As children, we don’t have much choice in the foods we are provided and the habits we are taught to cultivate. This is why changing our diet is so difficult; you have to retrain your taste buds. Fortunately, this is completely doable, even if it’s a bit difficult.
We’re taking things step-by-step to help you transition to a healthier style of eating. Read on for your complete guide on how to love the taste of health foods!
Your Step-by-Step Guide
Decide on which changes you’d like to start with
Before you can build new habits, you need to look at your current eating patterns. Make a food log and, over the course of a week, write down everything you eat and when you eat it. If you like, color-code your information so you know which foods were meals, which were snacks, and maybe even which ones you ate when you knew you weren’t hungry.
Pick out certain foods, maybe just one or two at first, and decide to replace them with a healthier alternative
The reason we’re going through this step first is because we’re planning on introducing new foods. To avoid adding additional calories to your day, it’s probably a good idea to replace calories that you would have typically eaten anyway.
Decide on the health foods you want to learn to love
There are a lot of options here and many of them are shunned for their acidic, bitter, pungent, or seemingly tasteless profiles. Examples include: Lemon, vinegar, kale, spinach, arugula, quinoa, plain yogurt, and fatty fish.
Start chipping away at your aversion
Instead of forcing yourself through a plateful of kale, start training your taste buds to like the type of flavors in your chosen foods. For example, introduce more sour, bitter, and umami flavors into your diet. If you’re unfamiliar with umami, it’s the distinct taste you can find in foods like seaweed, miso, salmon, and hard cheeses like parmesan.1
How to Like Sour Foods
Start adding sour foods that you do enjoy to your diet.
If you want to eventually enjoy vinaigrette on your salad but you don’t like the acidity and sourness of it, regularly eating sour foods that you do like can build your tolerance for sour flavors. Here is a list of nutritious sour foods: 2,3
- Green grapes
- Green apples
- Plain Yogurt
How to Like Bitter Foods
Following the same principle as before, start incorporating bitter flavors that you do enjoy.
Here is a list of nutritious bitter foods.3,4 Choose one you’re comfortable with and slowly push the boundaries of what you’d normally eat until you arrive at a tolerance (and hopefully enjoyment) for the level of bitterness you want to achieve.
- Bok choy
- Bitter Melon
- Brussels sprouts
- Dandelion greens
- Citrus Peel
- Green Tea
- Dark chocolate
How to Like Umami Foods
Start Incorporating umami flavors
The umami flavor comes from a compound extracted from dry kelp.3 It is this flavor, and others like it, that have the savory taste you’ll find in many Oriental dishes. Here is a list of nutritious umami foods5 that you can add to your diet.
- Parmigiano Reggiano
Don’t Cut it Out, Change the Recipe
Another tactic is to learn to make your favorite dishes in ways that are healthier. Slowly substitute an ingredient or two, each time you make it, until you’ve crafted a healthier version of the same recipe! Here are some substitutions, straight from the Mayo Clinic, for commonly used recipe ingredients. For the full list, visit their post on Healthy recipes: A guide to ingredient substitutions.
Rolled Oats/Crushed Bran Cereal
Brown Rice/Bulgur/Pearl Barley/Wild Rice
Reduced Fat Milk/Fat Free Milk
Lean Ground Beef/Ground Chicken/Ground Turkey
Food is Fuel
Ultimately, you have to change your mind-set before you can change your taste buds. Food is what fuels your body. The more nutritious that fuel is, the better your body will feel and the more easily it can process what you put in. Gradually learning to enjoy flavors found in health foods is the key. So, take it slow, and work your way to a more nutritious lifestyle.
For help creating a meal plan, read our registered dietitian’s post on How to Create a Meal Plan. If you need help catering to picky kids and teens, read her post on How to Get Your Kids to Eat Right. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!
- MasterClass. “What Is Umami? Learn About Umami and How to Incorporate Umami Flavors in Your Cooking – 2019.” MasterClass, MasterClass, 2 July 2019, www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-umami-learn-about-umami-and-how-to-incorporate-umami-flavors-in-your-cooking#what-foods-are-good-example-of-umami.
- Reino, Nicole. “11 Sour Foods That Boost Endurance and Power.” ACTIVE.com, Active.com, 27 Oct. 2016, www.active.com/nutrition/articles/11-sour-foods-that-boost-endurance-and-power.
- Roper, Stephen D. “Signal Transduction and Information Processing in Mammalian Taste Buds.” SpringerLink, Springer-Verlag, 28 Apr. 2007, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00424-007-0247-x.
- Julson, Erica. “9 Bitter Foods That Are Good for You.” Healthline, 3 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/bitter-foods.
- Raman, Ryan. “16 Healthy Foods Packed with Umami Flavor.” Healthline, 21 Jan. 2019, www.healthline.com/nutrition/umami-foods.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Your Guide to Healthy Ingredient Substitutions.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Oct. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/healthy-recipes/art-20047195.