Picture Perfect Plates

How photographing and sharing your meals can help you eat healthier
Published April 14, 2016

People use to act like eating salads and “healthy” food was a punishment. Why eat that sad salad when there’s so many rich and decadent foods just waiting to be enjoyed? But now that focus is shifting – instead of feeling pride over a finding a massive bacon-laden burger to eat for dinner many people are taking pride in making healthy and beautiful food.

“There’s a sea change happening in the way we source and consume our food and social media is playing a key role in influencing our eating decisions,” says Moira Nordholt, vegan chef and owner of Toronto’s Feel Good Guru. “The shift is strongly toward lighter, more plant-based, much healthier ‘real’ food, I believe because fruits and veggies are much more photogenic than meat & potatoes. With everyone sharing photos of their latest kitchen creation, making your plate gorgeous for the pic has become a happy practice, easy to accomplish with nature’s colourful bounty. There’s a real sense of pride around showing the world the healthiest most delicious most beautiful food and having your friends respond with their collective ‘mmmmmm’s.”

If you’re interested in upping the ante a little in the kitchen, here are a few ways to feel great eating beautiful and healthy food. 

Eat the rainbow
What you put in your body becomes the raw materials for your cells. The best way to get a range of these raw materials is to eat brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.  “Eating the rainbow is healthy and beautiful!” says Nordholt. Chemical substances give fruits and vegetables their colour and health benefits – and yes, this is part of the reason why fruits and vegetables are just so, well, photogenic. We can get a clue to the health benefits of certain foods based on their colours:

  • Magenta foods, like beets, contain chemicals that help to boost our liver function and reduce inflammation.
  • Red foods, like tomatoes and watermelon, contain lycopene, a nutrient that has been found to protect against certain cancers, especially of the prostate (gentlemen, take note). Eating these foods can also help to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays.
  • Orange foods, like carrots, sweet potatoes and peppers, are famous for containing beta carotene, an antioxidant that helps to strengthen our eyes and skin.
  • Purple and blue foods, like red onions and darkly coloured berries, contain chemicals that help to fight free radical damage. Blueberries are said to help even out skin tone, too!
  • Green vegetables, like kale, cabbage, broccoli and lettuces, help to balance the body and encourage detoxification.
  • Even white fruits and vegetables have something to add – prebiotics are a type of fibre that acts like food for your probiotic bacteria. So if you’re using probiotics, you’ll want to add some apples, radishes and parsnips into the mix.

Get some texture
When Nordholt is creating a new menu item, she is a big fan of combining different textures. Each fruit and vegetable has its own unique taste and texture that you can play up, too. Here are some ideas:

  • Chop your vegetables in new and interesting ways. Rather than slicing carrots or zucchini into your salad, try shaving them into ribbons with a vegetable peeler or use one of those spiralizer tools that turns your veggies into noodle shapes.
  • Combine cooked and raw foods for a texture boost. Soft and sweet roasted beets or butternut squash go well with kale that has been massaged with lemon juice and a little olive oil and sea salt.
  • Marinate red onions or thinly sliced red cabbage in some cider vinegar to create a silky texture and mellow their taste.
  • Boost the sweetness of a salad or vegetable dish by adding brightly coloured fruits. Slice grapes in half and use them in a salad raw or roasted instead of tomatoes.
  • Don’t forget fresh herbs. “Fresh herbs add beauty, aroma and an extra layer of flavour,” says Nordholt. Try experimenting with a new type of fresh herb each week to keep your creations tasting fresh and exciting.
  • A sprinkle of toasted nuts or seeds at the end will boost texture and the richness of the dish. Black sesame seeds add a particularly lovely visual punch (and a little calcium, to boot).

Embrace “plating”
Before we even put food into our mouths, we begin the digestive process. Just looking at food that looks good to us will signal the body to release digestive enzymes and, in a sense, prepare the body to receive food. A beautiful bowl of food is a piece of art to enjoy. “When we take a few extra minutes before eating to make our plate beautiful it focuses our awareness on what we’re about to eat and invites gratitude. In a state of awareness and gratitude we’re likely to eat more slowly, eat less, and think deeply about what we’re putting in our body,” says Nordholt.

The big food trend for 2016 is putting your food in, you guessed it, a bowl. Smoothie bowls, acai bowls, salad and grain bowls, with their beautiful rainbow colours, have been dominating food blogs and social media. For lunch, rather than placing your ingredients in between two pieces of bread (bo-ring!), why not layer them in a bowl?

  • If you’re using any type of grain, like quinoa or brown rice, lay a small amount in the bottom of the bowl and top with all of the veggies that your heart desires.
  • You can even transform a ho-hum bowl of soup into a gorgeous and healthy bowl, by letting extra greens wilt in the soup as it heats through. Then throw an egg on it! Poached, fried, hard or soft boiled. Top with fresh herbs and you’re set.

More inspiration
There’s a whole world of beautiful food inspiration waiting for you in cookbooks, blogs, Instagram and Connect. Try to take a little time each week to flip through a new cookbook, discover a new blog, follow a healthy eating board on Pinterest or even check out the “feed” of a new Instagram or Connect user.

“If a woman could see the sparks of light going forth from her fingertips when she is cooking and the substance of light that goes into the food she handles, she would be amazed to see how much of herself she charges into the meals that she prepares for her family and friends.” – Maha Chohan