Place a cut grapefruit in front of me, and I can smell its tangy sweetness and see each juicy, ripe section, brilliant pink in color.
This combo makes me start to salivate, sending signals throughout my body, preparing it for digestion. Food should be just as equally appealing to these other overlooked senses as to our taste buds.
The Japanese know this and instinctively design their meals to appeal to all the senses, not just the obvious one. When you enjoy your meal with all your senses, you are more satisfied and this may help you avoid reaching for seconds.
Is anybody else tired of grossed out co-workers asking, “What is that?” or having to hide their breakfast smoothies in opaque bottles when in public? How does that help us lead by example? I’d much rather have someone look at my fruit salad and say, “I wish that was my lunch,” versus, “You must have so much self-discipline!”
Here are some tricks that you can apply to your own meals:
1. Eat fresh fruit. Nature has designed it to be beautiful to us. Ripe fruit is colorful and plump, the perfect human food. It requires minimal to no preparation. Even cut up, fruit retains its beauty, and, in the case of star fruit or blood oranges, it can be even more beautiful. Mono-meals of fruit are already perfect. Make fruit salads colorful, but use complimentary colors (e.g. purple and yellow) or analogous colors (red, orange, yellow) for the greatest visual appeal.
2. Avoid brown smoothies. When you add greens to a smoothie, let the green shine through by pairing with light-colored fruits (think apple or banana). Or, add enough dark fruit (aka blueberries) to mask the green, and let that fruit’s color dominate. I’m probably not the only one who loves making smoothies that are a vivid, emerald green (try orange and kale). I’ll put them in a glass jar and show them off anywhere – they are a great ice-breaker! It’s the sludgy, brown smoothies that I don’t take out of the house.
3. Color-combine properly when blending. Think elementary school – red plus yellow equals orange. A little concentration on your color usage here can result in a jewel-colored smoothie that makes people ask you to bring the refreshments at the next meeting. Strawberries + pear = pretty pink. Papaya + mango = rich orange. This also applies to blended soups or salad dressings.
4. Play with texture. When chopping and tossing fruits and veggies such as in salads and soups, add punch by using textures that are either similar, complimentary, or contrasting. Crisp diced apple might overwhelm soft banana slices, but that same banana might pair well with juicy pear. And mashed ripe persimmon might be perfect on top of the diced apple. Texture can also be looked at in terms of size. Right now, I’m digging chopped salads where all the ingredients, including greens, are roughly the same size. This salad will taste entirely different than a salad made with the same ingredients but whole leaves, cherry tomatoes, and differing chunky sizes of bell peppers and mushrooms.
5. Eat the rainbow. You’ve heard this one before – color variety means nutrient variety. But, it also appeals to our eyes, setting the stage for a satisfying meal. When you make your dinner salad (because I know this is a routine part of your life by now, right?), try to pull out an ingredient for every major color. Red tomatoes, orange bell pepper, yellow squash, green kale, blue/purple cabbage. When you go grocery shopping, try to make your cart colorful – just make sure you know how to prepare any new items so they don’t mold at the back of the fridge! At the very least, balance the green of your salad with a vibrant color like red, orange, or yellow.
Using these strategies doesn’t have to take time, and you don’t even have to learn how to plate your meals. The point is not to turn you into a neurotic eater who can only eat complimentary colors. I want you to realize that you have full control over what you make.
Try this week to take an extra couple of seconds to think about how each meal looks and how you could improve it with these tweaks. Pretty soon, you will have your favorite color combinations just like you have favorite flavor combinations and this will become second nature.