Who doesn’t love adding a little salt to their dinner? But if you’re like many Americans, your doctor may have advised you to reduce your salt intake. Cue the disappointment when you bite into your chicken leg, and it tastes like nothing.
It turns out it takes 24 weeks to readjust how much salt you prefer to add to your food. That’s a long time! And in the meantime, your food may just have that super healthy taste that’s simply hard to stomach.
But eating well is important, so I’ve compiled four tips for making healthy food taste amazing as you keep learning to love it:
Choose one food and be patient
You can’t expect to love healthy food from the beginning, especially if you’ve been eating processed foods your entire life. To get yourself started with healthy eating, consider setting a goal to add one healthy food into your diet at a time. Then, you should give yourself six weeks to make small changes to your goal and six months to love the new changes.
Be patient with yourself and remember that these things take time. The most important thing you can give yourself in the transition of healthy eating is kindness and forgiveness. You might mess up along the way, but it’s all part of the process to a healthier lifestyle. By starting with one thing at a time, you will meet your goal more efficiently.
Set yourself up for success by shopping for the best ingredients
When you start with great ingredients instead of processed products, making a healthy meal doesn’t have to be hard, and it can taste great. With just three or four delicious and fresh ingredients, you can make a meal in just 15 minutes that makes it easy to appreciate the flavor of each one without masking them with other heavily altered products.
If you’re looking for recipes for delicious, simple and healthy meals, Homemade Method has some great ideas, including the following:
Homemade pizzas with fresh vegetables, cheese and lavash bread or whole grain tortillas.
Homemade salads with quinoa, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and olive oil or lemon dressing.
Homemade frittata with sauteed vegetables.
Between Google and Pinterest, you’ll never run out of fun ideas for healthy foods to try and hopefully love in the long term.
Learn how to cook and season each type of food
Sometimes, healthy food has that “healthy” taste we’re not used to because it doesn’t have the filling, fun extras we like. Here are tips for making vegetables, protein, whole grains and fruit taste better to us:
Vegetables: Buy in season, sprinkle with nuts or Parmesan cheese, mix veggies together, and even add sweet extras like apple, pear or raisins to kick it up a notch.
Fish, poultry or tofu: Marinate or poach your protein to make it tender. Find a rub recipe you like and add yummy extras like lemon juice, soy sauce, salsa or sliced avocado.
Whole grains: Many whole grains have a naturally nutty flavor that comes out when you saute them, even just for a little bit. Also, cooking your grains with chicken, vegetable or mushroom stock instead of water really amps up the flavor.
Fruit: Buy in season when you can. Eat fruits together in smoothies or fruit salads, and add cinnamon or citrus juice. Make a dip with plain yogurt sweetened with pure maple syrup or honey. Yum!
Change your mindset
After years of eating processed foods, it’s going to take a while to get used to the taste of healthier foods — and that’s normal! The standard American diet is full of extra chemicals and sugar, and they’re actually addictive. Don’t expect yourself to enjoy kale more than processed foods overnight.
As nutrition practitioner Megan Olson explains, “If you were never introduced to squash as a toddler, you’re essentially going back in time re-developing those tastes and unlearning the bad ones.”
So, realize that you may be starting over, and let that guide your process. You can do this!
If your diet isn’t as healthy as you’d like, take heart — you can help yourself learn to love healthy foods. By choosing one food at a time, shopping for the best ingredients, learning how to cook and season each type of food, and changing your mindset, you will be well on your way to a lifestyle that makes you healthy and happy.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.