Holiday Eating Strategy # 4: Focus on Flavor

We’ve thought about eating more fat. We know we’ve got to cut the sugar. In addition, we now know that a trip down memory lane is facilitated more by our sense of smell than our sense of taste.

But one last thing we haven’t considered is how to capitalize on taste without compromising on health and several factors that have been mentioned earlier this week will all contribute to this 4th holiday eating strategy.

What contributes to taste?

An article in Popular Science[1] summed it up quite nicely by providing seven bullet points that determine how strong our sense of taste is.

  1. Food Language

People praise food with a descriptive name more than the same food with a lackluster name such as Succulent Italian Seafood Filet instead of Seafood Filet.

  1. Utensils

Spoons made from copper or zinc enhances a food’s apparent saltiness. Researchers suggest further study into how this could help people eat less salt.

  1. Temperature

Warm beer tastes bitterer than cold, cold ham tastes saltier than warm.

  1. Color

Forty-eight percent of participants thought soda in a blue glass were more thirst quenching than in other colors, likely because they associated blue with cold.

  1. Environment

People were asked to describe the qualities of the same Scotch whisky in three rooms themed as grassy, sweet, or woody. They largely responded with “grassy,” “sweet,” or “woody,” respectively.

  1. Expectations

After sampling, French sommeliers liked wine poured from a high-priced bottle over the same wine poured from a cheap one.

  1. Memory

Recalling a positive memory about eating vegetables will make a present experience with them more enjoyable (and you’ll take a bigger portion too).

Simply taking the time to consider all seven factors also indirectly buys you those few extra moments of mindfulness which could also result in less likelihood of making poor food choices as well, for what it’s worth.

So we’ve got all these factors to play with, but when we get down to the actual food we’re going to eat, how do all these added things to think about come into practical application?

Isn’t it still going to be tough to turn down the stuffing, the mashed potatoes and the pecan pie?

Not as much as you might think.

If you’ve planned your day and have been keeping your blog sugar balanced by making sure to eat enough fat and protein with your veggies, you’re ahead of the game.

Then, since you’re also hitting the nostalgia angle by literally inhaling that kettle of steaming spiced cider on the stove, you’ve got one more box to tick off in terms of accomplishing one of the main focal points of the holidays: spending time with those you love, whether here in body or spirit.

But you’re hardly going to just not eat the lovely food being offered to you at the holiday table or offer your guests dishes uncharacteristic of the season if you’re hosting.

The key is to focus on the flavors of each and every dish in its traditional form and take those with you as you recreate your own healthier version.

Take all the herbs and spices from a standard stuffing recipe and sauté up a dish of wild mushrooms with sage, onion, rosemary, minced onion and celery, add some chicken broth and a bit of red wine and reduce it.

Nix the heavy, starchy mashed potatoes with roux-based pan gravy and swap it out for cauliflower mash doused in pan jus from the grass fed standing rib roast you’ve served.

Forget the sweet potato pie with marshmallow and whip up a yam casserole with sautéed golden delicious apples on top followed by a handful of toasted pecans.

And these three examples are just the tip of the iceberg!

By making the best choices you can, at each and every meal or opportunity to eat during this holiday season, by being mindful and incorporating just a hint of forethought, you’ll set yourself up for successful holiday eating all December long.

Chose the splurges you’re going to partake of, plan accordingly in advance and when you do have a treat, pick the healthiest option of it to create the best-case scenario for your mind and your body.

What a better way to ring in the New Year already feeling great and without having put on the usual extra pounds?

With a little confidence and consistency you may even find this eating style suits you so well you’ll welcome in 2016 a bit leaner, slimmer and ready to make it your best year yet!

[1] Williams, Amber. “7 Factors That Change Your Sense Of Taste.” Popular Science. Popular Science, 5 Mar. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015