The Obstacle Meter – 16: Palatability

16: Palatability

Healthy food does not taste good and/or is monotonous to me.

When most people think of healthy eating their minds tend to gravitate towards grilled chicken breast and broccoli, baked fish and peas or lots of salads.  If this is your definition of healthy then count me as one of the people saying that healthy food does not taste good.  But the thing of it is healthy food does not have to be monotonous and boring!  We ask that you do two things to reorient yourself in terms of healthy food:

1) change your definition for what is and is not healthy to include more than just salads and chicken breast.

2) allow yourself to include high-carb and high-fat meals into your diet plan.

We agree that if your diet is too restrictive you are not going to like it and you are definitely not going to stick with it.  There are a number of other suggestions on how to ensure that your diet is not bland.


Variety: when deciding the meals to make for the week, you must build variety into your menu. Have a few categories of dinners you can make such as chicken, fish, ground turkey, pork, pasta, vegetarian or a casserole.  No one wants to eat salads or grilled chicken breasts every day.

Research: take the time to search the internet and cookbooks for new recipes to try.  You will find that some of the recipes are real duds but when you do find a good recipe it is like gold.  You can incorporate it into your repertoire and meal planning has just gotten a little easier for you.

Ask Your Friends and Family for Their Favorite Recipes: they probably have some healthy recipes that they love and are willing to share.  Some of my favorites are Zesty Quinoa Salad and Black Bean Salad.  A friend of mine introduced me to the Black Bean Salad and I have passed this recipe on many, many times.  My wife found the Zesty Quinoa Salad recipe after purchasing a similar dish at Whole Foods.  We did not like having to pay such an astronomical price for such a simple dish, so we tried a few quinoa recipes and found an absolute winner.  More likely than not your friends and family will love sharing recipes they like with you because it gives them the opportunity to brag about all the great recipes they have found/discovered.

Allowance: do not cut out your favorite foods. Make goals about portion sizes and how often to eat them.  For example, I love brats, burgers, and pizza but they cannot become mainstays of my diet.  During the summer these are every other week or every third week items.

Smart Shopping: at the grocery store, take time to pick out the best fresh produce. Choose what is in season.  Have you every bit into a kiwi, apple or mango that is so rock solid that you thought you were going to break a tooth?  Well, I certainly have and sometimes this is even after I have tried allowing the fruit to ripen.  Choosing foods that are in season is a wise decision.

Meal Kits and Delivery: there are many grocery stores and companies that create healthy meals and package them as a kit, ready for simple assembly. These are created by professional chefs and they would not be in business if they did not taste good!  These meal kits are typically pretty portion controlled to help the company keep costs down and this has the added benefit of helping you not go overboard on the number of calories you consume during a meal.


Spices: spices are the key to flavor and variety. Experiment with different ethnic cuisines that use spices that you are not used to.  There is no doubt that some dishes with relatively simple ingredients become great with the right spice combination.

Fat: you do not have to cut out fat, it is important for making meals taste good. Just be mindful of how much you use.  If you throw an entire stick of butter in a dish, it will probably taste amazing but remember, fat is energy dense (9 calories/gram) compared to protein and carbohydrate (4 calories/gram) so fat calories will add up relatively quickly.

Substitute: find lower calorie options that can be substituted in your favorite recipes, without compromising taste. Check out our list(s) below. You may not like all of them, but you may find a few that you cannot tell the difference.  Also, be aware when substituting full fat products for reduced fat products as oftentimes they will have different fat contents but similar calories.  The low-fat product typically has carbohydrate added in to make up for the taste difference.  Finally, some products may be lower in calories (fat and carbs lowered or removed) but higher in sodium.  Sugar, fat, and salt are a chef’s best friend, make sure to keep your eye on each of these.

Portions: you can include all the foods you normally would but watch the portions of your higher calorie items (anything containing fat or cooked in fat).  Be sure to also be aware of your problem foods, i.e. the foods that you tend to eat too much of, this includes snacks and not just meals.  You can really eat unlimited fruits and vegetables as they do not contain very many calories.  I challenge you to try to meet your caloric needs one day just eating fruits and vegetables.  This exercise is not to cleanse or detoxify your body or to make you go crazy from the monotony, rather it is to show you that fruits and veggies barely contain any calories, even the so-called starchy ones.  Sugars, grains, and fats are where are calories tend to come from.

Colors: you eat with your eyes. If it looks beautiful, it will be more satisfying.  Although a Popeyes Chicken Dinner basket may taste good at the time, what color is it?  That’s right, brown, brown, and brown.  You want to talk about monotony?  Yikes.

Method: choose cooking methods that do not use extra fat in cooking. For example, choose steaming, roasting, baking, grilling, and boiling over frying or sautéing.

Toppings: choose low calorie condiments and toppings. Add lemon, vinegar, ketchup, salsa, hot sauce or mustard.  Also think about using light versions of your favorite condiments if they save you calories and don’t sacrifice taste.


Substituting one food or ingredient out for another is a common way to improve your health, reduce your calories or both.  Here are a few suggestions that you can take or leave as you wish.

insert food and ingredient substitution tables here.