What’s your favorite food? Hmmm—favorite you say. What exactly do you mean by favorite? Do you mean what food makes you feel good- physically well after eating it, nourished or satisfied? Or, do you mean what food do you just plain looove to eat, unable to stop, such as pasta, chips, chocolate chip cookies or ice cream? Some foods for some people trigger addictive signals in their gut and brain making it hard to stop eating that food (without proper training and other diet/nutrient adjustments.) For those with GI-belly issues, a favorite food could simply be a food that just doesn’t rock the boat.
For many people visions of their favorite food sit precariously on the periphery of their mind, sometimes all day. At a moment of stress or emotional or physical weakness—boom, there it is —mocha chocolate chip ice cream, mysteriously making its way into their mouth.
My clients complete a lifestyle questionnaire in which I ask them to identify their favorite food(s). Although a big part of my counseling focuses on figuring out the nutrients, foods, and supplements that will help you heal, for many of my clients I also focus on behaviors around food. We all have certain food behaviors that are influenced by a variety of factors in our life and how we are raised by our families. One food behavior which I believe has exponential benefit is simply challenging your tastebuds.
You know the kids whose total diet repertoire is all of four foods, often all white in color? No reds, blues, or greens — you may have been one of these children or have a child who is one. Some of these kids grow up to be adults with the same white, restricted taste buds-resistant to trying new tastes, new consistencies or new colors. Sometimes other medical issues are contributing factors. For many children, however, once they start socializing with friends and other families, often their food horizons expand.
When I ask a client if there are any foods that they don’t like— a great answer is always, “no- I love everything”. I know that person will have an easier time of food experimenting. Of course, the proverbial "sweet tooth" is perhaps one love that is healthier not to have but challenging your tastebuds even helps to conquer that too.
Eating a variety of flavors means Nutrient Density.
Trying new tastes and combinations of ingredients in foods that you wouldn’t necessarily seek out by yourself has tremendous emotional and nutritional benefit. When we combine tastes that might not seem like they work together, we’re satisfying different sensory stimuli, usually leaving us more satisfied physically and mentally after a meal- less likely to be looking for more. Usually these contrasting flavors means more nutrient density. And eating a varied diet contributes to a healthy diversified gut flora.
Try These Four Tips To Challenge Your Taste Buds.
1. Combine consistencies.
Add a sliced, crunchy apple to a plate of leafy greens or top off a salad with a few walnuts, almond slices and or pumpkin or sunflowers seeds.
2. Combine sweet and bitter foods or sweet and sour foods.
Add pomegranate seeds or dried fruit to brussel sprouts, greens or broccoli or add a sour pickle or sauerkraut to a meal or use fermented kefir as a salad dressing.
3. Spice it up.
Spices contain phytonutrients, chemicals that benefit that body and a little can go a long way. Add cinnamon or ginger to cereals, grains, or smoothies or add cayenne pepper or turmeric to vegetable and meat dishes or just sprinkle good old fashioned black pepper on veggies and other dishes of your choice.
4. Work at your food.
Foods that slide down just a bit too easily, sometimes leave us looking for more. Foods such as yogurt or smoothies do better when they are lower in sugar and higher in nutrients. So, thicken up your smoothies for more consistency with berries, chia seeds, yogurt or kefir. Also, a salad with a crunchy fruit and slices of protein that require thoughtful chewing, not only help the process of digestion so that nutrients can be fully utilized in the gut, but they also provide more time to process and enjoy the contrast of flavors.
Finally, challenging your taste buds can lead to a sort of “deconditioning” towards our sweet callings. Sweet cravings stem from a variety of factors but by challenging them with other flavors, you may notice that they are not at your beckon, sweet call. My observations from years of working with clients, is that those people who eat a variety of healthy foods, especially a variety of vegetables at most meals are not owned by their sweets. Sweets are still enjoyable but not a necessity.
So, what does a nutritionist pass out on Halloween? Truth be told, back in the day, yes, my kids trick or treated with pillow cases full of candy, as did I. If Halloween candy doesn’t give you an appreciation for what our body has to detoxify, I don’t know what will. The best thing I think we can teach our young kids about Halloween is to safely enjoy the festivities, practice moderation, and of course--enjoy the chocolate. I pass out a few different, full size chocolate bars and try to encourage the eager little hands to take just one. Happy Halloween!