What is good food? (Part 1)

That sounds like a dumb question, but I think it’s time to ask those kinds of questions; the kind of questions that challenge assumptions. So let’s give this a try.

Is good food tasty? Well, there are lots of foods that are tasty that we call junk food (so, not good). And there are lots of foods that are good for you that many would agree don’t taste nice – fish being a highly polarizing example. That said, I would say that most foods that are good for you should taste as good, or better than, junk food.

So, good food should taste good to you. No matter how good a food is for you, you’re unlikely to eat it if you can’t stand the taste. Just keep in mind that the taste of a food is as reliant on its freshness and preparation as it is on anything else. If you turned up your nose at cabbage as a kid, you might not dislike cabbage so much as you dislike overdone cabbage that was boiled into a pale brown mass of mush.

Good food should also make you feel good. Part of that is taste, since that’s a sensual experience. So is smell and sight. Good food should attract you with aromas and appearance. But beyond that, the act of eating should feel fulfilling. Nourishing. Guiltless. When you eat, it should never be furtive. For myself, I have a tendency to bolt junk food, as though I’m going to be caught with it and it might be taken away at any moment.

It’s also important to feel physically well after eating. Apart from avoiding junk food, pay attention to the way different ‘good’ foods make you feel. Bloating or indigestion may result from eating too quickly, or from food sensitivity. Congestion, itching, joint pain or difficulty breathing and swallowing indicate food allergy. Good food should give you energy, but not make you hyper, nor lethargic, nor irritable.

And finally, good food should help you look good. This isn’t just about losing weight and staying healthy. This is about hair, skin, nails, eyes and teeth. This is also about the smell of your breath and your body. Good food makes the best ‘you’ there can be; it makes you glow with good health.

Junk food is easy. Even though there’s a plethora of selection, opting for junk food is a simple decision – you can essentially have the food as soon as you crave it by selecting from the nearest menu. You can be through with your meal before you know if you liked it or not.

By contrast, choosing good food can look daunting to those unused to it. It means not just deciding to eat, but narrowing down what to have and how to prepare it. It means weighing food options against dietary, temporal and logistical constraints. As much as you might prefer to have one thing, you may only have time (or budget) for another.

Starting small and simple can help. You could go the potato route, but I think that’s unrealistic for many people. The concept is sound, though: reduce or eliminate decision making surrounding eating, and keep it plain to divorce want (craving) from need (hunger). See Part 2 for how I’d do it.