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food on white plate separated into 4 sections: fruit, veggies, meat, and grains

Balance your plate-color, flavor, and texture



By Jill Johnson Henscheid, CD, RD, Gundersen Nutrition Therapy

With the arrival of warmer weather you will soon be seeing more locally grown fruits and vegetables, both at farmer's markets and in the local grocery stores. 

The abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables not only increases the quality of nutrients in your diet, but also adds a beautiful burst of colors, flavors, and textures to your plate.

When planning your next meal or cookout, use the criteria of color, flavor and texture to help you add new zest to meals, try a food you haven’t experienced before and consume valuable nutrients.

Color grabs attention; people enjoy food more and perceive it more enthusiastically when it has visual appeal. Follow this rule of thumb for adding color without overwhelming the recipient:

  • Make half your meal two opposing primary colors: red, yellow, green, orange or blue. 
  • Avoid using the same color for an entire meal

Flavor is a combination of aroma and taste. Aroma is what food smells like and happens via your nose, while taste is experienced via receptors in your mouth when you chew food. Notice if you taste qualities in your food like bitter, salty, sour, sweet, fresh, spicy, fruity, flowery etc. Adding more flavors can be a bit tricky if you are cooking for someone that may be skeptical of trying something new, so keep it manageable and familiar. Add one or two new foods at a meal and keep the centerpiece a familiar entrée. For example:

  • Prepare a meal that is a house favorite but add a new vegetable or fruit to sample 
  • Include two side dishes at the evening meal-one familiar and one a new experience

Texture is the "make or break" attribute of a food. Flavor is often cited as the most important factor of acceptance by consumers. However, when it comes to the final decision, texture usually wins. You may have a preconceived notion about food and whether it should be crunchy, soft or mushy; if it doesn't feel right while you are chewing you may not be as willing to try it again. Keep some of the old (and familiar) and add the new, which can help you adjust to unfamiliar textures.

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