Sometimes your own motivation isn’t what stops you from eating healthy, but rather the nags and complaints from the people that expect you to feed them dinner.
Healthy eating is rarely a popular idea, and it’s easy to understand why. What we’ve been told is healthy are boring, steamed, overcooked vegetables and food with no fat, salt or flavor.
So you might find that announcing you’re going to cook healthier can backfire, since no one wants to feel they are being deprived of delicious food.
But those of us familiar with real healthy eating—seasonal, fresh whole foods—know it is actually delicious and much more tasty than the processed junk food that has numbed our taste buds for the past few decades.
So how can we get others to share our enthusiasm?
The psychology of good taste
It turns out that our perception of taste is deeply rooted in psychology. If you believe something you’re going to eat will taste good or bad before you eat it, chances are your experience won’t be too far off from your expectations. We can use this fact to our advantage by priming diners into believing they are about to eat something amazing, not something “healthy.”
Offering delicious rather than healthy food has additional benefits as well. Not only will people be more excited to eat what you serve, it will also help them eat less later on. One study showed that food is more satisfying if it is described as “tasty” rather than “healthy.” This means you and your family will be less hungry overall if you choose the right words when describing your meals.
To get your family excited about your healthy cooking you can use the same tactics copywriters and journalists use to pull us into their writing. Restaurants also use this trick to get you to order the most expensive items on the menu.
The key is to remember that if you’re faced with a table of skeptics you can’t just serve healthy food, you have to sell it.
All great copywriting starts with a captivating headline, and a chef’s headline is the name of the dish or menu item being served. When food is what you’re selling, you want to be as descriptive as possible.
Use colorful words that evoke images of seasonal freshness. For example, “salad” can be a hard sell for dinner, but few people will turn their noses up at “Ginger scented little gem lettuces with grapefruit, hazelnuts and goat cheese.”
When choosing your headline, start with ingredients. Did you find something exceptional at the farmers market? Use the entire name of the item: not just kale, Tuscan kale. If the name of an ingredient isn’t particularly inspiring, you can embellish it with other words that elicit thoughts of freshness or seasonality.
Adjectives to describe healthy foods:
- farm fresh
- late season
Using descriptive words to showcase your ingredients lets eaters know that the meal is special and the experience is valuable. Suddenly those vegetables aren’t so boring.
In addition to ingredients, you can also use descriptive copy to highlight your cooking methods. People enjoy eating meals that they believe were prepared with care using methods that accentuate the food’s flavor. Words that sound like you’ve gone the extra mile in the kitchen can do wonders for making people’s mouths water.
Make an effort to appeal to as many senses as possible, particularly the nose, eyes and palette.
Adjectives to describe cooking methods:
- slow (roasted, cooked, etc.)
- hand (made, tossed, etc.)
Feel free to steal food descriptions from your favorite restaurant menus as well. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, restaurants have this down to an art.
Beyond the headline
Your compelling copy should not stop with your headline. Think about how you will describe your dishes as you are shopping and planning, and when your audience asks what’s for dinner psyche them up about the fabulous meal they’re going to have.
Each time someone asks about what you are cooking it is an opportunity for you to make your food taste better and be more satisfying. Never hesitate to mention what a unique seasonal treat you were able to get your hands on, or the touching back story behind the farm you bought from.
If you want happy diners, what you are serving is less important than how you describe it. If you’re excited about the food you’re preparing, don’t be shy about expressing this to anyone who is willing to listen.
How do you get naysayers to eat healthy food?
Originally published April 21, 2010