Guide on how to train your taste buds to like healthy food

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Family eating veggies

My husband doesn’t like porridge. Even though he knows that oats lower cholesterol, he thinks that oat porridge tastes like wallpaper paste. To get him to eat this superfood, I soak the oats in water overnight and then blend them into his breakfast smoothie.

He is happy because he cannot taste them, and I’m happy because he is eating this nutritious food.

Many of the parents who come to see me want their children to eat more healthy food, but healthy food is not as tasty as junk food, so they are faced with resistance when they introduce healthy fare.

There is a way out. Read on.

Play with presentation

We first eat with our eyes, so, like I often do with the small Mukherjees, dice or slice unappealing fruit or vegetables into attractive shapes.

I also find that arranging them attractively on a plate further increases the palatability factor.

Find a reason to like it

Do your research, so you know why a certain food is good for you – this might give you an incentive to keep trying it. For example, kale is packed with fiber, vitamin C, folic, beta-carotene, calcium, and iron, as well as a multitude of phytochemicals.

Try the new food on an empty stomach

Research has shown that you’re more likely to be receptive to new or unusual food when you’re really hungry.

Play with preparation

How you prepare some foods can have a dramatic effect on their flavor – say cooked versus raw, or roasted versus steamed. So if you can’t stand steamed spinach, mix raw spinach with sesame dressing. For many, it is the temperature, or even texture of food, rather than its flavor, that they reject.

If you don’t like avocado but you love burgers, slice some avocado over your (lean) burger. The idea is to pair a food that you like with one that you don’t.

Adding a favorite sauce or condiment to a food that is not to your taste can also help. For instance, if you don’t really like the sour taste of plain yogurt, stir in some mashed banana for dessert.

Positive association

Let’s say that you’re not that fond of cabbage, but the last time you had it, you were amongst good friends at a lively dinner party. Because you were having a good time, you actually enjoyed it more than you normally do. The positive association works wonders. Similarly, if you caramelized Brussels sprouts with a friend who loves them, there’s a chance her enjoyment of them will rub off on you. Such experiences can help you think more fondly of the healthy food in future and make you more willing to eat it.

Try, try, try again

Did you know that it can take as many as 15 attempts before a child will accept a new flavor? Thankfully, the timeline may be somewhat shorter for adults, closer to a handful of tries, so, if at first, you don’t appreciate the taste of healthy, but bitter-tasting vegetables, keep eating them until your taste buds get used to them.

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