Question

Eating Habits and Nutrition

How can I learn to like healthy foods?

A Answers (2)

  • AJennifer Shaw, Nutrition & Dietetics, answered
    Healthy foods often get a bad reputation for not being tasty, but the term “healthy” is very broad and can include a multitude of foods. Just because you don’t like some of the healthier dishes you’ve tried doesn’t mean you’ll hate them all; you may think you’re not a big fruit or veggie fan, but there are literally thousands of different kinds and when you think about all the different ways to prepare them, there is probably some version that you at least won’t hate. A lot of times, our taste buds get so used to foods that have a lot of salt or sugar added, so without them, things can taste a bit bland, but that doesn’t mean flavor can’t get added in other ways. Garlic, oregano, citrus juices, flavored vinegars, spicy peppers, sautéed onions and peppers, and healthy oils can all be combined to marinate lean meats or fish in before roasting and sautéing. One of my favorite ways to prepare almost any vegetable, especially broccoli, is just to put chunks of it on a baking sheet, drizzle with some olive oil, and sprinkle with fresh minced garlic or garlic powder. Then just pop it in the oven for about 10 minutes at 450 degrees F or until it starts to brown around the edges. 
    Salt is probably one of hardest things to reduce without noticing a flavor difference, but your taste buds definitely do adapt if you stick with it for a few weeks.  Just take the shaker away and hide it so you’re not tempted while you’re making the transition. It really helps to prepare as much food as you can at home, since when you eat out, they’re going to add all that stuff. That’s a big part of why our taste buds get so out of whack. Check out some cookbooks from the library or grab some of the healthy-eating type magazines at the grocery store; as you get more comfortable in the kitchen, you discover what you like and can adapt things exactly how you want them. It doesn’t have to be every meal, but try to work in a new, healthy recipe once or twice a week at least. The more you try new stuff, the more you’ll discover that there is a giant world of “healthy” food out there.
  • AJoel Fuhrman, MD, Family Medicine, answered
    The key to reprogramming yourself to eat healthy is to select an activity that elicits the desired objective, and then perform this activity habitually. As you continue to perform this activity, your skill will improve, your brain will reprogram to the preferred wiring, and your desired outcome will manifest itself. Your brain is not only flexible and adaptable, but it will restructure itself to accommodate whatever lifestyle you wish to create.

    Just as you cannot expect to develop a perfect tennis swing or learn how to play a musical instrument without both good instruction and a tremendous amount of practice, you cannot hope to transform your health without the ongoing process of putting your new knowledge into action. Moving in the right direction, improving the way you eat, and learning how to handle social situations that encourage bad habits are all part of an ongoing process of change. It is a process that requires time and effort and the ability to learn from mistakes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

    It is not enough simply to know what to do. You need to do it. You need to practice preparing recipes and eating super-healthful meals until such time as they begin to satisfy your desire for pleasurable eating. Anyone who has become accomplished at demanding activities, such as sports and music, will tell you that it can be difficult to learn new things. It is not easy to develop new habits, and there is no such thing as a shortcut to developing new skills and expertise. Likewise, it takes practice and perseverance to eat healthfully.

    When you do something over and over, it creates a pathway in the brain that makes it easier and more comfortable to repeat it again later. However, while change may be difficult, it is not impossible. What is needed is a strong desire and motivation to change, a willingness to be uncomfortable, and a determination to work on it until you get it right.

    The more you make healthful meals, and the more days you link together eating healthful foods, the more your brain will naturally prefer to eat this way. Your taste for healthful foods will develop. It has been shown that a new food needs to be eaten about fifteen times for it to become a preferred food. The more days you eat healthfully, the more you will lose your addiction to unhealthful, stimulating substances. With time, you will look forward to -- and prefer eating -- a diet that is more natural and wholesome.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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