Most of us have the annual thought, typically around the New Year or spring, that we need to eat healthier foods. That can mean swapping your daily soda with lemon water or eating carrots and hummus instead of chips. The intention is there, but the follow through is not. The majority of Americans have become accustomed to a diet rich in processed foods, sweets, refined grains, fried foods, and saturated fats, all of which negatively affect your intentions to eat healthier foods.
It’s easy to read that and say, “Well, then it’s not my fault.” No, it is your fault if you make the decision to eat those foods, which have trained your taste buds to crave them. That being said, you can retrain your taste buds to crave healthier foods the same way you influenced your taste buds to crave unhealthy foods. According to several brain imaging studies, sugar and fat are addictive substances that are comparable to substances like morphine or heroin. Hyper-palatable foods establish a neuro-chemical addiction, meaning that you may be chemically dependent on the very foods that you are trying to eliminate from your diet.
Taste buds have an average lifespan of ten days, meaning that your body is constantly producing new ones throughout adulthood. If this is the case, then it is possible to retrain them to crave fewer refined foods and enjoy refreshing, nutrient-dense plant-based foods instead. When you eliminate dairy products, gluten, refined sugars, and other processed foods from your diet, you’ll notice that they taste different, perhaps sweeter or saltier, than they did before. Use the following tips to get started on developing taste buds that crave healthier foods.
To Start The Retraining Process
Eliminate Sweet & Salty Foods:
In order to eliminate your dependence on these foods, you have to remove them from your diet. For optimal results, eliminate them from your diet for about two to three weeks to help you establish a new baseline for flavors. During this time, you should introduce umami, bitter, or sour flavors into your diet. These foods include mushrooms, miso, pickled or fermented foods, and leafy greens. This helps to condition your taste buds to crave those healthier foods, which possess similar salty and sweet flavors.
Practice Mindful Eating:
Mindful eating is the practice of being present and in the moment when you sit down to eat a meal. Don’t watch TV or scroll through social media; rather, just be there with your food. You’ll find that this practice helps you enjoy wholesome foods and reduce stress. Eventually, you will be able to reintroduce certain salty or sweet foods to your diet. A few mindful bites of some chips or a piece of cake will satisfy your craving and you won’t need to indulge any further.
To Overcome Fat Cravings:
When it comes to eliminating cravings for fatty foods, it’s all about the substitution game. If you like to bake, use organic unsweetened applesauce in place of butter, because they both add the same rich consistency. You really need to pay attention to the oils you use, though. Vegetable, soybean, corn, and safflower oils contain too many omega-6 fatty acids, whereas olive, avocado, and coconut oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Too many omega-6 fatty acids in the body can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Processed foods are also rich in safflower, soybean, or corn oils, so avoid them as well. Focus on omega-3s to avoid cravings for fatty foods.
To Overcome Salty Cravings:
First thing’s first: get your butt in the kitchen and start cooking from scratch. A high percentage of people regularly eat out or purchase pre-made frozen meals, and these dishes are often packed with sodium or added flavors. When you cook at home, you are in control of how much salt you consume, and there won’t be added preservatives. Additionally, and we can’t stress this enough, eliminate deli meats and frozen meals from your diet because they worsen your salt addiction. Finally, try to find substitute seasonings for salt. Himalayan pink salt and sea salt are healthier options, but you can also use other spices and dulse flakes to avoid using salt.
To Overcome Sugar Cravings:
When it comes to reducing sugar cravings, most people don’t look for the right foods to eliminate. They may stop consuming baked goods and processed foods, but some of the biggest sugar sources are soft drinks and alcohol. These greatly affect blood sugar levels, causing spikes and crashes that can make you crave sugary foods even when you aren’t hungry. Swap your cup of coffee with herbal tea, your soda with water, and try to avoid the sugary mixed alcoholic drinks. A glass of red wine here and there won’t be the worst thing for your health.
Ultimately, eating healthy is all about rhythm. Once you find your groove, you’ll be able to keep repeating your steps and advance to the next level. Set weekly goals to build confidence and you’ll be eating healthy foods without thinking about it in not time.