Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or a cookbook, for that matter. You may not realize it, but that advice is just as important when it comes to food.
Humans are very visual creatures, and, as the saying goes, we “eat with our eyes” before any food touches our lips. For years, upscale restaurants have played into this psychological premise by carefully plating food in beautiful arrangements that appeal to patrons. Indeed, past research found that participants enjoyed a dish more and were willing to pay more for it (even for the exact same ingredients) if it was arranged artistically on the plate.
Social media has only upped the ante, taking gorgeous food out of restaurants and making it seem to be the norm at every meal. One study found that exposure to such images directly affected food cravings and eating habits. Sometimes, seeing what other people are eating can have a positive impact on our own habits and lead us to eat a more diverse, colorful, and nutritious diet with more fruits and vegetables, according to a study published in June 2020 in the journal Appetite .
If we focusing solely on the appearance of food, however, we may skip perfectly wonderful meals in the name of vanity. In a world where beautiful food is so often placed on a pedestal, it’s important to remember that some super-nutritious and absolutely delicious meals may not be Instagram-worthy, and that’s okay!
The increasingly popular Instagram hashtag #LooksGrossTastesGreat (1,700 posts and counting) has been bringing awareness to ugly-delicious foods and giving them the support they have always deserved.
I was an early adopter of embracing ugly healthy food. My favorite smoothie, which I’ve been making for more than five years, uses spinach as a key ingredient, and it turns the delicious drink into a brown mess. It may not be the prettiest way to start my day, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying this super simple breakfast three times a week — and even my kids, who balked at the color, loved it once they gave it a try.
While my smoothie isn’t the most photogenic meal I prepare, I don’t dare change the recipe, because I love the way it tastes and all the nutritional benefits it has to offer. I use kefir, a fermented milk beverage that has a wider variety of probiotics than yogurt, research shows, as well as three varieties of nuts and seeds, because regular consumption of these foods is known to decrease the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, according to Today's Dietitian.
And of course, I have to have the spinach — one cup, which gives my smoothie its characteristic hideous hue along with a healthy dose of fiber and valuable nutrients such as iron, according to USDA data. Without the greens, the drink is almost pretty, but I prefer this easy, tasty way to pack more nutrition into my day even if it doesn’t look appealing.
Ugly food deserves love, too.
Kelly’s Deliciously Ugly Smoothie
- ⅔ cup plain, low-fat, unsweetened kefir
- ⅓ cup pomegranate juice
- ⅔ cup frozen mixed berries
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach or ½ cup frozen, defrosted and drained
- ½ ripe banana
- 1 tbsp smooth natural peanut butter
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
- Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend on high until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Enjoy in all its ugly glory!
Nutrition per serving: 467 calories, 20g total fat (3.3g saturated fat), 19g protein, 57g carbohydrates, 10.8g fiber, 37.6g sugar (0g added sugar), 192mg sodium