat it anyway!

Eat Some of That (EST) foods are eaten on a More – to – Less scale. On the more side are these kinds of foods. Don’t eat “as much as you want,” but do eat “as much as you need to be satisfied.”

  • starchy fruits (bananas, figs, plums, pumpkins)
  • starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, winter squash)
  • whole grains including breakfast cereal with no added sugar or fat
  • low-fat meat
  • legumes
  • low-fat mixed dishes, like chili and spaghetti.

Foods on the less side include these foods (go easy) Watch servings sizes and pay attention to frequency. It’s easier to eat less when you aren’t too hungry!

  • meat
  • cheese
  • pizza
  • French fries
  • salad dressing
  • bread
  • pretzels
  • ice cream
  • cake

Finally there are the Enjoy a Treat. (ET) These are foods you eat in smaller servings and less frequently. It’s also important to watch servings size. Although some of the foods on this list are considered to be snacks, they’re are not good choices to eat between meals when you’re hungry.

  • crackers
  • chips
  • chocolate candies
  • cookies
  • nuts
  • butter
  • oil
Feed to please your inner child!dreamstime_s_37049610
Eat food you love.
No more, “healthy and junk food” labels!
Enjoy a variety of all foods in a manner that supports a healthy weight, and in general, good health!

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.