1 Try, Try again
Our taste buds change over time, Lynn Rossy, Ph.D., a health psychologist and author of The Mindfulness-Based Eating Solution, says. The things you despised before may be no big deal now. Just because you couldn’t tolerate asparagus as a five-year-old doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate it as an adult. Research shows that a child may need 10 to 15 exposures to a new food before they like it. If you never gave a food that many chances when you were young, it’s time to give it multiple tries as an adult. Changing up the way you prepare food can offer new appeal, as well.
2 Create your cravings
We often think that we eat what we crave. But, really, we crave what we eat. Here’s how it works: whatever you eat in large quantities, your body craves. If you eat donuts every day, you’re training your body to want and expect donuts. You can use this cycle for good: if you start eating fresh salads every day, your body will start craving them. Really! Eat healthy food long enough, and pretty soon, you’ll start wondering why you thought those nutritious foods were so detestable in the first place.
3 Use the sandwich technique
Susan Roberts, Ph.D., author of The Instinct Diet, says she routinely helps people move away from fatty, salty, unhealthy foods by using the “sandwich technique.” For example, she helped her “chocoholic” patient, Wendy, lose weight and beat her cravings. In fact, slimmed-down Wendy says she “feels nauseous” now when she eats chocolate, and she craves salads instead. So how does it work? Roberts explains: After two weeks of completely going without a favorite fatty food, her patients are allowed 100 calories-worth of their guilty-pleasure food. But there’s a catch: they must eat it in the middle of a meal. This sandwich technique doesn’t leave the impression of how good the chocolate tasted to a really hungry person (at the beginning of the meal), or allow a person to associate being satiated and happy with the chocolate as dessert. Thus, the trick helps break the power of cravings.
4 Reduce the old, increase the new
“Gradually reduce junk food so you don’t miss it, and add new, healthy foods to your repertoire. Processed food doesn’t taste natural and really isn’t that appealing. Over time, you will gradually weed out those food items that no longer appeal,” Rossy says. She tells about a student who tried this method. Several months after starting the experiment, the student got her favorite hamburger and French fries at a drive-thru. She took one or two bites and then threw it away—she had totally lost her taste for it.
5 Give it time
Your tastes and cravings won’t change overnight, but they can change faster than you might expect. “In about a month your taste buds will start to recalibrate themselves,” says Mike Dow, a psychologist and author of the New York Times bestseller The Brain Fog Fix. “As you wean yourself off artificial sweeteners, added sugar, and salt, you will also start to appreciate the subtle and robust flavors of herbs, the savory flavor of healthy fats like olive oil, and the delicious, natural taste of vegetables.”
Michele Deppe is a freelance writer in Seattle, Washington, who is currently retraining her taste buds to give up sugary tea.