Eat your dessert or you won’t get any vegetables

NNM14_TasteMattersCan you imagine what it would be like if your favorite foods were the healthiest for you?  If nutrition and health were the main reason for our food choices, we would choose vegetables over desserts every time. No child would have to sit at the dinner table until they “ate their veggies.” We would choose fresh fruit over cookies every time. Our dinner plates and lunch bags would look altogether different. We certainly wouldn’t spend as much time deciding on which restaurant to choose. Not surprisingly, consumer research confirms that taste tops nutrition as the main reason why one food is purchased over another.

Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right

“Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” is the theme for this year’s National Nutrition Month, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Dr. David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, also talks about helping people learn to “love the food that loves you back.” Both themes suggest that it’s very possible to combine good taste and nutrition to improve health, reduce illness and prevent disease.

So why do we like the foods that we do? The answer lies in our genetic makeup as well as the environment in which we live. Taste, along with smell, are the primary senses that determine flavors, or the sensory impressions of food. Humans perceive taste through sensory organs called taste buds and the human tongue has 3,000-10,000 taste buds.[1] Each taste bud contains 50 to 100 taste receptor cells that do decrease over time.

So is it really possible to change our taste preferences? The good news is yes, and it’s surprising how quickly our taste can change – especially our taste for salt and sugar. Wean your consumption of certain ingredients and your desire becomes less. Eat more of it and the need get stronger. That’s probably not a surprise to anyone.

To change your taste buds and enjoy the taste of eating right, follow these nine steps for two weeks. You’ll be surprised at the difference!

1. Cut back on salt. Start by reducing the amount you sprinkle on food by half. Continue to reduce as you can.

2. Reduce added sugar by at least half of what you consume now (that goes for sweeteners also). Continue to reduce as you can.

3. Eat foods close to nature. This is a sure way to appreciate the natural taste of food.

4. Avoid fried foods and choose broiled, baked or grilled. Fat adds intense flavor to food.

5. Limit traditional gravies and sauces and replace them with fruit and vegetable glazes.

6. Experiment with herbs and spices to add interesting and bold flavors to food. Many low salt spice blends are available.

7. Replace rich sugary desserts with fruit and quick breads. They satisfy the need for sweetness but are low in sugar (and calories).

8. Avoid sugary, sweetened beverages. Make water your beverage of choice.

9. Introduce a new food in small amounts at least seven times before determining you don’t like it (this is recommended for children learning new foods).

[1] Encyclopedia Britannica. 2009