Are Healthy and Delicious Mutually Exclusive?
In a meeting yesterday I was asked if Serious Eats does anything in the healthy eating arena. My knee-jerk reaction to that question is usually "No, we're more into "delicious" than we are into "healthy." The meeting ended and I went to meet a friend at a Times Square tapas bar. My thin friend ordered a Francesinha, a triple decker sandwich with layers of melted cheese, ham, and chorizo, that came with terrific fries. I had a poached chicken and asparagus salad (alas, the chicken was dry) and ended up sharing the fries and even having a bite of that amazing, fat-laden sandwich that my friend called the perfect hangover cure. Then it hit me. In my own meandering way, on my better days, I manage to meld "delicious" and "healthy" into a way to eat and live that allows me to derive great pleasure from food while remaining somewhat vigilant about my health. My wife and son would like me to stick around for awhile, and as I am a child of two parents who died much too young Vicky and Will worry a lot about my eating and living habits. They know all too well my propensity for gustatory excess.
So how does one remain dedicated to the delicious while living a healthy lifestyle?
I can't give you a definitive answer because I must admit I struggle to do so much of the time. But when I do succeed here's why:
1. I have a thin wife and son who occasionally give me a hard time about eating too much fried chicken, barbecue, and frozen custard. I tell them it doesn't help when they badger me about over-eating, but I'm lying when I say things like that. Note to Vicky and Will: Keep on me.
2. I subscribe to the late Julia Child's "Everything in moderation, my dear," eating philosophy. On my better days I can order a cheeseburger and fries (if it's a really good cheeseburger and fries) and eat half the cheeseburger and half the fries. For me that works much better than ordering a plate of steamed vegetables and brown rice and feeling deprived the rest of the day because I ate "healthy."
3. Seek out small portions of deliciousness. New York's Shake Shack, which may serve the finest frozen custard in the land, used to have a kiddie-sized cup of its wonderful frozen custard on its menu. That mini-portion allowed me to indulge in my passion for frozen custard without over-indulging. Alas, for some reason they took the kiddie portion off the menu. Note to Shake Shack management: Put the kid portion back on the menu.
4. Order your pizza with less, not extra, cheese. Most pizza has way too much cheese on it. To me, pizza tastes best when it has discreet areas of cheese and sauce on every slice. So I resist the Pizza Hut-inspired impulse to dump more cheese into every component of a pizza meal. Note to Pizza Hut: Don't even think about putting cheese into the Diet Coke.
5. I eat more fruits and vegetables when they taste really good. Eating a spicy and sweet Macoun apple right now when it has just come off the tree represents the perfect intersection of delicious and healthy. And if I'm still hungry I go crazy and have another. The same goes for Sungold and Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes right now in the Northeast. But I don't feel the same way about eating a tomato in January in New York that's been picked green in Florida and gassed to turn red. For some reason those tomatoes don't have the same allure. Note to local family farmers and Farm Aid organizers: Keep at it. We support you.
6. I try not to consume any "wasted" calories. Bad french fries are wasted calories. Half an order of great french fries aren't. This is something I struggle with daily, because at stressful moments all french fries sound (and even taste) great. But that's the stress talking and not the french fries.
I can't preach about this issue because at least fifty per cent of the time I fail in my efforts to straddle the delicious and the healthy. But I'd like to hear from other serious eaters about what they do to eat seriously without compromising their health. This serious eater wants to know.