“All of this healthy food tastes like crap,”  – I hear this statement  everyday from my well-meaning, refined food-loving friends. Non-vegetarians say that vegetables have no taste and those who love sweets, claim that fruits are not sweet enough for them. Since most of us are trying to be healthier and eat healthier foods, I want to address this common issue of health versus taste. After thinking about the problem, I came up with four solutions.

   Four ways to make healthy foods taste good:

1. Do not make your healthy foods bland.

Grains, beans and vegetables can be prepared in a multitude of ways. There is way more to vegetarianism than a lonely skinny girl munching on a celery stick, while all of her friends are enjoying a lovely meal of steak and potatoes. To make simple, unrefined foods taste good, experiment with textures and spices. The same vegetable can taste completely different with curry than it does with garlic and basil. Sprinkling nuts or seeds on top of a baked sweet potato, not only adds protein, it also adds crunch.  Having sweet, sour, bitter and spicy flavors all on the same plate tastes unbelievable! Roasted butternut squash, sauteed kale with lemon juice on top and baked spicy tofu is an example of such plate, if you have no idea what  am I talking about. There is a lot more to vegetables, than a salad and there is a lot more salads, than chopped up cucumbers and tomatoes on a bed of lettuce. See my blog for recipe ideas or come up with your own.

2. Bland today doesn’t mean “always bland.”

If you are used to processed artificial junk food, natural foods probably do seem somewhat tasteless to you. The flavors of fried meats and candy bars are simply a lot more intense than any veggie casserole on the planet. If you repeatedly bombard your taste buds with refined, concentrated flavors, they simply would not be able to detect the more subtle tastes of healthier foods.

This is a very common problem,but it has a solution.  You can retrain your taste buds, as they are accustomed to like what you feed them. Back when I used to do nutritional counseling, I would ask my clients who claimed they hated vegetables and every other healthy foods, to refrain form consuming processed junk for two weeks. Since the flavor of meat is very aggressive for the taste buds, it’s better to eat a palm-sized portion of simply prepared meat with no rich sauces no more than three times a week. Do not eat dairy, aside from the occasional yogurt, if you really have to have dairy. To summarize, for two weeks, do not eat anything that comes in a box and cut down your meat and dairy intake. Then see how much better you are able to detect the flavors of the grains, the legumes and the vegetables.

Our taste buds are under constant attack of sugar and refined foods. If you have pop tarts or a bowl of sugary cereal in the morning, you will hardly be able to taste any healthier dishes that come for lunch. The same is true for the kids, by the way. Do not give your kids artificial processed junk foods, heavy meats and dairy and you’d be amazed to see their new love for vegetables. I will write more about this next week.

3. Get your blender out

To get yourself and your family accustomed to simpler and more natural flavors, try smoothies. While the fruity classics are great, try adding some kale to your typical strawberry-banana combo. Or, toss in some spinach and parsley or a bit of celery. Perhaps, a  piece of squash to go with your mango shake? Be creative in getting those health foods into your system.

4. Eat more healthy foods

Whether by blending and juicing or by eating natural foods, the more of them you consume, the more of them you will want to consume. Healthy foods make us feel better immediately, as the body responds with renewed energy, better appearance and better mood. Anybody would like to retain this feeling, so you keep reaching for healthier foods.

If you really want to make yourself and your family healthier, there is really no way around eating more natural, unprocessed foods and less milk, meat and refined artificial junk; and it’s better to start sooner than later. As my husband puts it: “It’s not important what we don’t eat, it’s more important what we choose to eat.” You won’t notice the absence of rice crispies and Fruit loops if you are eating enough berries and pears. You won’t miss heavy meats with sauces if you are nutritionally balanced from eating grains, legumes and vegetables with perhaps, some lighter animal protein. Most importantly, you will feel great and love the taste of simple, natural foods.

Please, let me know if you have any other ideas of how to make healthy foods taste good.