We’re all grown-ups here. Presumably. So let’s eat like grown-ups!
A year into my life as a nutritionist, having counseled individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds all over the country, I’ve had to deal with a certain issue far more frequently than I initially imagined. The issue is that of food preference – our tastes. Affinities toward some foods, aversions to others. They’re shaped by evolution, genetics, human experience… and largely by our mothers. (Sorry Mom) Without a doubt, there’s some interesting science behind these tendencies, shedding light on our primal desires for sugar and fat or how your friend swears he tastes “barnyard” in the Bordeaux you’re sharing, which you think tastes like wine. My friend Marissa provides a compelling discussion of the scientific angle in her blog Changing Our Palate. I’d like to take a look from a different perspective. One from which we can all weigh-in.
So here’s the question:
When a person is working on making dietary changes to improve health, to what extent is it acceptable for limited food preferences to get in the way of making good choices?
To cut the question down even further, let’s focus on one especially stubborn food group – fruits and vegetables. Ok, vegetables. Easily the most nutrient dense food we have available to us. Yes, we all know someone who will live disease-free to age ninety-five on meat and potatoes, but that person is a rarity. Most nutritionists would agree that a day’s intake is lacking without some form of green vegetable present. And of course, these are the most difficult foods to get people to eat.
For the person who knows vegetables as spaghetti sauce, French fries and sandwich toppings, what is the answer to our question? Do these severely limited food preferences draw an immovable boundary around what this person will eat? Or can we expect an individual to make some sacrifice here, as grown-ups must do from time to time? To recognize the importance of food for optimizing health and teach oneself to eat (and maybe even like) those things that are undeniably good for us. Some may say it depends on the situation. Just how much of a jam is this person in from a health perspective? Sadly, that’s how many of us think, and act, subconsciously of course, when it comes to taking the needed steps to improve health. Prescribe me a Statin drug for high cholesterol and I might cut down my red meat consumption. Put me through quadruple bypass surgery and I’ll eat all the kale at the farmers market!
I think I’m getting my point across here, and perhaps a little too strongly. I’m beginning to realize that this was somewhat of a sensitive selection.
The point is, changing dietary habits for good is inevitably a learning and growing process. When we go to a nutritionist, we must be prepared to stretch ourselves, to try new things and to expand food choices beyond what they were before. Hell, if “what they were before” was just fine, you wouldn’t be there in the first place. Sure we can ask to keep things within our limits. Part of the job of a nutritionist is to know food and to help an individual find healthy ways of eating and living that work specifically for that person. But the other part of our job is to teach. So come ready to learn… and eat… like a grown-up.
Don’t think I haven’t forgotten that invite. Let-go your inhibitions and weigh-in. If you’re so inclined, share your thoughts in the comments.