Eating is a Behavior

People often share with me how they need to improve their eating habits and eat more healthfully. They know that eating more vegetables and fruits is vital to improving their eating habits.  The objection that is most often raised is, “I don’t like broccoli” or “ I don’t like spinach” or “I don’t even know what kale is.”

Eating is a behavior.  I will try to prove it to you.  What do people in China eat?  Chinese food. What do people in Mexico eat?  Mexican food.  What do people in India eat?  Indian food.  If a child from Vietnam is adopted and moves to the US does this child refuse to eat American food and demand Vietnamese food?  Of course not, although this child would almost certainly be better off.   By now you are getting the point.  There may be some hard-wired genetic preferences of taste, but simply by observation one could argue that how one is socialized culturally into eating is the most significant factor.  

Because eating is a behavior and is learned, one can unlearn bad eating habits and learn new, healthier eating habits.  Rather than focusing on what not to eat begin by focusing on what to eat. First, begin to experiment with the diversity of foods.  For example, the cruciferous vegetables are some of the healthiest disease fighting plants.  You might be thinking, “What is a cruciferous vegetable?”  Here is a list and it is not exhaustive:  broccoli, broccolini, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, roman cauliflower, Russian kale, black kale, collards, brussel sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, kohlrabi, mustard greens, arugula, radish, and on and on.  Simply within the family of kale there are many varieties.  The diversity of vegetables and fruits to try is almost endless.   Some of the reasons one may not like the taste of a particular vegetable is it is not in season, it was not grown organically, it was not local and therefore harvested too soon, and finally, it was not prepared well.  

I remember my wife and I had some good friends over for dinner several years ago.  We served as an appetizer, beets on whole wheat artisan bread with goat cheese.  The beets were several varieties... the typical dark purple/scarlet beets, beets that are pink and white striped and orange colored beets.  The beets were beautiful to look at and as diverse in nutrients as they were in color.  The beets were baked in the oven at 350 degrees with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, ground black pepper and fresh rosemary. As one of my friends was eating he commented on how beautiful and tasty the appetizer was and then asked what it was.  When I told him they were beets he said, “I hate beets."  Well, he didn’t hate beets anymore.  He described his childhood of canned beets.  They were mushy in consistency and from a can and had the same shape as the can.  No wonder he didn’t like beets!  I believe this story may too often be the case.

Therefore, begin experimenting with the beautiful diversity of nutrient dense vegetables and fruits.  I challenge you to pick out a new vegetable or fruit each week, find a recipe and give it a try.  Remember to go local, in season and organic as often as is possible. Will the experiment be 100% positive? Probably not, but no doubt you will find a whole new variety of beautiful, nutrient dense veggies and fruits to enjoy. Taste buds change their preferences in a period of 3 to 8 weeks. One last challenge... try to eat at least 5 different colored veggies and fruits a day.