On Retraining Your Taste Buds.
Oh, if only we could automatically love those new foods when we have to change our diets. The main reasons we struggle with new or different food choices include the following:
🍋Bad childhood memories associated with a certain food. This is due to either dull or flavorless food preparation, or emotional issues connected to a food.
🍋 It doesn’t taste like the comfort food you are used to. The foods you are familiar with determine your preferences, such a small children that love spicy food, or seaweed chips. It’s what they are raised eating.
🍋Food companies invest incredible amounts of money in making sure you can’t stop eating their product.
🍋We are so used to excess sugar and salt in processed foods that when we try foods with less of those things, they seem tasteless. Our taste buds have become desensitized.
Can we change that? Yes, over time, and not even a long time.
According to David Katz, MD in his book Disease Proof you can rewire your taste buds to enjoy healthier foods.
Part of the reason it is so difficult is because we are so used to processed foods. Companies spend great amounts of money on research and engineering foods to keep you craving more. They are in search of the perfect ingredient combination. Ever eat something and say “These are so addictive.”? There’s a reason for that. Ever eat an apple and say, “These are so addictive.”? I thought not.
Flavor enhancers are also added to foods to artificially add more flavor or a certain flavor to foods. Then, when we eat the real food in its natural state, it doesn’t seem to have much flavor.
We have so much sugar and salt all day that it desensitized our taste buds requiring more. (That happens to more areas of our life than just food, btw.) By having less you can reset the buds. You will actually become used to less. I know this is true from experience. I eat much less sugar than I used to. Some things I used to eat can sometimes be too sweet now. There are many foods I don’t even want anymore. When you cut these things out you will find you’re are able to taste the flavors of foods more!
Interested in retraining your taste buds? Here are some tips Dr. Katz gives in his book and others I found to be true as well.
1. Make the switch gradually by only replacing a little at a time. For example, if you are switching from whole milk to non-dairy milk, mix the milks adding more non-dairy milk each time until it is all non-dairy. The same can go for rice. If you are changing from white to brown or black, mix them using just and little brown and add more each time until it is 100% brown. Kind of like the frog in the pot of water. Do it gradually.
2. Don’t be afraid to try foods you didn’t like when you are little. You may just like them now. According to Dr. Katz, our taste buds become less sensitive as we age so strong foods like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, coffee, etc might be foods we actually enjoy now. Don’t give up on your kids either. Just because they don’t like it now, doesn’t mean they won’t like it next year.
3. Know why you are eating it. You are more likely to try/like something if you understand why you should eat it. Is it important to you?
5. Try cooking it a different way. Sometime we don’t like food because it is cooked in a flavorless way. Try it raw, grilled, roasted, steamed, etc. Grilling and roasting bring out more of the flavors and natural sugars than boiling and steaming. In my opinion, roasting is the best.
6. Repeat your exposure. Dr. Katz says you need to give it 10-15 tries for it to become familiar. Remember, we prefer what is familiar. Keep trying it, even if it is a “No Thank You” portion.
7. Make it fun. According to the American Dietetic Association, we are more likely to eat foods associated with a fun experience. Go cherry picking and eat the cherries. Grow it in your garden.
8. Cut back gradually. If you take 4 sugars in your tea/coffee. Use less each time until you achieve your goal. If cutting back on caffeine altogether, divide your daily amount in half every two days. It will make the transition easier.
9. Make it pretty. It will be more appetizing.
10. Add one bite. Put one bite (I call it a “no thank you portion”) on your plate with your regular meal, each night. Eat it with your meal. Over time you will build familiarity.
11. Enhance flavors naturally. Use herbs and spices to enhance the flavors. Try new spices. This is a great way to create flavorful food. Experiment.
12. Keep it positive. Don’t try a new food when you are in a bad mood. Nothing in life is right then.
Don’t give up. Experiment with it. Give it 6-8 weeks to be successful. I didn’t like the gluten free, dairy free and low sugar alternatives when I started. Now they are just normal to me. I don’t crave the other foods anymore. Frankly, I’d rather feel healthy than eat a piece of bread.
I also do this with my pre-k class. They are amazing with what they accomplish. I even agreed to learn to try foods along with them. I found asparagus to be nasty growing up. So I committed to eat that 10 times. Ha. I now grow it in my garden!
With kids, don’t overlook peer influence. They may be motivated by another child (usually older) that they look up to. I’ve had children try a new food just because they saw someone they really liked eating it.
“If you want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” -My Mom
Have you retrained your taste buds?
What techniques did you use? Do you have any techniques besides these?
Start a discussion below. I’d love to know your thoughts.