Enjoy the taste of eating right

To encourage more people to eat more foods that are good for their health, nutrition experts are focusing on the enjoyment of flavors first; then the nutrient benefits. “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” is the 2014 theme for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ National Nutrition Month.

“When taste is the most influential factor driving what consumers eat, it is important that we find the balance between choosing the foods we like with those that provide the nutrients we need,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy President Dr. Glenna McCollum. “This year’s ‘Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right’ theme reinforces that the two choices are not mutually exclusive.”

Win-win of taste and health

If you love the taste of roasted Brussels sprouts, steamed shrimp, grilled flank steak, baked butternut squash, and even a morning latte with frothed skim milk — then you’re right on track with healthy eating goals that please your taste buds, your heart health and your waistline.

Craving bacon? Choose center-cut bacon, which is lower in fat than regular bacon and has 20 percent fewer calories. South Florida chef Michelle Bernstein says, “It’s about making smart choices. I add a little ham hock to collard greens, and you only need a quarter strip of bacon to add a lot of flavor when cooking a big pot of vegetables.”

Play with your food

What about the youngest and often toughest critics? Registered dietitian Liz Weiss, co-author of “No Whine With Dinner” and co-founder of www.mealmakeovermoms.com, says, “Kids are hard wired to play, so when it comes to food, the enjoyment factor goes up tenfold when they’re given permission to, well, play with their food.”

To encourage children to enjoy eating more fruits and vegetables, Weiss recommends setting up a smoothie bar complete with toppers — frozen berries, bananas and even sprinkles — and let the kids blend up their own.

She suggests parents turn the kitchen into a pizza parlor. Lay out whole-wheat pita bread rounds and things such as sauteed onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and baby spinach. “The more fun children have with food, the more they’ll enjoy, and learn to love, the taste of eating right,” Weiss says.

Don’t over-enjoy

What if you really enjoy ice cream and cake? Then the topic turns to portion control. Proposed new Food and Drug Administration rules for food labels include a plan to increase serving sizes to reflect portions commonly eaten. But Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos, authors of “The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure,” are worried, “Our only fear with this change is that it will give people a license to eat more; perhaps they would have only eaten half the muffin before, but now that they see a serving is the entire muffin, they may eat it all.”

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Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and author of “Southern Living: The Slim Down South Cookbook.” Email her at carolyn@carolynoneil.com.