Why are "healthy" foods so uninviting?

I ordered a free booklet off the Internet the other day from The Cancer Project that’s pretty much going to be all about how to become a vegetarian. It’s not likely that I’ll actually be able to stick with it (that’s if I even try at all) because I’m certain it’ll be stuff like carrots, celery, water, oats and lots of other tastless stuff in dainty proportions.

But why would mother nature equip us with the brains to make such terrific stuff as cheeses, olive burgers, pies, cakes, pot roasts, … and so on and then punish us by putting us in the graveyard at an early age for it?

Have any of you become vegetarians in mid-life? If so, do you really feel all that much better? And do you basically have to eat a truck-load of carrots and grass every day in order to not feel hungry all the time?

Fat tastes good because, until we humans started sitting around on our duffs most of the time, we needed the calories that are most easily obtained from high fat foods. Especially fat, juicy, dead animals.

So, blame it on television.

Animal meat tends to have unhealthy fats as well as cholesterol.

If you’re not going to become a vegetarian for moral reasons, ie you’re fine with eating meat, then there’s no health related reason to become a vegetarian. What there is reason to do is to start looking at the meat you buy. Chicken, turkey, fish, is all very low fat.

Many fish have 0g saturated fat per serving. Certain cuts of pork likewise can have 0g saturated fat per serving, for example “extra lean” sliced lunch meat ham typically has 0g saturated fat. Despite the huge influx of “fat free” foods, fat isn’t bad. It’s so not-bad in fact, you’d die if you didn’t consume any fat at all because the human body needs some of all three of the macro nutrients to survive in the long term (fat, carbohydrates, and protein.)

In general about 20% of your intake should be in fat, with 40-60% in carbs and the rest protein.

What you don’t need is saturated fat. A small amount (under 7-8g per day) is reasonably fine. You should try to have no trans fat at all, it’s the worst kind of fat. Luckily it is increasingly being phased out of all packaged foods in the United States (it was primarily introduced because it stored better than regular fat.)

Getting your daily fat grams from fish and nuts gives you the added benefit of essential fatty acids which most Americans (and people in general) do not get enough of.

You don’t by any means need to phase out meat to be healthy. In fact, while it’s certainly possible, it’s actually a bit of a hassle to get as balanced a nutritious balance from pure-vegetarian fare than it is from a mix of non-meat and healthy meat sources. Meat is good in that it is full of protein and “good fats” if you’re eating the right kind of meat.

Phase out deep fried chicken, sausages, bacon, most types of beef and you’re in pretty good shape. Chicken breasts have little to no saturate fat, for example, fish is an amazingly healthy meat in general. Tuna has very little (some cuts no) saturated fat.

You need protein, fat, and calories in your diet, and meats are very dense sources of all of those which is why meat is such a useful part of your diet. It’s by no means essential, as you can get the nutrients you need without ever eating meat, but there’s a reason humans naturally eat both plant and animal matter, it’s a lot easier to satisfy your needs that way.

I’m not a vegetarian, but a few months ago I started to follow the Weight Watchers Core program, which is basically a very, very healthy diet–lean meat and poultry, seafood, fat-free dairy, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Not only did I lose weight without ever once feeling hungry, but now that I’m taking a “break” from it, I find that the healthy food is what I really want to eat. I feel lousy when I eat sugary cereal for breakfast, and very fatty things just seem… so fatty and greasy. It makes me queasy.

I think that what tastes good is very much a matter of what you’re used to. I’m sure I could get used to cheeseburgers again if I tried… I’d just rather not :slight_smile:

Thanks for all of that!

I thought a lot has been said that with fish there’s a lot of contaminants, especially mercury. So I guess one has to be careful there, right? (I’d guess that fish products from the area off Alaska would be safer in that regard than stuff off the east coast or from around China.)

When I cook beef or chicken in the crock-pot, a whole bunch of fat goes to the surface if I let it cool down in the frig over night. And so because you say that beef isn’t generally that good for you, do you mean that even if one cooks in a crock pot and gathers all the fat after it’s cooled and gone to the surface, that it’s still a bad idea? I would think that dealing with it that way would make it very healthy, and yet I’ve never heard any of the health food experts advise people to do things that way, so maybe I’m wrong about it.

I somehow don’t suppose you will be doing a complete change of diet overnight, and something like what you suggest always used to be the standard (ish) healthy eating advice. As in, look, if you are going to eat meats, or burgery things, try to grill them or whatever and try to remove all visible fat. Not perfect, but you will know that you are making a bit of a difference.

Celery is of course the Work of the Evil One anyway. :smiley: As for other veggies and lentils and so on, perhaps you will find that you start to experiment more with the use of garlic, herbs, etc.
(Now I am going to avoid even going back to look at your OP again to check whether my post makes any sense in context because I strongly suspect it will make me hungry for all the bad stuff.) :smiley:

All that apart, as your shopping habits change, you might be able to convince yourself that the healthy food you already have in the kitchen is preferable to the other food you would have to go out for, or await delivery of. Mustn’t take too much time away from the Dope just to go grocery shopping, you know.

Oh. apologies that this is not strictly addressing the OP, but this is sometimes quite a useful site if you want to put yourself off a particular food, or convince yourself that something is good.


(And you can, if you feel so moved, drive yourself mad with stuff about carbs, fat, protein, GI load, etc).

Note - I am in no way at all qualified to comment other than merely being something of a slob with unhealthy habits who has been changing a bit lately.

In fact, I wonder if we should have a thread for those of us with rather bad food habits and a bit of will to change, but to change without undue suffering. :slight_smile: It would probably belong not here, but in Café Society, though.

Good luck with your new eating plan. :slight_smile:

You have a mental block, before you even begin. From your own op

You’ve got an idea in your head, and you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s something most people do, but you need to look at how you’re thinking as well as what you’re eating.

The “go vegetarian” diet may not be for you. I know I’d kill someone if I was forced to go veggie, because I’m a consummate carnivore. So work with what you know and you like. Start with small changes. Martin Hyde has some great suggestions. Increase your intake of lean “white” meats such as fish and chicken. Beef isn’t great because it can have more saturated fat, but if you love steak that’s no need to cut it out completely.

Once a week, get yourself a lean cut of steak (no visible marbling/minimal fat cap). Trim off the fat from the edge and grill in a George Forman grill so no fat is used in cooking. Serve it with some steamed or roast veggies (I roast veggies using olive oil spray. Only a tiny spray, some sprinkled herbs and you’ve got great roast veg with barely any fat).

If you don’t have a GF grill, perhaps look into getting one of the small ones. I don’t have one personally, but the people on the dope who do have them seem to sing their praises. And you don’t just have to use them for meat. If you get a ridge grill, you can “char” griddle your veg for some interesting flavours/appearances. But you can use them for chicken, for lean steak and for “meatier” cuts of fish like tuna steaks. Because they’re non-stick, there is little to no fat needed for cooking.

If you really feel the need to go veggie, just remember that grains and pulses are cheap and filling. Grilled field mushrooms (the big ones) with garlic and grain mustard are damned tasty. Have it with a salad that’s got cracked wheat, lentils or chickpeas in for bulk and texture. If you’re going veggie but not vegan, eggs are good for you - not all the time, but a couple of times a week. So make an omelette in a non-stick pan, fill it with tomatoes and onions, mushrooms, spinach - whatever veg you like. Sprinkle in a little cheese for extra flavour. Or make a frittata, there’s some killer ones that use sliced potato/sweet potato and other veggies to bulk them out. One frittata could feed you for a couple of meals, sliced up and again served with salad.

Look into Indian and other South-East Asian foods. There’s a lot of vegetarian options, and lots of lean foods - steamed fish and veg, served with rice with spicy sauces for flavour.

Learn to love chilli, garlic, other herbs and spices. Take some white rice. Pretty blah on its own. Chop some fresh herbs, maybe a bit of garlic and stir through whilst the rice is still steaming hot. The two end-products are worlds away from each other in flavour and palatability.

In the end it’s all about perception. You really do need to be excited about the food you’re eating. If you see a plate of veggies and go “Jesus. Look at all this rabbit food” you’re going to get fed up and go for a burger or a pizza. But if you look at a plate of veggies and can go “Great, I’ve got all the fixings here for a rockin’ stir-fry. Let’s just get some garlic and chilli going in the wok and we’ll be on!” then you’re going to have a lot more success in the long run.

I wish you luck in your endeavours to become more healthy. Remember - small changes are easiest to maintain and last the longest.

Food isn’t what is bad for you. Eating food for reasons other than dietary necessity is what is bad for you. A subsistence level diet of a variety of foods is dietary necessity. Everything other than that is what makes modern humans larger, fatter, and more prone to food and diet related disorders. It also makes them less prone to other health problems which used to predominate in the “reasons people die” range of troubles.

Of course, not eating some particular type of food is just as likely to cause dietary disorders as any other maladaptive eating behavior. Modern humans don’t get hungry, don’t eat because they are hungry. They eat because they are sad, or lonely, or socializing, or not socializing, or rebelling against perceived authority, or whatever. So, they eat stuff they don’t need to eat, or don’t eat stuff they do.

Eliminate the non dietary reasons that you eat. Or, just don’t worry about it. Fat, sedentary self indulgent modern man outlives healthy noble savage man by an entire “natural” life span.


Thanks everyone for all the many helpful comments!

I just ate a delicious Chinese meal a couple of hours ago. It was called Sizzle Plate Seafood Combo and only cost $10.50. Yummy food!!!

I’ve been thinking. If a guy takes one or two asprins a day and still eats like a slob (the way I do), then all that blood-thining should counter all the bad stuff. In theory I should think it would, right?

That works just as well as my theory that: A) muscles get stronger from exercise. B) Your heart is a muscle. C) Fatty foods clog your arteries, causing blood to be harder to pump. Therefore, fatty foods make your heart stronger from all the extra exercise. :smiley:

Actually, yes!

Except then it gets too big and you get myocardial hypertrophy and your heart-muscles get so big that all of the space in the heart is taken up and your cardiac output decreases and you die.

But if you’re cool with that…


The only weight problem I have is that I don’t have enough of it. That being said, I am very surprised that spices aren’t encouraged more when doing diet modifications. One of my favorite things is Sticky Chicken, which is a slow roasted chicken coated in nothing but spices. It uses no oil, no butter, nothing but chicken, spices and an onion. I’ve got another recipe for a balsamic vinegar chicken dish that uses 1/3 cup of oil for the whole chicken.

I once was overweight and tried the Atkins Diet. I was surprised at how quickly it became difficult for me to eat as much as I used to. Heck, we used to buy a dozen donuts and eat the dozen easily between two people. In a moment of weakness, I sent my husband up to get me the most disgusting donut available and I could only eat about two bites before I felt stuffed to the gills.

We are so accustomed to huge portions that we really have no concept of what a normal amount of food is. My husband is a constant grazer and always struggles with his weight. I am amazed at what he can consume in a day. Heck, he probably eats more before noon than I do all day. But then he worries about eating things like ice cream or other junky stuff. I try to tell him that if he ate reasonable amounts, he would be able to eat those things without feeling guilt about and truly be able to eat it. I’m also trying to introduce more healthy things into his diet that actually taste good, without being such complete trash. IMHO, the way to do that is with spices.

If you have ever eaten Indian food, they certainly have the corner on the market when it comes to spices, and vegetarianism is very common there. Perhaps those things would be more appealing to you if you tried them in the context of the culture that they came from, or experimented with a cuisine that closely mirrors the diet you wish to emulate.

There are many websites devoted to cooking. Many offer reviews and variations on the recipes (I like allrecipes.com because of the amount of reviews) that give great examples of how to modify a recipe to accomodate things such as taste preference, diet restrictions, allergies, etc.

Don’t give up, get creative. :slight_smile:

Exactly. Besides, I’ve been a vegetarian since the early '90s and I don’t feel deprived; I also don’t eat a mix of celery and oats for meals. :stuck_out_tongue: I eat a lot of highly spiced food, from cuisines like Indian, Chinese, and Thai for starters. But if you don’t want to be a vegetarian, then I’d say don’t bother with it. I’m a big fan of the magazine Cooking Light - not a veg magazine; my husband is an omnivore who needs to lower his blood pressure and cholesterol - and they have delicious recipes in there, for both meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters. If you keep approaching eating healthy as being “ew, it’s awful food and I wanna eat delicious food, this sucks!” you are setting yourself up to fail, to “prove” you were right and fall back to your old habits.

Regarding aspirin’s “blood thinning” effect - first of all, ask a doctor before doing something like adding a daily aspirin (and when they do recommend it, they only recommend one. not two), and second, that’s not to lower cholesterol, it’s to help prevent a blood clot. That won’t do much if you get a blood vessel that plugs up near-completely, or start having effects of high BP. Plus, you might be someone who needs diet, exercise, and medication to keep BP and/or cholesterol under control. That was the case with my husband, who after a year of diet and exercise alone, found that yes, he had a genetic component to it (his father lied about not being on a cholesterol reducer!), his tests came out about the same, and he had to go on meds.

Got to chime in -

Some people are grazers, some people are gorgers. I am a grazer so the 3 meals doesnt work for me, I prefer to eat smaller amounts more frequently [which also being diabetic is advisable.]

I have got to mention onetouchgold.com as a menu plan resource. Granted it is technically oriented towards diabetics, but it is free and you dont haveto be diabetic to join, and they give you menu plans for all your meals and snacks by the month [and you can go and sub in different meals if one doesnt work out for you, like disliking mushrooms or salmon.] You can print out your menu plan and shopping list, and it is all fairly easy food to cook. It makes the menu plan for 1 person, and if you are a couple you just multiply out the recipe for teh number f portions you want.

That’s one LOW DOSE (81 mg) aspirin tablet in most cases.

Yep, I know this has now been said already, but, well why not. I hope you are joking about the two aspirin daily (and I rather think you are, in which case, poor little me is a bit whoooshed), but unless you want to rip your stomach lining to bits*remember that when good effects of aspirin are promised it’s about 75mg (what I’ve seen suggested here in the U.K.) or probably **Ginger ** has it right too.

  • Not a technical term. :slight_smile:

My dad became a vegetarian when he met my stepmom - in middle age. First meal I ate at their place was gorgeous, filling, tasty beyond anything my mom ever made. All vegetarian. It was delicious because my dad spent the time to find great recipes that were tasty as well as healthy. He’s been gone since '01 and I miss his wonderful soups and stews and delicious food. It was because of his cooking that I became interested in cooking.

Several years ago, after having finished my MA, I realized that I’d put on 20 lbs that didn’t belong on me. I have also been reading a lot about diet and health. I resolved to change my ways. First change - ditch white bread and go for whole grain. It took a while. Some whole grain breads taste like dust. However, some are absolutely delicious. Now I never buy white bread but for the occasional baguette to have with Italian food.

I switched to 2% and then 1% milk and found it was fine.

I also quit buying high-fat foods. Period. If they’re not in the house, it’s a pain to go get them. And, like others, I grew to dislike them eventually.

In terms of boring vegetables, some evenings, I got home tired and wanted something fast. I’d nuke a potato and then a dish of carrots and broccoli. I’d grate some sharp cheddar on the potato and have some whole grain bread with it. And you know what? A carrot nuked for a minute or two is delicious! All by itself! If you’re too tired to even work up something like a puree or a soup, you still have a tasty treat but the trick is not to kill the veggies with cooking. A dish of carrots will take 1 1/2 to 2 minutes to cook in the microwave. Oh, and you only need a tiny bit of water - a teaspoon or less is fine (use a covered glass dish to cook them in).

I also kept trying soy things until I found soy milk I like. I had tried tofu that I hated - a lot of it. Finally I bought some and fixed it myself with peppers, onions, and mushrooms sauteed in a little olive oil. I realized that what I hated about soy was soy cooked to where the outside was tough and chewy - lightly sauteeing it was way tastier.

And so it went. It takes time to find healthy food you like but it’s there and when you find it, it’s grand. And of course what the others said about becoming familiar with international cuisines is a really good idea.

Well, those same brains invented atomic and chemical weapons so they aren’t always used for good :stuck_out_tongue:

I used to feel rotten in the morning. Most mornings. I also had a lot more digestive troubles than I do. Not that I had a major condition or anything, but definitely switching away from lots of grease and that kind of crud has really made me feel better. And the thing is that I love the stuff I’m eating. It’s not as though I’m choking it down unhappily!

In terms of fullness, I do find that I need a bit of protein and sometimes some bread at meals. I think potatoes are grand; even though they do have a high glycemic rating, they are the most filling food, according to the Satiety Index, they’re still relatively low-cal as foods go, and, at least in my case, they go a long way to helping me keep my weight and BMI at ideal levels.

Bottom line; think of embarking on vegetarianism as a voyage into a new world of food delights. As for boring ol’ celery, you can even find tasty recipes for it, like
this beet and celery Salad :slight_smile:

As to why we seem to be attracted to foods that are unhealthy, it’s a matter of degree, and the relative availability in nature.

First, it’s not true that we are attracted to all the things that are bad for us. The things that are truly, horribly bad, we are disgusted by. One obvious example is spoiled or rotting food, the smell of which is nauseating. We also find plants that we derive no nourishment at all from – grass, bark, etc. – unappealing.

The things we love that are bad for us are all things that are difficult to get in nature: fats and sugars. If you’re a hunter-gatherer, what are your sources of sugar? Ripe fruit and maybe honey. Most of the time you can’t get either one, and it’s difficult to ingest enough ripe fruit and honey to give you high triglycerides unless you can get them at the supermarket. Fat – in fact, any meat – requires a high output of energy to obtain in nature. Much wild game is also fairly lean. So our bodies have evolved to tell us to eat as much fat and sugar as we can get, and have also evolved to be able to store that for use later.

Plants that are good for us are what we would probably eat most of the time anyway since they are easy to get. They don’t run away and they don’t try to bite or kick. So while we will eat them we don’t need to crave them.

To look at it another way, imagine two tribes of early humans, pretty much identical except that one likes sugar and fat and the other one does not. The first tribe will have more energy and will have stored resources in times of famine. The other one will not bother to work for the fat and sugar sources and will be easily defeated by the first and/or will likely starve in hard times.

Another factor, of course, is that the bad effects of excess sugar and fat that we experience don’t affect us in youth, they affect us in middle or old age. In pre-modern times, people were more likely to die of other diseases or injuries long before they got clogged arteries.

I just want to link to a seafood guide from the only magazine I subscribe to, Eating Well - The Eating Well Seafood Guide

And I also put in a vote for making diet changes small, to avoid feeling restricted. I went on WW 6 years ago - and today, I am thinner, actually tasting the food (instead of the grease), and cooking more, which I love.