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How to Enjoy Food More. Hint: Cook More, Eat Less

Can we find satisfaction rushing through a fast food drive thru? Does eating in a fine restaurant increase our enjoyment of food? Does our weight impact how well we savor our food?

In my and others’ experience: Nope, sometimes and yep.

Eating may seem like a popular pastime, but where and how much we consume influences our enjoyment.

Polling over the last several years supports the idea that:

  • Cooking at home is more enjoyable than eating out
  • Enjoyment of eating goes down as our weight goes up

In my personal life, these are conclusions I’ve come to as well. While it’s nice to know I’m part of a trend to realize all of this, I still struggle to overcome obstacles to make healthy changes in my eating habits. One of the primary reasons we created Healthy Midlife was to uncover information that would help influence our health choices. That includes determining what is a healthy diet and making good nutritional decisions.

Let’s see what the research data tells us

Surveys conducted by Rasmussen in January, 2011 and the Pew Research Center in 2006, paints a vivid picture of our eating out habits and our capacity to enjoy food.

  • 73% of people prefer cooking at home over eating at a fine restaurant (Rasmussen)
  • 43% say they are eating out less often (Rasmussen)
  • 48% say they eat fast foods just because it’s convenient with only 16% saying they ate it because they liked it (Rasmussen)
  • 42% say they eat at fast food at least once a week and 12% do so 2 to 3 times a week
  • Only 42% of overweight people say they enjoy eating overall (Pew Research Center)

Based on those numbers, I’m not the only one struggling. While many people seem to prefer home cooked meals, many are still eating out more, even though they enjoy it less.

Now, what to do with the data

For me, the key take away from the data is:

  • Convenience eating at restaurants is not truly satisfying (or healthy)
  • Cooking at home is more enjoyable (added benefit: I can control what I eat)
  • Eating less and losing weight will increase enjoyment of food (along with other health benefit)

Basically, eat less, cook more and we increase our enjoyment of food. Here are some quick ideas I’ve come up with on how to change deep seated eating behaviors and enjoy food more :

Make eating out a special event and not an ordinary occurrence

In bygone days, going out to a restaurant was a special event that we dressed up for. Going out today is such an ordinary part of life that in fine dining places you can easily spot shorts and t-shirts. Getting into the habit of dressing up before going out takes away the convenience factor.

When eating out, eat healthy

Easier said than done. But, avoiding fried foods and choosing lower fat foods that are grilled and broiled is a great start. Avoiding that free bread or chips can have an impact, plus not make us so full as not to enjoy the food we ordered. Order a salad with dressing on the side. Get steamed veggies. I can’t tell you how often I’ve left a restaurant overly full. How enjoyable is that?

Take a cooking class

Check with your local grocery store or community school for cooking classes. We’ve attended some classes at a grocery store and it was a blast. We learned cooking techniques and learned how easy it is to create restaurant style foods. Get gang together and make this a social event.

Make eating at home special and fun

Try new recipes. Turn off the TV, turn on some music. Make cooking a family event.

Those are just 4 quick ideas. Feel free to share your ideas below to add to this list.

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