When eating healthfully seems like a chore, it’s often because we are slaves of our taste buds. Our tongues can be like little dictators in our body, demanding that everything have sugar, chocolate, oils, butter, cream…The list goes on. Why do we crave just those things that we’re supposed to eat in moderation? Why don’t healthy things like greens and steamed vegetables give us that “feel-good” feeling? And what’s the solution””is there actually a way to enjoy and love healthy foods without being a gourmet chef?
The answer is a resounding YES! Here are five simple things you can do to train your taste buds and savor the flavor of your vegetables:
1. Leave off the salt and spices. Most of what you read about making healthy food tasty is about covering it up with spices. It’s wonderful to know how to cook, and how to use a variety of spices, but it’s also a little like resigning yourself to the fact that steamed vegetables or salads are “tasteless” and that something must be done to them to make them palatable. This is actually so far from the truth! Every single real food””that is, unprocessed food””has a unique taste. If you think it’s tasteless, it’s because your taste buds are, well, spoiled.
What would you think of a wine or beer connoisseur who liberally mixed in a spoonful of sugar in his wine or beer before tasting it “to cover up the bitterness”? What about a coffee fanatic who adds sugar and cream liberally before trying out the latest organic flavor from the Andes mountains? You would never see that happen because those people have trained their taste buds to distinguish minor nuances in their drinks. They savor every flavor that comes through and delight in the experience of sensing something new.
2. Don’t overcook. Overcooking vegetables not only reduces the vitamin content, but also turns everything into an unappetizing mush. Cooked vegetables have the most flavor and are healthiest when their colors are the brightest””that is, lightly steamed. Texture and smell are an important part of flavor. Learn to appreciate the texture and feel of each vegetable along with the taste.
3. Eat vegetables in isolation. This is not a rule to be followed all the time. It’s just a suggestion to help you pay attention to the flavor of a vegetable in a way you might not have before. Eating carrots by themselves will make you aware of flavors in the carrot that you wouldn’t sense if they were mixed with other vegetables. You can try this even with vegetables that are never normally eaten in isolation, like lettuce. Contrary to popular belief, iceberg lettuce does have a flavor despite its high water content! Can you taste it?
4. Mentally separate flavors when eating salads or other dishes. When you do eat prepared dishes with many ingredients, see if you can identify the contribution each ingredient makes to the overall taste. Can you separate the olive oil from the potatoes and the rosemary from the carrots? Incidentally, this will not only increase your enjoyment of your food, it will also make you a better cook!
5. Close your eyes and guess the green. When you buy a mix of greens for a salad, like a Spring Mix which usually includes various kind of lettuce as well as greens like chard and arugula, try to learn the names of the different kinds of leaves. Learn each taste separately and then make it a game to identify the leaf with your eyes closed. There will definitely be some that you don’t like as much as others, but you may be surprised how many greens actually have a sweet crunchy flavor that’s enjoyable. Make a resolution to try the ones you don’t like a minimum of 5 times””many of my favorite foods were acquired tastes that I didn’t initially like at all.
Your taste buds are just receptors for various substances in your food. When you train your taste buds, you’re really training your mind. The five senses get stronger with practice and training and the sense of taste is no exception. It’s not just for gastronomic experts””training taste buds will help anyone struggling to eat healthy. What a delight it is when your food is not only good for you, but tastes good, too!
Varsha Aditya is a writer for the popular calorie counter website CaloriesAndMore.com which promotes healthy and sustainable weight loss without all the impossible rules of fad diets.  Visit us to find more articles about sustainable weight loss, and see how CaloriesAndMore.com can make healthy living easy and fun!