Is Food Your Enemy or Is Food Your Friend?

On September 5, 2016, Quartz, an online news service said the following in one of its articles:

Research suggests the biggest influence on a person's opinion of a particular food is how they "expect" it will taste. Giving fun, enticing names to healthy foods increases the desire to try them. Why not call broccoli "broccoli bites" or carrots "X-ray vision carrots"? Renaming foods to make them sound more appealing resulted in an increase in the sale of vegetables in the school cafeteria by 27 percent.

I can relate to that statement. While I am a very discriminate shopper in the grocery store and I read the labels of anything with a label before buying it, I can still relate to being attracted to products by how they are packaged and by what they are called. Before I went whole food, plant-based, I probably wouldn't have picked up broccoli in the grocery store, but broccoli bites, well that's a different story!

In fact, I know that because, while I was never a broccoli fan in the old days (although I eat it at practically every meal now), one day when I was shopping in the store for our groceries, I noticed something called Broccolini. I had never had Broccolini before nor had I heard of it before. So, even though I would never buy broccoli back then, I put the Broccolini in my cart and purchased it.

In other words, marketing psychology works, and the fact is, what we like and how we do something can be affected a lot by how we think about it. And that's true with whole food, plant-based eating as well.

We can take a negative approach to eating WFPB or we can take a positive approach. A negative approach focuses on the foods we don't eat. It makes food our enemy. We all know people, perhaps you are one, who when asked about what a whole food, plant-based diet is, they launch into saying that we eliminate all meat, dairy, fish, oil, processed foods. And some people even make it more restrictive and say SOS-free, that is no sugar, oil, and salt either. To a carnivore or a person on the standard American diet (SAD), that can't sound and it doesn't sound very appetizing. It can be hard to win converts when that's your message.

Even telling a person the remarkable results that you have achieved doesn't make the diet anymore appetizing. It sounds extreme. I know because I knew about Dr. Dean Ornish and Nathaniel Pritikin for decades before I ever went whole food, plant-based. And I looked at what they had to say as being very extreme and not practical. I read Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book, Eat to Live, over a decade ago and had the same reaction. I read the book and when I finished it, I said to my wife that I didn't believe there was anybody in the world who actually ate the way described in that book.

Focusing on the elimination of so many different foods is making food your enemy. I think there's a better approach. I think we can make food our friend. And when we do, not only does our diet sound more appealing and less extreme to others, but it puts us in a frame of mind that results in our eating healthier.

So, how do we make food our friend? Simply by focusing on what we do eat as opposed to what we don't eat. In a way, it's psychological because it doesn't cause us to eat what we shouldn't. We still don't eat meat, dairy, oil and processed foods. But by focusing on what we do eat, we end up making better choices as well.

For example, and I've actually heard of this happening, when we focus on eliminating foods, we can develop some strange diets, such as a mono diet that focuses solely on eating potatoes as an example. That meets the definition of not eating any animal products, oils or processed foods. But focusing solely on eating one food like that causes us to miss the nutritional benefits of some important foods like dark, leafy greens or cooked mushrooms or onion or cruciferous veggies, etc. etc. In other words, by not focusing on what we do eat, we can miss out on eating some important foods.

But when we think about what we do eat, then we start to think about getting all those foods on a daily basis that provide us the best bang for the buck. We focus on Dr. Fuhrman's G-Bombs (greens, beans, onion, mushrooms, berries and seeds) or Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen.  It makes our diet both healthier and more appetizing.

So, next time somebody asks you about eating WFPB, don't rattle off all the things we don't eat to them. Tell them what we do eat. That's what our way of eating is. It's about eating vegetables, fruit, legumes, in-tact whole grains and nuts and seeds. What could be more delicious! And when we think that way, we eat healthier too. It's a win-win all the way around.