Do you like pizza and ice-cream? Maybe you are a fan of fatty burgers and steaks? How about cupcakes and fried chicken? Chips, soft drinks, candy, french fries, chicken wings, fast food … Why can’t healthy food taste that good?
If you are one of thousands of people who know that they need to eat better but all their attempts to change their diet fail miserably then I have some great news for you. It is not your fault that your attempts fail (actually it is nobody’s fault; we are not looking for the guilty party here.) You just need to develop taste for healthy food before jumping into a new diet.
If you are used to eating burgers and pizza and then somebody tells you “From now on you can eat only steamed broccoli and occasionally baked chicken.” Your taste buds declare a war against you if you even try to put that chicken or broccoli in your mouth. The change is so drastic that your entire body including your brain simply refuses to accept these changes.
I’ve made the same mistake. I could survive for a few months eating extremely healthy but then I would crash. The minute I put a tiny piece of a cake in my mouth I felt like I was in heaven. It was pure bliss that I was missing for two months. I didn’t care about all the health and weight benefits of a healthy diet, I was polishing off cakes, pints of ice-cream and pizza. Have you been in my shoes?
Unfortunately I can’t make all the tasty stuff be completely healthy for you. But I can show you how to develop a taste for healthy food. It will take some time and discipline but you will be amazed with the results. Once your body gets used to healthy eating and all the extra energy that it gets from it you will not even want to turn back. You will be still able to enjoy your favorite meals or treats but you won’t be craving them all the time. This is a strategy that has helped me and my husband to start eating healthy, I am sure it will help you too.
- Educate yourself. It is much easier to find will power to do something new if you know exactly why you need it and how you are going to benefit from it. Read about health benefits of eating particular foods and avoiding others. This step will help you find the weakest links in your diet and get that extra motivation that you need.
Modern documentary movies can give you plenty of food for thought. The movie Food, Inc. was a huge eye-opener for me. After watching it I buy only organic chicken and meat and watch carefully how I stock my pantry. Another food movie worth watching is Super Size Me.
Basically in this step you are using the tactics of anti-smoking campaigns. Do you remember those times when they would put pictures of cancer infected lungs and other internal organs of a smoker on packs of cigarettes? That campaign worked pretty well in the US because there are a lot less smokers now. The truth is that bad eating habits can produce similar conditions in your body and elevate your risk of dying from any condition.
- Start by eliminating unhealthy foods. It is easier to eliminate things then to add something new to your diet. Look at the foods that you eat right now. Which ones are the unhealthiest? Which ones can you survive without? For example, if you love soft drinks then you can switch to juices first (choose the ones with no sugar added) to satisfy your sweet tooth and later on move to water or unsweet tea.
- Find healthy alternatives. Write down the list of your “happy” foods. These are the foods that bring you an instant mood boost and that you are craving when you are feeling blue or stressed out. Most of the time these are foods that you remember from your childhood. Do not eliminate those foods completely but look for healthier alternatives. For example, if you love French fries then you can try oven baked sweet potato fries. If you love ice-cream then you can freeze yogurt and top it off with some fruit or even chocolate syrup to satisfy your craving. Fix turkey or veggie burgers instead of regular ones. These are just a few ideas.
- Double up on your favorite healthy foods. Chances are that you already like certain healthy foods. Salads (be careful with the dressing), fruit and berries, beans, veggies – find any healthy foods in your diet and start substituting them for your unhealthy choices. I love dry fruit and I substitute it for candy when I am craving something sweet. Another trick that I use is mixing salads with low-fat dressing with some lean protein like turkey, grilled chicken or even steak.
- Add new healthy foods one bite at a time. It is difficult to start liking new foods but it is possible. The trick is to add that food into your meals in very small amounts. At first you can mix just a tinny bit into your favorite meal (e.g. add spinach to a meatloaf.) Next try maybe a tablespoon of that food cooked in different ways. It might take several months or even years to develop that new taste but it is still possible.
Soon after I gave birth to my girls I had a food poisoning with salmon. I felt horrible for the entire week and needless to say I could not even smell salmon for a year after that (and I used to love it before the incident!) I started adding salmon just one tiny bite at a time. It took another year for me to get used to the taste of it again but now I have no problem eating it anymore.
- Combine your treats with healthy foods. It is important to keep your taste buds happy but you can easily trick them. If you love bacon you can crumble two pieces on top of a big salad instead of eating it with eggs and ham.
If you love to snack on chips then add them as a treat at the end of your healthy meal (that way you will be able to eat less of them.)
Mix 1 or 2 tablespoons of ice-cream with a big bowl of fruit and berries for a healthy desert.
- Become the master of spices. It is amazing how much flavor you add to your healthy foods (and 0 calories!) if you use the right spices. In my pantry I always have
- Italian herb mix (great for pasta sauces),
- chili powder (adds that extra burst of flavor to any meal),
- garlic powder or minced garlic – adds flavor to practically any meal you are cooking; I especially love it with vegetables,
- low sodium soy sauce – it is not a spice of course but it can liven up any rice meal (especially brown rice) and hide the fishy taste from almost any fish,
- basil – easy Mediterranean flavor,
- cinnamon – adds a warm and “happy” flavor to baked fruit, pies and of course oatmeal,
- ground cumin – adds a warm and earthy taste to meat, beans and rice; it will add an Oriental flavor to any meal.
There is a lot more to say about spices but these are just my top picks. You can learn more about the art of cooking with spices in How to Stock a Minimalist Spice Collection.
If you want to brush up on your cooking skills then I recommend that you download Jules Clancy’s Free Minimalist Cookbook. You can also check out healthy versions of your favorite meals on Eatingwell.com
Do you have your favorite healthy foods? Did you already change your eating habits to healthier ones? Do you have any questions about healthy eating? The comments below are open just for you. Please leave a comment and spread the word about this article. I greatly appreciate your feedback.
Keep it balanced!
P.S. I wanted to thank my loyal reader Patricia from Patricia’s Wisdom for giving Balance In Me the Cherry On Top Award. She has a wonderful blog full of inspirations and great advice. Thank you for supporting Balance In Me.