DAWN CLIFFORD

Gray is the New Black: Rediscovering the Joy of Eating

DAWN CLIFFORD
Gray is the New Black: Rediscovering the Joy of Eating

Here at BodyBLoved, we’re not into the “eat this, not that” message that you’ll find on other health-oriented websites. Our motto is “enjoy food!” Our God is a good God who has provided us with an abundance of flavors and textures just for our enjoyment and delight. 

Labeling food as “good” or “bad” really just sets us up for an internal tug-of-war, feelings of deprivation, emotional binges, and a heaping dose of guilt and shame. So, we’re done labeling food as “healthy” and “unhealthy.” That’s black-and-white thinking, and as a society, it’s getting us nowhere. What if instead, of black and white, we saw the gray? 

As a dietitian, so many clients told me they avoided salad because salad dressing was “bad.” Salad y’all. Avoiding salad?!! Have we totally lost it? The food rules must go!!

So, I made a list of my favorite foods. This isn’t a list of, “You should eat these things!” Nope. It’s just a list of foods that I’ve found satisfy four important factors for everyday living: 

  1. They are nourishing. This means that they have stuff in them that do cool things for our bodies, and consequently, make me feel good.
  2. They are tasty. Pleasurable. Yum!
  3. They fill me up, make me feel satisfied, and hold me over until the next meal or snack.
  4. They’re easy to plan for or prepare.

These are foods that aren’t black-and-white and instead bring both pleasure AND nourishment. They’re gray!

So, here we go! Eight staples to keep you satisfied and enjoying food:

1. Peanut butter. On everything. Crackers, sandwiches, celery, apples, bananas…I’ve even been known to dip baby carrots in peanut butter. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Oh, and I always put a spoonful of peanut butter in my oatmeal (along with some brown sugar, bananas, and raisins). Peanut butter provides a rich and satisfying nutty flavor to some of my favorite fruits, veggies, and grains. I’m a big fan of all nut butters, really. Almond, cashew…all are delicious, although some can be quite pricey when you are trying to stick to a budget. Peanut butter is the least expensive nut butter. Choose natural if you like that authentic peanut flavor to come on through and the sweetened versions if you find the natural a little blah. (Another idea is to mix them together. Why not? The best of both worlds on your apple slice!)

2. Dark chocolate and hot tea. I keep a bag of Dove dark chocolates in my desk at work. I also keep a basket of tea bags. Usually after lunch I crave something sweet. A piece of dark chocolate does just the trick. And those anti-oxidant properties I’ve heard about sound pretty sweet too! Pair that with an afternoon tea, and it’s a little slice of heaven here on earth. I have quite the tea fetish going. The Brits really had something when they came up with afternoon tea. It provides the perfect pick-me-up. Tea has a gentle dose of caffeine and it’s a great way to stay hydrated. (I’d especially like to take this opportunity to thank Jesus for caffeine during those afternoon slumps. Hallelujah and amen!)

3. Frozen berries (mixed with sugar) on top of pancakes. Berries are awesome, but they’re only available in the summer; so, we always keep a bag of frozen mixed berries in the fridge. We use them to make smoothies year round. But my favorite weekend breakfast involves cooking pancakes (or even just throwing some frozen waffles in the toaster oven) and then heating up a cup or so of the mixed berries with some sugar and corn starch (to thicken). For me, this berry compote isn’t a syrup replacement. I still pour a little syrup on top, and maybe even some whipped cream. The fruit adds fiber as well as a party in my mouth. I use the leftover berry compote on top of yogurt the next day…which brings me to my next favorite snack.

4. Yogurt, granola, and chocolate chips. I like the Greek honey-flavored yogurt. The texture is creamy and the honey flavor is subtle – which adds some sweetness, but it’s not overpowering. Add the crunch of granola and a few chocolate chips, and you’ve got the perfect afternoon snack. If I don’t have any berry compote on hand, then I add a banana or dried cranberries.

5. Chips and salsa. Great news y’all – salsa is a vegetable!! You’re welcome. It’s time to celebrate by pouring a bowl of chips and a bowl of salsa (and avocados or guacamole if you have them…they’re veggies too, you know!) and start dipping.

6. Veggies dipped in ranch or hummus. Sometimes I get really lazy with veggie side dishes. I spend all this time on the entrée and I’m stumped on the veggie part. So I just slice up cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers and serve them with ranch or hummus instead of doing a cooked veggie. Sometimes I even put it on the table before the entrée is finished cooking and my son has his veggies as an appetizer. It’s amazing what kids will eat when they’re hungry!

7. Trail mix. This is a great keep-in-your-drawer-at-work kind of food. It doesn’t go bad quickly and you can create your own trail mix using whatever you’d like. The protein, fiber, and fats in the nuts help keep me satisfied and there’s always something sweet in my trail mix – M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, chocolate covered raisins, or chocolate chips.

8. String cheese and apples. There’s something special about savory and sweet, together in one bite. The savory flavor of the cheese mixed with the sweet crunch of the apple is delish. They just go together. And it’s the perfect grab-and-go. Some days there’s no time to slice that apple, so I just trade bites back and forth between apple bits and string cheese. The fiber in the apple and protein and fat in the cheese keeps me going strong all afternoon long. Another perfectly satisfying snack for busy folks.


Dawn is an Associate Professor of Nutrition and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She is a wife and a mother to an amazing 11-year old boy. Dawn enjoys finding creative ways to spread the word that God’s unconditional love can bring healing to every broken relationship, including one with food.