Diet Hopes Day 10, Barrier #4: What If I Don’t Like My Healthier Almond Milk?

taste-buds-change

Hopeful news and tips for dealing with uncooperative taste buds

The last two posts described how I successfully battled Recipe Frustration and Cooking Tedium.  As I did so and, bit by bit, improved my milk-making process, I became ever more confident and comfortable that I could weave it into my food life pretty easily.  Mission accomplished, right?  Except for one little thing:  I didn’t really like my healthier almond milk that much!  It was a little embarrassing that after all my efforts, I preferred the store-bought milk with its artificial additives!

Taste may sound like a silly concern against the “big, important” concern of healthy eating.  But actually, taste is no small matter.  In fact, good taste is really, really important when it comes to eating healthfully, and don’t let anyone guilt you into thinking that “real” healthful eaters endure gustatory sacrifice on a daily basis.  In truth, eating healthfully can and should be a delightful experience.  That’s the only way we’ll stick to if for the long haul.

But this doesn’t mean you’re free to eat only foods that have immediate appeal to your taste buds.  Becoming a happy and healthy eater is a two-way street that requires active effort on your part.  Let me explain:

Remember that immediate appeal is the point of most ready-made foods. They are designed and formulated to immediately appeal to the lowest taste denominator so as many people as possible will immediately like, buy and eat them in large (and profitable) quantities.  Food manufacturers invest millions and millions of dollars and years and years of research to develop products with just the right flavors, mouth feel, smell, crunch, taste and appearance to be irresistible.

Eating food with this kind of “dumbed down” flavor warps our taste buds.  We become incapable of appreciating the clean, real flavor of healthful foods.  So at best, real foods may taste different and strange.  At worst, you may not like them at all.

It’s like being accustomed to racing through easy-to-read formula novels.  Appreciating a piece of serious fiction generally won’t happen automatically; you’ll need to slow down and readjust your reading speed and mindset to appreciate its depth and complexity.

Similarly, we have a role to play when it comes to healthy eating.  You can’t sit idly by, waiting for healthy food to come along that will immediately appeal to you.  Rather, you must put out a little effort to challenge your taste buds.  Try new foods several times, giving your taste buds time to adapt.  And bit by bit, over time, they will!

It’s important to know that our taste buds are not fixed like our eye color and height.  They can and will change and adapt to appreciate and eventually prefer the clean flavor of real, whole, healthful foods.  Read more about how “You’re Not Stuck with the Taste Buds You Got” and how to “Build Your Tasting Muscles.”

Indeed, this is exactly what is happening for me.  I’m now on my fourth batch of almond milk and I’m definitely beginning to acquire a taste for it.  With that positive start, I’m committed to continue since it’s so rewarding to be able to avoid the artificial ingredients that I was downing at a rapid pace.  Certainly it also helps that I’m doing a better job making my own milk–remembering the salt, using the nut milk bag to better strain it, etc.   I’ve also begun to play with some spice and flavor additions–but more on that later.

For now, isn’t it interesting that once again, time plays an important role in making a diet change, just as it did with the previous steps.  If the thought of even a small time commitment makes you panic, however, don’t despair!  Sliding into an unhealthy eating habit probably happened over time–so digging out will take some time (and patience), too.  Rest easy that you’re not experiencing anything abnormal–and that change is absolutely doable.

P.S.  There may even come a time when you don’t just like your new, healthier options but you actually prefer them.  I was on vacation recently and had to drink store-bought almond milk again.  I was surprised at how readily I noticed the “tinny” taste of the natural flavors–and craved my homemade milk!

How about you?

  • Are your taste buds being uncooperative partners on the healthy eating journey?
  • Can you develop a rough plan to try one new food every few weeks?
  • Are you willing to experiment and see if your taste buds have more flexibility than you think?

Feel free to share your taste bud thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.

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