It’s Okay to Hate Healthy Foods — Really!

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Ever feel like you’ll never learn to like some of the foods you’re “supposed” to eat? It seems like a new “superfood” appears on the scene every other week, so you go and grab some at the store only to find you really, really hate it. No matter what you do, you just can’t warm up to it, and you’re left feeling guilty for despising the amazing healthy food everyone else is raving about.

I’ll tell you a secret — and this is going to sound nuts coming from a wellness consultant. It’s okay if you hate healthy foods. Really, it is. There’s no dietary law stating you must enjoy every health-promoting food in existence. While I tend to encourage clients to try preparing new foods in more than one way before deciding they’re not fans, it’s silly to try and force yourself to eat something you truly can’t stand.

Of course, I’m not giving everyone carte blanche to toss the kale in the trash and stockpile dairy-free Ben & Jerry’s and Oreos. What I want to do is put healthy eating in perspective, because sometimes it seems as though people think of it as all-or-nothing. How often do we hear — or say — “I was good today!” when meal choices include a lot of whole, fresh foods? Or the opposite: “I was bad” or “I blew it” when a processed treat was on the menu?

This kind of mindset is what’s behind the idea that we need to somehow pile on the healthiest foods possible to give our diets superpowers, when the truth is much simpler and involves absolutely no food-related guilt trips. So let’s take a look at why it’s not going to kill you to leave the goji berries for someone else and why you’re not a horrible person if quinoa isn’t your favorite thing ever.

Personal Tastes (and Restrictions) Guide Choices

The foods you ate growing up did a lot to shape the tastes you have now. This includes ethnic flavors, favorite dishes your parents made on special holidays and any influence the food industry had on your family’s meals. The latter is where most people get into trouble when it comes to food choices and where the majority of “food guilt” comes from. These tastes — the deeply ingrained preference for sugar, salt and fat — are the ones worth changing, and they can be overcome by shifting dietary choices toward whole plant foods.

Intolerances, allergies and diseases also need to be considered when choosing which foods to eat. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), over 170 foods are known to cause allergic reactions, and as many as 15 million people in the U.S. have at least one food allergy. Reactions range from mild, such as an itchy tongue or a skin rash, to severe, including fatal anaphylaxis.

I’m often upset when I hear a doctors are advising patients to take Lactaid pills and continue consuming dairy when suffering from lactose intolerance or when I hear stories of people struggling with non-celiac gluten intolerance for years because the medical establishment isn’t convinced of its existence. If you eat a food and get sick every time, you don’t have to eat it. No matter what nutrients it contains, no matter what anyone tries to tell you, the best thing to do is give it up.

Superfoods Aren’t Always So Super

The term “superfood” has become an almost magical word most often used to describe exotic, expensive or hard-to-find ingredients. Trying to track down acai berries and spirulina when you don’t have a specialty store or food co-op nearby can be a challenge, and hitting the internet to order some can leave your credit card smoking.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get the nutrients found in some of the most hyped superfoods. Common foods like blueberries, bell peppers, broccoli and lentils pack just as much of a punch at a fraction of the price. Yes, some nutrients may be more concentrated in foods touted as super, but if you’re already eating a plant-based diet, you’re getting an abundance of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients every time you enjoy a meal. All whole plant foods have beneficial nutrients, and balancing your food intake between whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in their unprocessed forms is one of the best ways to take care of your body.

It’s All About Diversity

With that said, you don’t have to eat every plant food to enjoy superior nutrition; you just have to mix things up during the day. That’s one of the hidden perks of realizing you don’t like some healthy foods: There are so many others waiting to be discovered and a multitude of delicious combinations to experiment with. Mainstream food and nutrition news tends to only highlight the latest fads, loudly proclaiming the benefits of whatever the most recent study has found to be “good” for you. The next day, there’s either a new superfood celebrity or the darling of the previous day is being denounced as not so good after all.

Don’t let it all confuse you. Thanks to creative plant-based doctors, there are a couple of easy ways to envision a healthy, diverse diet. Dr. Greger has his Daily Dozen, and Dr. Fuhrman champions G-BOMBS. Both provide firm foundations on which to base your meals so that you get the best bang for your buck with every dish — no superfoods required.

Try an Alternative

Although it might feel like you’re missing out if the trendy superfoods — or even some plant-based staples — don’t excite your taste buds, an abundance of alternative choices makes it possible to thrive. Give these choices a go the next time you’re looking to pack super nutrition into a tasty meal.

Don’t like kale? Try…

  • Rainbow chard
  • Mustard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Broccoli raab
  • Beet greens
  • Turnip greens

Don’t like quinoa? Substitue…

  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Spelt berries
  • Millet
  • Brown, red or black rice

Not a chickpea fan? Say hello to these legumes…

  • Red, brown or black lentils
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Black beans
  • White beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Edamame
  • Adzuki beans

However, as I mentioned at the start of this post, try some new ways of preparing a food before you write it off completely. When people tell me they “hate” a food, I almost inevitably find out it was either cooked to death or not used in a way that brought out its best flavor. If you try something a few times and still can’t get past the taste or texture, don’t feel guilty removing it from your menu.

What’s the takeaway here? All diets, even healthy diets, are influenced by individuality, culture, experience and tastes. Even though tastes do change over time, there will always be some foods you don’t like. Building your daily meals around the variety of choices you enjoy and trying new foods to add even more diversity will create a menu you can feel good about.

And those popular “superfoods?” Most of the time, they’re not bad. There’s nothing wrong with splurging on some hemp seeds or throwing a bit of maca in your smoothie, if that’s your thing, but none of them have to be staples of your diet for you to eat well and feel great. So the next time the mainstream media tries to send you on a guilt trip because you’re not mainlining coconut water and green smoothies, remember how much your tastes have changed so far, think about all the great food you are eating and happily ignore the hype.

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Introducing Sari Foods: A New Approach to Superfoods — With an Energizing Recipe!

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(Disclosure note: Sari Foods provided products in exchange for an honest review and compensation for original recipe development.)

Type “define superfood” into Google, and you get this straightforward answer:

a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.

Although the label seems to get slapped on whatever food is the darling of the mainstream media at the moment, some foods actually deserve their “super” reputations. Sari Foods has captured several of them in their unique product line.

Sari Foods declares their philosophy to be “to bring you the essence of food.” All of their products are 100 percent whole-food-based and contain no artificial or synthetic ingredients. Unlike many supposed “superfood” concoctions and supplements, the nutrients in Sari Foods’ products are highly bioavailable and easily assimilated by your body. Scientific food babble aside, what this actually means is that these products can have real benefits for your health. (Plus, they taste awesome. But I’ll get to that in a minute.)

Here’s a run-down of what Sari Foods has to offer:

Nutritional Yeast

What’s a plant-based diet without a little “cheese” sauce once and a while? And, let’s face it, healthy cheese is largely an oxymoron, even in the world of vegan cheese. With nutritional yeast, though, that dream becomes a reality. Two tablespoons of the nootch from Sari foods provides:

  • 8g protein
  • 4g dietary fiber
  • Multiple B vitamins
  • Zinc
  • Selenium

and more, but these are the most notable. This combination is what qualifies it as a superfood. You get a blast of antioxidants, energy and thyroid support, an immune boost and a way to make a grilled cheese sandwich that definitively counts as healthy.

sari foods nutritional yeast

Image courtesy of Sari Foods

When you open the bag, you’re greeted by small, pale yellow flakes that lack the vibrancy of other nutritional yeasts but make up for it with an amazingly clean flavor. I’m not exaggerating when I say that you can taste the difference so much that I blew through my sample bag and have already ordered three more. It’s smooth, delicious and just right for everything from cheese sauce to savory oats to salad dressings.

Acerola Cherry Powder

I’m sure I’m not the only one who reaches for a bottle of vitamin C supplements after being exposed to illness. Unfortunately, most of those pills have little, if any, beneficial effects due to the fact that the vitamin C is in an isolated, unnatural form. The vitamin C powder from Sari Foods, on the other hand, is made from acerola cherries, which happen to be the single best food source of vitamin C!

Each teaspoon of this organic powder contains 500mg of vitamin C, the equivalent of about 260g of actual acerola cherries.(1) Since it’s actually a whole food powder and not an extracted nutrient, it contains the full complex of the vitamin C family, including the naturally occurring bioflavanoids that enhance its effects. In addition to boosting immunity, vitamin C is also supports healthy collagen production, aids in detoxification and acts as a protective antioxidant.(2)

sari foods acerola cherry powder

Image courtesy of Sari Foods

The unassuming tan powder has a tart cherry flavor, but does contain some organic maltodextrin, a fact that I’m not terribly thrilled about since I try to avoid added sweeteners. However, it does provide just a touch of extra sweetness that makes for a pretty delicious addition to your favorite beverage. Update & correction! The maltodextrin is used to help create the fine texture of the cherry powder, not to sweeten, and is used in small amounts. (Therefore, it’s still worlds better than commercial water flavorings like Crystal Light, which contains not only non-organic maltodextrin but also aspartame and artificial colors.)

I like to mix the acerola powder with the diluted apple cider vinegar drink I have every morning, but it would also be tasty just in water or blended into a smoothie. You can even sprinkle it in your oatmeal!

Spirulina

If concerns over spirulina contamination have led you to avoid this beneficial green superfood, I recommend trying the one from Sari Foods. Harvested from freshwater lakes, this spirulina powder is organic and contains (per tablespoon):

  • 7g protein
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin K
  • A balance of omega 3, 6 and 9 fats, including GLA
  • Multiple B vitamins
  • High levels of chlorophyll

I do want to note that the package lists B12 as one of the B complex vitamins found in spirulina, and while this is technically correct, scientific evidence seems to show that the forms of B12 found in this and other foods aren’t usable by the human body. The rest of the nutrients, however, do everything from help fix calcium in your bones to combat inflammation. GLA in particular is hard to get from other sources, appearing mainly in things like borage and evening primrose oils. Overall, there may be more than 100 nutrients working together in spirulina!(3)

sari foods spirulina

Image courtesy of Sari Foods

Contrary to popular belief, spirulina isn’t actually algae. It’s a cyanobacteria, a type of bacterium that derives its energy from the sun, hence the chlorophyll content. Interestingly enough, the chlorophyll molecule bears a striking resemblance to the heme part of human hemoglobin and works to stimulate the production of red blood cells.(1) Its antioxidant properties provide strong protection from DNA damage,(3) and it may even hang around in your body after you eat it, contributing to the regeneration of CoQ10 when combined with sunlight.(4) So in a way, you can derive some energy from the sun!

Like the nutritional yeast, Sari Foods’ spirulina has a very clean flavor that mirrors its deep blue-green color. This is another good one for adding to smoothies, although I prefer to mix it in with my chopped salads to add a little something to the taste. Believe it or not, the whole salad tastes pretty amazing when combined with a citrus-based dressing and garnished with sauerkraut.

The Verdict

I’m pretty much in love with the products from Sari Foods, and the nutritional yeast in particular. I can’t imagine switching back to any other kind! On a more objective note, here’s what all the products have going for them:
  • Made from actual food, not extracts or synthetic nutrients
  • Vibrant packaging in generous sizes (1lb. for spirulina, 8oz. for nutritional yeast, 6oz. for the acerola cherry powder)
  • Clean, fresh taste with no strange overtones, undertones or aftertastes

The only thing I didn’t like is that the reseal strips on the tops of the bags don’t seem to work very well. I folded the bags down and secured them with rubber bands to get around that problem. And I can’t really count that as a “con” since it has no bearing on the quality of the products themselves!

Sari Foods gets two thumbs up in my book–their products do indeed deserve the “superfood” title! If you want to try them out for yourself, they’re having a new customer promotion with the code “WELCOME25” at the moment.

Bring on the Recipe!

Of course, I can’t babble on about how much I love a product without using it in a recipe! I’ve incorporated both the spirulina and the acerola cherry powder into these Chocolate Superfood Truffle Balls, plus I added some nuts, seeds and dark cocoa powder for an even bigger “super” boost. The result is a nutrient-packed healthy snack with a nutty, light chocolate flavor.

Chocolate Superfood Truffle Balls
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Looking for a "super" snack? Try these nutty, chocolatey little bites that pack a hidden nutrient punch!
Author:
Recipe type: Snack
Serves: 25-30 truffles
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup raw walnuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw pecans, chopped
  • ¼ cup nut or seed butter of choice
  • 2Tbsp dark cocoa powder or raw cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp Sari Foods spirulina
  • 1 Tbsp Sari Foods acerola cherry powder
Instructions
  1. Place the dates and nuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until crumbly.
  2. Add the oats and nut butter, and process again until well combined.
  3. Add the cocoa powder, spirulina and acerola cherry powder. Process again until everything is mixed well.
  4. Test the "dough" to see if it holds together when pinched. If not, add more dates, two at a time, until the dough can be shaped without falling apart.
  5. Roll the dough into balls to form truffles. Place the truffles on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
sari foods vegan chocolate superfood truffles


Additional references
1) Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Simon and Schuster
2) Bauman, E. NC106.5 Micronutrients: The water-soluble vitamins: Vitamin C family, B complex [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from Bauman College: http://dashboard.baumancollege.org/mod/resource/view.php?id=1458
3) Bauman, E., Friedlander, J. (2013). Foundations of Nutrition. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College
4) Greger, M., Stone, G. (2015). How Not to Die. New York, NY: Flatiron Books
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