Food for thought

How good should food make us feel?

Eating is a complex subject. What food we are supposed to eat is a topic of conversation at all ages.

As a kid, you eat foods to make you healthy and strong and as you get older you have to balance guilty pleasures like desserts with protein, fats and fibre.

Then, there are allergies and dietary restrictions and politicized foods and endangered foods… it’s enough to give one indigestion.

I wonder, in an age where food supplements are all the rage and we talk of trendy ingredients like they are gemstones, maybe we have placed too much importance on what food can do for us.

I love to enjoy good food, and I cherish times when food is shared among friends and loved ones. I take pride in being healthy and I like the feeling of eating nourishing meals.

But I do realize that like most passions, the love of food can be a slippery slope. Not to infer too much into this, but where is the sweet spot?

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child

We are taught from an early age that sweets are sinful. You’re not supposed to have too much of them, they will ruin your teeth and make you fat.

But then why are they used as a reward, as in “Eat all your veggies and you’ll get to have dessert." or “be a good kid while Mom does the shopping and we’ll stop for ice cream on the way home."

The concept of a guilty pleasure is thus ingrained in our culture. As we get older, we taste something (usually) rich or sweet after we’ve endured some hardship, and we feel good about surviving the ordeal but bad about indulging.

I think we can turn this ideal on its head: instead of making excuses for indulging, why don’t we embrace our indulgences as the rewards due for accomplishments?

I’ve written about this logic before – kids can be taught to eat veggies because they taste good, not because dessert always comes after they wash them down. Then dessert can be enjoyed for its own merits, too. If we set this example as adults, it makes more sense to our children.

“Let food be thy medicine” – Hippocrates

The same applies when we make extra efforts to be healthy. Vitamins can be an important supplement to a healthy way of life, but by definition, they are a supplement — “something that completes or enhances something else when added to it”.

You’ll notice the word “replace” is not in the definition. Neither is “offset.” 

Taking handfuls of supplements is not meant to counteract our indulging. It’s one thing to have a salad the day after you’ve had a five-course meal, but it’s foolish to believe that extra herbal supplements or diet pills will pave the way to a healthy future.

Remember what was said about the road to hell? Part of the paving mix for those good intentions is excess supplements.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

The history of all cultures shows traditions around food and celebrations, but most modern societies hold a body image ideal that is not realistic for many.

This pressure to achieve a “perfect body,” especially for young people, can be overwhelming. Eating disorders and an unhealthy approach to food is a serious matter, one we need to address.

There is also the economic reality of the cost of food; many people go hungry because they cannot afford proper nutrition.

They may also be uneducated in what constitutes proper nutrition. Even people who are educated about food tend to fall into the trap of believing that it’s generally faster and cheaper to get fast food than to make a meal at home.

“Food is not just fuel. Food is about family, food is about community, food is about identity. And we nourish all those things when we eat well.” – Michael Pollan

Did you know that a 2010 study by researchers at the University of Toronto showed that people exposed to fast food and its symbols on a regular basis (even just pictures of food or logos) were more likely to become impatient in their lives?

This led to them not only being more likely to look for any time-saving measures (not just the drive-thru) but also to make them less likely to save, and even get ahead in life. It made them prefer instant gratification in all aspects of their life, regardless of the context.

By now you might wondering, “what’s worse, drowning my sorrows in junk food and feeling guilty or obsessing about being healthy and becoming hung up on nutrition?”

I haven’t found a study that claimed there is a worse alternative, but do you see what I mean about this business of overthinking our eating habits? Eating food should make us feel good.

But let’s be realistic, Popeye didn’t really get superpowers from spinach, and one cheeseburger or tub of ice cream will not make you sick.

A positive attitude does go a long way, and sustaining that positive attitude is really what it’s all about, right? Sustainability is something we talk about often in relation to food.

Moderation is a big part of sustainability.

A wonderful illustration of that philosophy, along with a dose of how to be polite at the table, comes from one of my favourite foodies.

 I’ll close with his commentary:

"Pooh always liked a little something at eleven o'clock in the morning, and he was very glad to see Rabbit getting out the plates and mugs; and when Rabbit said, 'Honey or condensed milk with your bread?' he was so excited that he said, 'Both,' and then, so as not to seem greedy, he added, 'But don't bother about the bread, please.'" – A.A. Milne

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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