The Secret to Liking Food That’s Good for You

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Often times when we start thinking about eating healthier, one of the first protests from our brains is that we aren’t going to like the food.  We imagine that “healthy” food is bland and boring.  And perhaps worse, we feel angst about all of the tasty foods we can no longer have.  After all, when a person makes a list of his or her favorite foods, broccoli and chicken are rarely at the top… if they make the list at all!

Believe me, as a bit of a foodie myself, I totally understand the need to enjoy the food we eat.  I can’t count the number of times I have said that I won’t change my diet to the point that I don’t get pleasure from my food.  It’s just not worth it to me!  And I’m sure it’s not worth it to you either.

So, what is the secret to liking healthy food?  How can we eat nutritious food without feeling deprived?  I’m going to tell you.  Are you ready?

Here it is <drum roll>…

The secret to enjoying food that’s good for you
is to LEARN TO LIKE IT
.

Ta-dah! <insert cymbals sound>

Oh, wait.  That’s not quite the quick fix you were hoping for?  Not the magic solution for making Brussels sprouts taste like chocolate and fish taste like strawberry ice-cream?  Kind of a let down?

I know.  And here’s the thing, even though it’s perfectly acceptable to “hide” healthy foods in order to get the nutrients and some of us just aren’t going to like the taste of every nutritious food out there, at some point we have to accept that being healthy and vibrant means choosing to eat foods that contribute to that outcome and reducing or eliminating foods that don’t.  It’s really that simple.  So, since that’s the reality, isn’t it better to learn to truly enjoy healthy food rather than begrudgingly putting green things in your mouth once in a while because that’s what you’re supposed to do?

As I mentioned in my introduction video, I didn’t start out eating a  healthy diet.  I was also a bit of a picky eater (no onion could be anywhere near my food until my late 20s).  But veeeeeery slowly over time, I learned to like all sorts of wholesome foods.

Here are the three things that I did and that you can do too to learn to enjoy food that’s good for you:

  1. Be willing to try new foods…. more than once.  Just like parents sometimes cajole their children into trying a new food, you may have to do that to yourself.  I won’t promise that you’ll like it, but here’s the thing: it takes a child an average (sometimes more, sometimes less) of 15 exposures to a food before the child will like it.  And you can bet that average is higher for adults.  So know that it may take multiple attempts, but you can learn to enjoy all kinds of foods just from repeated exposures.
  2. Give your taste buds the chance to learn what real food tastes like.  Much of the food we eat today has been processed to the point of not tasting like real food at all.  In fact, almost anything that comes in a bag or box has been loaded with sugar, salt and fat just to make it taste good to us.  Unfortunately, the result is that we don’t know and have to learn what real food tastes like.  The good news is it’s not that hard… in 8 – 12 days all the cells in your mouth (including your taste buds) turnover.  So eating healthy food might seem boring at the beginning, but within 2 weeks you will begin to appreciate the gorgeous variety of flavors that real food has.
  3. Learn the best ways to prepare healthy foods.  I know this may sound silly, but a person can really be turned off by a food simply because it was poorly prepared.  Believe me, I have had some nasty dishes that could have totally turned me off of a food.  But I realized that eating beets raw or boiling butternut squash doesn’t mean the food isn’t yummy, it just means that I didn’t give the food a chance to shine.  So, go to restaurants with skillful chefs; buy cookbooks by people who like food (not just those trying to get you to eat healthy); and use the myriad of internet recipe databases so you can eat savor-worthy nutritious foods.

I know that everyone has their preferences and we won’t all like all foods.  But I promise with a little effort, you can learn to truly enjoy a wide-variety of wholesome, nutritious food that will help you be the best version of yourself for many years to come.

Sources:
— Feng P, Huang L, Wang H. Taste Bud Homeostasis in Health, Disease, and Aging. Chem. Senses. 2013;bjt059.
— Satter E.  How Children Learn to Like New Food.  Accessed on March 13, 2015.  http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/howchildrenlearntolikenewfood.php

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