3 Steps to Reprogram Your Taste Buds

Change the way you think about healthy foods with these foolproof strategies to start eating better today.

Did you know most Americans aren’t eating most vegetables? If you’re one of them, you probably know it takes more than just making a mental decision to adopt this healthy habit. To be successful, you need to use another part of your body -- your taste buds. Reprogramming them with these simple strategies can help you to introduce new, healthier foods into you diet. Another bonus: They’ll actually start to taste better.

The first step is to figure out which one of the 3 “T’s” is the biggest problem for you. Is it the taste, the temperature, or the texture of healthy food? Knowing which one of these you struggle with the most will help you to make simple changes to reprogram your taste buds. That will help you to introduce new, healthy foods in small steps as you gradually eat less unhealthy foods. 

For Taste People: The Oreo Method

Is it the taste of healthier foods that prevent you from eating them? Healthier foods, such as kale, broccoli and green tea, tend to be bitter. Unhealthy foods, including soda, chips or candy, tend to be sweet and salty. Try using the Oreo Method: Create a “sandwich” around your healthy food. Take a bite of a food you like, followed by the healthy food you don’t like. End with a bite of the food you like again. 

Beginning and ending with a familiar food will help you associate the challenge food’s taste with something delicious and comforting. This can be an effective strategy for kids that are picky eaters as well. The more you use this strategy, the more healthy food you will enjoy eating. Baby step by baby step at a time, you’ll notice your preference move away from sweet and salty foods and toward bitter foods.

For Temperature People: The Red Hot Method

Do you like warm, hot foods and find cold, bitter salad unsatisfying? Is it comfort food like pizza and pasta you gravitate toward? Many people prefer their foods hot or warm. Incorporate healthy food by eating warm vegetable soups. Find ways to grill vegetables to make them more palatable. Some of my favorites: broccoli sautéed with olive oil and garlic and tomato basil soup. Not a lettuce or salad person? Cook the vegetables you would normally eat in a salad such as spinach into hot marinara sauce.

For Texture People: The Mix-In Method

Do you avoid foods like vegetables because they’re crispy and prefer things like chewy, doughy cookies?  Do you avoid sushi because it’s slimy and prefer the crispy, familiar crunch of fried chicken? Take a food you already like and mix in or substitute a healthier food. Add some cauliflower to mashed potatoes. Even better, puree cauliflower and garbanzo beans in a blender with chicken or vegetable stock. Then, cook in a saucepan until hot. Hate the crunch of kale but love creamy smoothies? Try a smoothie with kale, blueberries, vanilla protein, organic milk and ice.   

Your Parent Has Dementia: What to Talk to Their Doctor About

Make sure all their doctors are aware of all the medications she is taking.

Q: My mom is 94 and has dementia. She is taking a whole medicine cabinet-full of medications and I think they actually make her fuzzier. How should I talk to her various doctors about what she is taking and if she can get off some of the meds? — Gary R., Denver, Colorado

A: Many dementia patients are taking what docs call a "polypharmacy" — three or more medications that affect their central nervous system. And we really don't know how that mixture truly affects each individual person.

A new study in JAMA Network that looked at more than 1 million Medicare patients found almost 14% of them were taking a potentially harmful mix of antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiepileptics, benzodiazepines such as Valium and Ativan, nonbenzodiazepine benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics such as Ambien or Sonata, and opioids. And almost a third of those folks were taking five or more such medications. The most common medication combination included an antidepressant, an antiepileptic, and an antipsychotic. Gabapentin was the most common medication — often for off-label uses, such as to ease chronic pain or treat psychiatric disorders, according to the researchers from the University of Michigan.

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