How to train your brain to love healthy foods
It’s a well-known fact that regularly consuming foods that are high in sugar, fat or salt increases your desire to eat these foods. A recent study looked at whether a repeated exposure to healthier foods could in the same way increase their palatability and our desire to consume them.
More precisely, 42 obese adults participating in a weight loss program were exposed to healthy foods, such as legumes (lentils, chickpeas, etc.), every day for 6 weeks. They were asked to give foods a score depending on their flavor, appearance, texture and smell. An appreciation score was this way calculated for each item. Legumes are rich in fiber, protein and micronutrients. They are an integral part of a healthy diet and help with weight loss by increasing satiety. That said, despite their many documented health benefits, legumes aren’t a popular food for American and Canadian populations. Researchers speculated that might be because people simply don’t like the taste of legumes. When the study began, participants gave a mediocre appreciation score of healthy foods such as legumes. However, after 6 weeks, their appreciation of these foods significantly increased by 4%. These results suggest that it is possible to learn to appreciate foods that are healthy, even if you don’t like them the first time you taste them. To do this, you just need to eat them regularly for a few weeks. That’s one more reason to start incorporating healthy foods that aren’t usually part of your diet, like legumes or tofu, right away.
Here are 5 simple tips to help you learn to love healthy foods:
1. Limit your unhealthy choices
Progressively reduce your intake of sugar, saturated fats and salt. For example, reduce the amount of sugar that you put in your coffee.
2. Try again and again
Choose a health food that you’re not used to eating, and taste it regularly. Try different recipes to find one you love.
3. Mix the new and the old
If you’re still struggling, mix a new food with a food you love. For example, add grated cheese to broccoli, or add some chickpeas to a pasta salad.
4. Pretty up your plate
Pay attention to how your food looks, because you first taste with your eyes. If your plate looks good, your meal will taste better.
5. Taste the new food first, in small amounts
Start your meal with the new food, because your hunger is stronger then. Start by eating only a small quantity of the food so you don’t reduce your desire to eat it regularly.
Here are a few recipes for legumes that everyone will love:
Anguah KO, Lovejoy JC, Craig BA, Gehrke MM, Palmer PA, Eichelsdoerfer PE, McCrory MA. Can the Palatability of Healthy, Satiety-Promoting Foods Increase with Repeated Exposure during Weight Loss? Foods. 2017 Feb 22;6(2).