Remember when you were little and your mom said, “Stop playing with your food.” You’d be making mashed potato mountains and the peas were tiny soldiers ready to roll down the mountain and pummel the approaching carrots. If you grew up in the 50s that was about the only thing you’d want to do with peas and carrots. Peas and carrots came in a can. Those little gems were the mushiest, squishiest things on the planet. No wonder most American children grew up hating vegetables.

When I was growing up, women were leaving the kitchen in droves. The birth of Hamburger Helper, Shake and Bake, instant mashed potatoes, and Minute Rice meant the death of real food with real flavor. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have a grandmother who wouldn’t dream of adding water to flakes that resembled the stuffing in her pillows. Eating in my grandmother’s kitchen was a totally different experience.

Things bubbled in my grandmother’s kitchen. The minute you entered that kitchen you knew you were in for an adventure. She had a great big iron skillet on top of her stove. She’d throw a couple drops of water into the pan to see if the temperature was right and those drops would dance around the pan—hip hop in a skillet. Then came the garlic. My grandmother used garlic in just about everything she cooked, except maybe her baked goods. While most of the children in my neighborhood were feasting on very white, very soft Wonder Bread slathered with peanut butter and oozing grape jelly, I was enjoying big slices of crusty homemade Italian bread with sautéed spinach and garlic. To this day the smell of garlic brings me right back to my grandmother’s kitchen.

Guess what? We’re still a little disconnected from our food. Only now we’re drinking “protein” shakes or eating “lean” cuisine and calling it a meal. Portion control supersedes hunger and we truly believe we’re willpower weaklings when we “fall off the wagon.” It’s no wonder we can’t get a handle on our health.

Want to know a little secret? There are some very easy things you can do increase your metabolic power without giving up the foods you love. Here’s one:

Garnish the Plate: I know that sounds a little silly, but there’s actually some science behind this. You know how your mouth waters when you smell something delicious? Or your stomach starts to churn when you think about lunch? This is actually the beginning stage of the digestive process, before the food even passes your lips.

Researchers have estimated that as much as 30 to 40 percent of the total digestive response to any meal is due to CPDR, the cephalic phase digestive response. Smelling, seeing, and tasting your meal initiates a chain of reactions to prepare your body for incoming food so that you can metabolize it efficiently. It even affects your calorie-burning capacity.

So the next time you prepare a meal, take some time to arrange it on the plate in a way that evokes a certain reverence for the meal you’re about to enjoy. Think of it as artful eating.

Stay tuned for more delicious ways to rev up your metabolism while enjoying beautiful, wholesome food. And, be sure to check out my upcoming online program: Love What You Eat: A Delicious Approach to Radiant Health. It may be just the program you need to take back your plate, one luscious bite at a time.