Can you train yourself to enjoy healthy food?
Most of us naturally crave foods high in fat and sugar, but can we train ourselves to crave fruit and veg?
Two months into the New Year and, for many, the resolution to ‘eat healthier’ has fallen by the wayside. The truth is, willpower will only get you so far.
We all know that quick-fix diets are counterproductive in the long run and apparently it is not just a lack of willpower causing failure for dieters. A study conducted in 2011 suggests that depriving yourself of food actively changes the levels of hormones that control our appetite – making us even more hungry than normal.
The Holy Grail for many is to simply learn to love healthy food more than unhealthy food – but can this be done? Experts believe that most of our food preferences are down to nurture rather than nature (with the exception of our innate desire for sweet and dislike of bitter) and because many of our eating habits are learned it is thought that they can be changed.
Flavour flavour learning
This theory suggests that if we like one taste element of a food or drink, we will start to like the other flavours. For example, if you enjoy Coca-Cola, you may have first started to like it because of the sweetness, and the more you drank it, the more you liked the other chemical infused tastes in the drink. In 2006 a study adopted this theory and revealed that children who ate sweetened broccoli did indeed begin to enjoy plain broccoli more.
Reduce taste thresholds
We all have different thresholds for feeling satisfied by certain tastes and over time we get used to certain levels of sweetness/saltiness, meaning anything we eat without these flavours tastes plain and boring. To reduce your threshold for the long-term and to enjoy foods without these tastes, slowly lower the amount of added sugar/salt in your dishes.
Repeating your exposure to any type of stimulus will eventually bring a familiarity and less contempt for the stimulus. A study in 2010 revealed that repeated tasting increased a liking for vegetables – so if you are determined to love brussels sprouts, eat them more often.
Know your enemy
One of the best ways to get you feeling enthusiastic about a certain type of food is to become an expert on it. If you’ve never liked your greens, try tasting every single green there is, you are likely to find at least one type that is more palatable.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of eating healthily, speaking to a nutritionist could help. To find out more and to find a nutritionist near you, please see our Healthy Eating page.
View and comment on the original Guardian article.