Savoring the Flavors of the Season

'Palate' is defined as "a person's appreciation of taste and flavor, especially when sophisticated and discriminating."  The vision behind Palate Theory is to encourage the appreciation of high quality and delicious foods within a lifestyle of healthy eating.  That means you eat the foods that you enjoy eating while maintaining or reaching your ideal weight, optimizing your nutrient intake, and feeling energized and encouraged while doing so.  As the end of the year approaches, it's easy to slip into an attitude of indulging now and skimping later.  Within the Palate Theory model, you can savor the flavors of the season without requiring a strict calorie deficit later.  Make your resolution for the new year to skip diving in and out of dieting and to instead make healthy eating habits a key piece of your lifestyle.  Here are a few tips + incentives to get a head start on your health goals for the new year! 

1.  Food and celebration often go hand in hand, and I love that!  Food can elicit emotions based on the time of year, the people who surround you, and the traditions behind what you're eating.  From now until the new year, I expect lots of celebrating and lots of food (yay!), but I also expect lots of talk about "starting the diet in the new year."  Sound familiar?  Why not allow yourself to enjoy your food as part of the celebration rather than feeling self-imposed guilt over eating "what you shouldn't."  Here's what I'm doing to acceptably indulge over the holidays. My grandmother makes the most delicious coconut cornflake cookies.  Now, I know coconut is trendy and offers health benefits that have been highlighted in recent years, but the main ingredient in this particular cookie recipe is sugar (yup, refined white sugar).  The cookies are a family favorite, a tradition that has been passed down through generations, and I look forward to them every December.  A dietitian eating sugar-filled cookies?  Yes, of course! I choose to eat a few (dozen...just kidding!) cookies, skip out on the unhealthy foods that I don't particularly love, and throw in an extra walk or workout when I can.  Overall, I choose healthy foods that I genuinely enjoy - roasted veggies, grilled salmon, flavorful salads.  But it's completely normal and advised to eat a couple unhealthy foods that you also love - just be discriminating in the type and amounts.  Choose a food that you really want and then allow yourself to enjoy the taste and flavor.  

2.  I'm sure it comes as no surprise that yo-yo dieting is less than ideal.  You cut calories for a period of time, perhaps reach your goals, and then revert back to your old habits and find yourself consuming more calories and fewer healthy foods.  After a few weeks or months of the binge phase, you're motivated again to start a new diet.  It's a vicious cycle that is both emotionally and physically draining.  New research suggests that yo-yo dieting is taxing on the brain as well, causing it to think you're experiencing a short famine period.  The brain then responds by signaling the body to store more fat once you start eating again.  Translation: it's going to be even harder to reach those health goals the next time you start a diet after periods of yo-yo dieting.  The solution is to skip the entire "I'm going on a diet" mentality.  Lose weight gradually and consistently, and then maintain your newly developed healthy eating habits.  Work with a Registered Dietitian to determine lifestyle shifts that focus on ways to improve your eating rather than ways to eliminate every food you love (and will eventually want to eat again!). 

3. I'll leave you with a bit of encouraging news.  Research in mice has shown that good-tasting food does not cause weight gain!  Everyone rejoice!  The study found that with mice, the mere fact that a food was desirable did not lead to overeating of that food.  However, the contents of the food (such as sugar + fat), which often correlate with food desirability, can lead to weight gain.  The takeaway?  Find good-tasting food that is also healthy, and there's a decent chance you won't overeat it.  Get creative in the kitchen by using new spices, recipes, and cooking techniques (roasting is great for veggies this time of year!) to move beyond steamed chicken and broccoli and into a tastier, yet healthy, culinary world.  Here is a recent favorite recipe that I made from HelloFresh - mini pork meatloaves with sautéed red cabbage and sweet potato wedges.  It's an easy one to get you started, and your entire family is sure to love it!