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8 Steps to a Healthy Relationship with Food

By Vanessa Rodriguez

Many nutritionist and dietitians focus on explaining what and when to eat. But not many emphasize where and how.

real foodFood is much more than calories or fuel. It’s an emotional connection, a bonding experience, and a relationship that needs to stay healthy for the sake of both our minds and our bodies. Below are some steps to help ensure that your relationship with food is a positive one.

1. Eat real food.
Trust nature and pick foods that your grandmother would recognize. Although grocery stores can be filled with modified food-like substances such as processed, packaged, or frozen products, try to stick to things that grow from the land. If it doesn’t grow, avoid it.

2. Prepare real food.
Food preparation should involve your sense of touch. Take the time to wash and chop and feel your food. This helps establish a sense of connection and ownership. Learn exactly what ingredients are included in the meals you eat, and don’t be afraid to take pleasure in working with them. Meal preparation is often seen as a chore, but there is something to be said about the tactile pleasure of kneading dough or slicing fresh vegetables.

3. Eat at a table.
Respect your food enough to place it at a table, physically sit down in front of it, and eat without distractions. Set the time apart to make your table an intimate part of your family routine. This should be a place where your family can gather and approach with anticipation. Use this spot to enjoy the company of good friends over great meals.

4. Experiment with finger foods.
As often as you can, skip the fork. Chop fresh fruits and vegetables that you can hold and look at while you’re eating. This visual and physical connection will help you appreciate every bite. It will encourage your senses to experience different shapes and textures, boosting the satisfaction you derive from food.

5. Eat common food differently.
Try taking a cucumber slice and nibbling around the rim until the circle gets smaller and all that is left are the soft seeds in the center. Or slice the cucumber lengthwise instead of the usual way. Put an orange piece in your mouth and try to maneuver the seeds out with your tongue while leaving most of the skin intact. Eat a soft pear with a spoon. Or peel a lime like an orange.

Breaking the “normal” rules will help you see food in a different light and may reignite some excitement for what used to be boring foods.

6. Appreciate your food.
Whether or not you pray before a meal, take a few seconds to sit still and think about where the food in front of you came from. Remember that someone had to grow it, tend it, and prepare it. If it didn’t come from a factory, it came from a living plant or breathing animal that should be acknowledged and appreciated.

7. Chew your food.
Not only is this good for digestion, but it allows you to really taste what you’re eating. Processed food manufacturers spend a lot of money trying to figure out how to make things taste good, but the interesting thing is that a lot of natural, whole foods already DO taste good. We’re just not taking the time to roll them around our tongues.

The amazing thing about your tongue is that your taste buds are constantly regenerating themselves. In two weeks from now, you will have none of the taste buds that are currently in your mouth. This means that our taste buds can become more refined.

Before I started eating whole foods, I could not tell the difference between some food products. Now if I eat ketchup, I can actually taste the sugar in it. Sometimes I can taste when something contains white sugar or a sweetener. You’ll be amazed at the difference chewing can make to enhance your palate.

8. Share your food.
If at all possible, don’t eat alone. Good food should be accompanied by a sense of community and mutual affection, prepared with love. We feel bonded to the people we share our food with. And don’t eat with people you hate. It’s bad for digestion.

Vanessa Rodriguez is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and an online editor for She is an avid ultra-distance trail runner and you can follow her at

This article originally appeared on — your source for event information, training plans, expert advice, and everything you need to connect with the sport you love.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.