You’re probably familiar with what a healthy diet should look like.
However, eating healthy can be much more challenging if you’re accustomed to eating a lot of processed foods. If that’s the case, you may even find nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables unappealing.
Retraining your palate to enjoy more nutritious, minimally processed foods is key to eating healthy.
Fortunately, you can start learning to love nutritious foods that boost your diet and health right away.
Here are 7 simple strategies to help you retrain your palate and eat healthier.
The practice of mindful eating involves slowing down, listening to your body, and paying close attention to how your food looks, smells, and tastes.
Mindful eating is associated with several health benefits and may be an effective tool to prevent binge eating and weight gain (1).
Plus, it may help you enjoy your meals more and start appreciating healthy, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
To get started, minimize any external distractions during mealtimes by turning off the TV and putting your phone away. Then, slow down while eating and chew each bite thoroughly to savor the dish.
Taking small breaks may help you start listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. In turn, recognizing when you’re hungry versus when you’re full may help prevent overeating.
One of the best ways to retrain your palate is to start adding flavorful new ingredients to your weekly menu.
For example, using unfamiliar spices, such as tarragon, sage, turmeric, fenugreek, and rosemary, may boost the flavor of healthy foods that you don’t usually enjoy, including veggies, legumes, or lean sources of protein.
Trying new foods and spices may also make it easier to reduce your sugar and salt intake, thus improving your overall diet quality.
Plus, it can help you discover many new, nutritious ingredients.
In addition to seasonings, you may want to try colorful fruits like rambutan or pawpaw, as well as unique veggies like daikon, taro, sunchokes, fiddleheads, and jicama.
One of my favorite ways to diversify my own diet is by grabbing an interesting new ingredient from the grocery store each week, then finding a few complementary recipes to try throughout the week.
Gradually reducing your processed food intake is a great way to start retraining your palate and incorporating fresh ingredients into your diet.
Slowly eliminating processed foods may also be more sustainable than simply cutting them from your diet at once. That’s because research shows that depriving yourself of specific foods may increase your short-term food cravings (2, 3).
Start by tapering your intake of chips, cookies, candies, processed meats, and packaged desserts. You can replace them with healthier alternatives, including treats like dark chocolate and snacks like hummus, veggie chips, and fresh fruit.
You may want to focus on just one or two ingredients per week to decrease your processed food intake more gradually.
At your next meal, try cleansing your palate a few times to appreciate each ingredient’s unique flavor.
One easy way is to take a sip of water between bites of different foods instead of switching between side dishes, main courses, or desserts throughout the meal.
Bread, crackers, and fruit may also help cleanse your palate, making it easier to enjoy each individual component of your meal.
To retrain your palate, decreasing your intake of sodium and added sugar is crucial.
Nonetheless, many restaurant meals and store-bought foods are packed with sodium and sugar.
Cooking at home puts you in control of everything on your plate, so you can skip the extra sugar and salt in place of healthier options.
What’s more, home cooking lets you get creative and add new, nutritious ingredients to your diet.
For an easy way to get started, try picking a few recipes per week to prepare at home. Alternatively, give your favorite restaurant foods a tasty twist by recreating them at home.
Soda is loaded with sugar and calories, as well as numerous additives and other unhealthy ingredients.
If you find yourself craving soda, swap it out with healthy alternatives like coffee, coconut water, unsweetened iced tea, or water infused with fresh fruit.
For something bubbly, sparkling water, seltzer, and kombucha are great options.
Plenty of easy food swaps can help you cut out junk food without feeling deprived.
For example, veggie chips made from ingredients like kale, turnips, or carrots make a simple substitute for store-bought potato chips.
You can also trade microwave popcorn, which is often loaded with fat, calories, and salt, for air-popped popcorn and season it at home with your favorite herbs and spices.
Similarly, refined grains like white rice, white bread, and white pasta can be swapped for whole grain varieties to add extra fiber to your diet.
Finally, you can satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit, yogurt, or a bit of dark chocolate in place of sugary foods like cookies, ice cream, cupcakes, and candies.
Although healthy diets are easy to visualize, they can be tricky to implement if you’re accustomed to eating processed foods high in salt and sugar.
Retraining your palate and learning to enjoy nutritious foods make it much easier to follow a balanced diet.
Numerous simple strategies can help you get started to aid both your diet and your health.