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December 21, 2016
Breaking Down the Barriers to Healthy Eating and Finding Our Inner Chef
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What stops us from eating healthy? We know what “healthy” foods are. But the leap between dietary knowledge and healthy cooking and eating is a big one. Today I want to talk about some tips to help bridge the gap between the two.

What stops us from cooking and eating healthy? According to Sara Haas RDN LDN, it comes down to the 3 Ts. Time, Tedium, and Terror.

TIME: Cooking takes time! We are busy people. I can’t prepare a healthy dinner if the food isn’t in the fridge at home. If I didn’t get a chance to go to the grocery store this week, the food won’t be waiting in my fridge. Moreover, if I didn’t plan out what I want to cook for the week I won’t know what I want to buy at the store.

TEDIUM: All of the tasks listed above are tedious. They are like laundry, they aren’t fun and they’re never complete. Meal planning and grocery shopping aren’t fun. Also, there is an assumption for some of us that healthy food doesn’t taste good, and is a chore to eat.

TERROR: For those of us who are not kitchen savvy, cooking can be terrifying. The fear or burning food, mixing new and strange spices and flavors, and trying new textures can be daunting. This fear alone is enough to keep us out of the kitchen.

Now there are solutions for the 3 Ts! Haas discusses that there are also 3 empowering ways that we can fight against these barriers. They are: Preparation, Positivity, and Practice. She also emphasizes that individuals are most successful with these when they have help! So enlist the help of a support group or your dietitian when embarking on your new crusade in the kitchen.

PREPARATION: Meal prep takes time! Carve the time out during your week to plan your meals and grocery shop. This will save time and money. Dining out and fast food can quickly empty a pocketbook. Another idea with meal prep is to make extra servings. If you are making 2 servings, make 4. Having leftovers for a weekday lunch is always a great idea to save money and time.

POSITIVITY: Nobody is perfect, and we learn through mistakes! If the chicken is burnt one time, the next time you make the dish you know how long not to cook it!

PRACTICE: Culinary genius is like any other skill. It takes practice! Try one or two new recipes a week, and try some simple recipes for starters. (See the fish foil packet at the end of the blog).  For example, if you have never cooked meat before, don’t make turducken as your first culinary endeavor (this is a deboned chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey. How this is possible, I have no idea!).

Here are some practical takeaway tips that Sara Haas has to make healthy eating a positive experience:

Your tools are Flavor, Texture, Color and Appearance

Imagine a plate of just chicken and broccoli. How does it look? 

Personally, I could eat steamed broccoli and chicken for one meal. But if my health depended on this boring, unseasoned, not-so-appetizing looking meal repeatedly, I would go right back to my old cheeseburger-laden eating habits.

Let’s discuss the tools above, and how they can improve a dish like the one above.


Flavor goes a long way. If a dish tastes great we will eat more of it. Incorporating herbs, spices, and acids like vinegars or lemon juice into your dish can add extra flavor to quality healthy ingredients.

 Herbs: These are the fresh leaves of the plant. They are fragrant and should be added after the dish is cooked, as they can be damaged by heat. They can also be used in a dried form.

                Sweet herbs: basil, mint, and tarragon

                Savory herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, rosemary, tarragon, parsley, sage, thyme, and oregano

Spices: These are the dried bark, bulb, root, stem, or seed or leaf of the plant. They can be added in the beginning or the middle of the cooking process.

                Sweet: allspice, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric

Savory:black pepper, cayenne, paprika, celery seed, cumin, fennel, curry powder, turmeric, mustard seed

Acids: These make excellent replacements for salt

Citrus fruits: orange, lemon, lime

 Vinegar: red wine, white wine, balsamic


Texture fatigue within a meal is a real thing. Breaking up the texture of the dish can also make the meal more appetizing. You may top the chicken and broccoli with some toasted sesame seeds to give it some crunch or add a tablespoon of sunflower seeds atop a green salad. Adding a different texture to a dish is a great way to make it more exciting.


We all know we eat with our eyes! Thankfully many healthy foods (fresh produce: fruits and vegetables) are brightly colored. Adding these items to your plate will add color, and make your meal colorful and appetizing.


I am not a chef and I really don’t know how to plate food like they do on the Food Network. The lucky part is, I don’t need to! Haas recommends keeping things simple. Small garnishes of colorful fruits or vegetables on a dish can go a long way.

Let’s put our tips into practice with a tasty, appetizing, and SIMPLE recipe from To prepare for this, I would make sure I have the necessary ingredients in my house. Although there are only 2 people in my house, I will make all 4 servings that this recipe yields (leftovers = healthy lunch for tomorrow). The other modification I will make, is that since salmon is a fatty fish, I would reduce the amount olive oil that the recipe calls for.

Overall, this is a GREAT starter chef recipe. It is beautiful, andeasy. It uses spices, herbs, and acid just like we discussed above! It is also colorful, and features different textures of food with the salmon and veggies. Also, with only 6 ingredients, it is a wonderful recipe for a new chef. Enjoy, and good luck with your journey to cooking and eating the delicious, healthy food you always wanted to!

Haas S. Culinary Strategies to Increase Compliance with Dietary Guidelines. Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo. December 2016

Written by Andy Miller

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