In the restaurant business, the motto is, appearance and presentation are 90% and taste is 10%. It’s not because they don’t strive for the best tasting food possible. Rather, even if the food tastes amazing, first impressions really matter. If it doesn’t look good on the plate, it’s just not going to taste as good. The same standards apply at home. If you want something to taste great, it’s gotta look good on the plate.
Whenever I serve something I make an effort to present it as nicely as possible. I don’t often go out of my way with garnishes or anything, but I arrange the food and its accompaniments in the most appealing way possible. I found this to be particularly important when I started my lifestyle change. Given my calorie restrictions, I had to find creative ways to make every sensory organ as satisfied as possible. Making as much of what I ate look good and special helped to allay feelings of deprivation.
Step One: Accessorize your food. Just a touch or two can enhance your dining experience, whether it’s at a desk or a dinner table. Jazz up a salad with some banana peppers. Fresh herbs add a bit of zip to any dish. On pizza night, a few pieces of roasted garlic makes a world of difference for what may be an otherwise ordinary looking pie.
Fresh fruit slices or zest add a dash of color to salads and desserts. Even dolloping a condiment like sour cream, guacamole, or BBQ sauce onto a plate is eye-pleasing. Arranging pretzels on a plate with mustard in the middle and fat-free cheese blocks around the outside was a favorite snack while I was trying to lose weight.
Step Two: Spruce up your setting. Making a place setting look good is also important. Sitting amidst a pile of books and papers at a desk is not an inviting place to eat. If anything, it’s a constant reminder of the work you need to do and will likely induce rushing through a meal. Whether at work or at home, use a place mat you actually like (versus something that’s just practical), buy fancy napkins if that pleases you, and put some flowers, cool salt and pepper shakers, or an arrangement on the table.
I found that making this effort was especially important early on when I rarely ate out. These are nice touches that don’t take much time, but qualitatively enhance the experience. Even now, when I eat my lunch in my office, I have a placemat and a plant and I eat at a table rather than at my desk. After all, a lifestyle change is about improving all aspects of your life. Offering appealing food in a mindful setting is time well spent.