Thursday, October 27, 2011

Transforming Taste Buds

If you're like a lot of people, I can talk about healthy foods all day and you'll still imagine a nasty taste in your head.  What's he talking about, tomatoes tasting good?  Butternut Squash being absolutely delectable?  Steamed broccoli and cauliflower hitting the spot?  It may be completely foreign to imagine such natural, raw, bland foods to taste so good.  You'd much rather stick with your heavily spiced up food with sugar and salt, because that actually tastes like something!  But I emplore you, give these more natural foods a chance.  I can 100% guarantee that through a little bit of practice, you can make those foods taste as good as I think they do.

So what are you doing wrong?  Nothing really, it's just the habits you've been supporting.  You may eat the processed  overly sweet stuff on a regular basis.  So guess what?  You've come to accept it as the norm.  If you think that chocolate cake tastes sweet, think of how it tastes to me, someone with a very low sugar diet.  Think of it like, albeit a little depressing, a drug addiction.  You've become addicted to food that packs an extremely powerful sodium, sugar, and fatty punch.  All three of those things taste great to you because your instinct is to consume things that your body can run on for long periods of time and give great energy (fat and sugar.)  Your body doesn't really know any better that that mayonnaise smothered quizno's sub is wayyy overkill.  Yup, it's an addiction of sorts, so like a powerful drug addiction, anything less potent won't get you that "high."

How can you break the addiction?  Well, like anything, it takes time.  First things first, DO NOT GO COLD TURKEY.  An extremely raw veggie, plain meat, clean diet will absolutely kill you if you try to switch all at once.  Your food won't taste like anything, and you'll give up in a couple days, maybe a couple weeks at most. Your taste buds are extremely adaptable, but only if you introduce new flavors slowly.  There's a reason why we learn to accept new tastes as we get older.  Children don't often like vegetables, but grow into the taste (or maybe they don't, as is the case with many adults I know.)  

In my personal opinion, there isn't much of an excuse not to like healthy food.  If you say it doesn't taste good, you usually either haven't given it enough of a chance, or haven't cooked it right.  Some foods may take 9 or more tries before you really start to appreciate them.  

Try these tips to slowly get yourself into eating healthier:

Mix veggies into food you already like:  Who doesn't like macaroni and cheese?  Or maybe a big heaping pot of beef stroganoff, or a plate of crispy nachos?  What these all represent are prime opportunities to start mixing vegetable flavors into already delicious foods.  Try some diced tomatoes on those nachos, or some broccoli in that cheesy mac and cheese.  Put some carrots or onions in that beef stroganoff.  Heck, if you're having a big ol' burger, put a couple more slices of tomato on it than you normally do, and maybe another piece of lettuce.  Slowly pull those natural tastes into your diet, just a little at a time.  Each time you do it, maybe take out a little of the main flavoring (and probably unhealthy) ingredient.  Add a little less salt in your food, put only a tiny skim of mayonnaise on that burger, use a little less cheese in that macaroni.  Try to emphasize the vegetable taste just a little more each time. 

Vegetable side dishes:  Don't do these plain at first, use some kind of a healthy additive.  Saute your veggies in a tasty oil, or spread a little salsa on them.  Sprinkle some cayenne pepper on them for quite a kick, or just regular black pepper might do as well.  Try to use frozen veggies, or the ones that steam in the bag.  Canned usually has a little too much sodium, and they don't taste as good anyway.  At first, steam your veggies pretty aggressively.  Make them soft, chew-able, so they melt in your mouth a little easier and don't fight back with a harsh crunch.  And try to put at least a few on your plate at every dinner.  You don't even have to eat them all.  If they're there, you're more likely to at least give them a shot.

Less sauce on the meat:  This one's pretty self explanatory.  If you put BBQ sauce on your chicken, next time you have the chicken make a conscious effort to maybe put about a third less sauce on the next time.  Then a little less the next time after that.  You don't ever have to completely get rid of it if you don't want to, but try to emphasize the flavors of the meat above the sauce.  Another good idea is to have sauce every other or every third time you have the meat, as a rare treat.  I bet this'll make it taste better anyway, and you won't take that BBQ sauce for granted.  

Cook meat with care:  If you're going to put less sauce on, you might as well try a little harder to cook that chicken so its as tender and delectable as possible.  Make your dinner meats taste great by themselves, and you'll be less likely to top them with all sorts of crazy, unhealthy toppings.

Replace your snacks:  I've mentioned this one a few times.  To help your taste buds to adjust a little quicker, try replacing your afternoon potato chips with a banana, or a bowl of strawberries, or an apple.  Fruit is sweet, so you'll still get that sweet tooth satisfied.  It's also more satiating, so you'll be less likely to eat as much.  Just replace one snack at a time.  Take it slow.

Drink the pure stuff:  There is a LOAD of sugar in most soda, and believe me a glass of mountain dew will NOT help break your sugar addiction.  I suggest drinking more water, or maybe a glass of milk, or 100% juice.  Try your best to get those soft drinks out of your diet though.  Soda doesn't help anything, of that I can assure you.  If you're dying for a sugary drink, try a zero calorie drink sweetener.  

To close this article, I'm going to say this one more time.  To break a processed food/sugar addiction, you need to do it gradually.  If you do, your taste buds WILL adapt.  Give them time, and don't give up.  The younger you are, the faster it will happen.  Set goals for yourself.  Try a few more veggies every meal.  A little less ketchup, a few less potato chips, maybe fruit for dessert a few nights a week.  MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!!

Don't give up, you will adjust, and you'll be incredibly grateful that you did.  It's fun to watch someone wince as you munch on a tomato in absolute and genuine happiness.  Good Luck!

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