How to Retrain Your Tastebuds
September 16, 2021
LaVerne Hanes Collins, Ph.D., NCC, LPC, LCMHC
What if you could retrain your tastebuds and successfully eliminate 80% of the excess sugar and salt in your diet? You can! Most of our sugar and salt intake comes from processed foods we buy in supermarkets and restaurants. To make matters worse, many of these items, like sweetened breakfast cereals and soda, are ultra-processed. They’re full of artificial ingredients made in labs, and they’ve been shown to accelerate weight gain.
You CAN enjoy delicious foods along with the health benefits of cutting back on sugar and salt. That includes lowering your blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, as well as reducing your risk of heart attacks, stroke, and other serious health issues. Make a good start with these suggestions.
About 80% of the sugar and salt in your diet comes from processed foods. Switching to whole foods is a big change, but you can succeed with one small step at a time.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Stick to the outer aisles at the supermarket. That’s where you’ll find fresh produce and dairy products, instead of chips and candy.
- Visit farmers' markets. Diversify your grocery shopping. Research farmers' markets and ethnic shops in your neighborhood.
- Bring a list. Reduce impulse purchases by planning what to buy before you leave home. Create menus for the week, so you’ll know what ingredients you need.
- Dine at home. Restaurants and manufacturers tend to use ultra-processed ingredients because they’re tasty and cheap. Prepare your own meals and snacks. You’ll also save a lot of money.
- Adjust recipes. Experiment with using less salt and sugar than the recipe calls for. Taste your food before picking up the saltshaker to see how much you really need
- Manage what's in your cabinets, so your cabinets don't end up managing you. Put junk food out of reach. Remove it from your kitchen or store it on the highest shelves. You’re less likely to give in to temptation if it means driving to a store or taking out a step stool.
Make your diet even healthier with a few more simple strategies:
- Taper down. If you gradually reduce how much sugar and salt you add to foods, you may change your habits without even noticing any difference in the taste. For example, if you usually take your coffee with sugar, work your way down a quarter teaspoon at a time.
- Substitute other flavors. Liven up your dishes with herbs and spices. To save money, you can grow many herbs indoors and buy products that will keep them fresh in the refrigerator for days.
- Read labels. When you buy food in a box or bag, check the nutritional information. For example, frozen vegetables without sauce can be a wholesome time-saver.
- Drink water. Quench your thirst with plain water rather than sweetened beverages. If you like more flavor, add cucumber, lemon, or other fruit slices.
- Increase your fiber. Foods rich in dietary fiber help prevent cravings for sweet and salty snacks. Smart choices include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Sleep well. Getting 8 hours of sleep each night fights cravings too, in addition to the many other health benefits. Go to bed early and wake up ready for a hearty breakfast.
As you eat more whole foods, you’re retraining your taste buds to prefer natural flavors. You may soon like those healthier options. And you will increase your chances of leading a longer and more active life by consuming less sugar and salt.