Prevention (Australia) - - Nutrition Know-How -

If we’re ac­cus­tomed to eat­ing less healthy foods on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, it can be hard to break the habit. Our tastebuds don’t light up for fresh veg­eta­bles and unsweet­ened yo­ghurt the way they do for a burger or packet of bis­cuits. But they can. Re­train­ing our tastebuds to en­joy food with­out adding salt or sugar takes around three weeks. To get you started, just fol­low our five-step plan to­wards a health­ier way of eat­ing. by Paula Goodyer


Don’t go cold tur­key Grad­u­ally in­tro­duce more whole foods into your diet each day.

Start by re­plac­ing the salty snacks with fresh fruit. Then, as your tastebuds are ad­just­ing, move on to in­clude more fresh ve­g­ies, es­pe­cially those that are in sea­son, as they have more flavour, says

Ta­nia Fer­raretto, Ac­cred­ited Prac­tis­ing Di­eti­tian and spokesper­son for the Di­eti­tians As­so­ci­a­tion of Australia. Try sal­ads for lunch, and load up your plate with ve­g­ies at din­ner­time.“Your tastebuds are very adapt­able. It takes about three weeks to ad­just to eat­ing less salt. Use herbs and spices to make it eas­ier,” Fer­raretto says.


Know what you’re re­ally eat­ing “Make a note of what you eat and drink over a few days by writ­ing it down or us­ing a food di­ary app,” says Dr Tracy Bur­rows, se­nior lec­turer in Nu­tri­tion and Di­etet­ics at the Univer­sity of New­cas­tle.“You might think that you eat healthily, but then there’s that take­away on Mon­day, a night out with friends on Tues­day, and cake in the of­fice on Thurs­day. It’s not un­til you note it down that you can see what you’ve re­ally been eat­ing all week.”


Be­ware of pro­cessed foods in dis­guise Words such as ‘nat­u­ral’ or ‘su­per­food’ don’t guar­an­tee that a food has a healthy amount of sugar, salt or fat. So, al­ways check the in­gre­di­ents list to see ex­actly what the prod­uct con­tains.


Read the la­bel Not ev­ery­thing sold in pack­ets is over-pro­cessed – rolled oats, nat­u­ral muesli, whole­grain bread, frozen veg­eta­bles and fruit, as well as many dairy foods (the unsweet­ened kind) are just some ex­am­ples of min­i­mally pro­cessed foods, Fer­raretto says. Read the in­gre­di­ents list on the back of the pack. And if salt or sugar is in the top three, or there is a long list of ad­di­tives, leave it on the shelf.


Make healthy eat­ing con­ve­nient We of­ten rely on over-pro­cessed or fast food be­cause it’s quick and ready to eat.Yet there are so many healthy op­tions that are just as con­ve­nient, such as frozen veg­eta­bles, cans of tuna and chick­peas, tinned toma­toes and mi­crowav­able rice blends.

one ex­cep­tion: breast milk. This makes sense, says Small, since it is im­por­tant for in­fants to learn to suckle in or­der to sur­vive.

But apart from that it’s the many pro­cessed foods that are high in fat and car­bo­hy­drate (such as dough­nuts, choco­late bars and potato chips) that take ad­van­tage of the re­ward stim­u­la­tion that oc­curs in our brains when we con­sume this combo of in­gre­di­ents. Dr David Kessler, au­thor of The End of Overeat­ing ex­plains: “We know that in com­bi­na­tion we can make food, in essence, more po­tent, more mul­ti­sen­sory.” And there­fore more ad­dic­tive.


The good news is that Kessler and many oth­ers have re­alised there is a way to stop the cy­cle of craving, con­sume, re­ward – and that’s to re­wire the brain’s re­sponse to food. “We need to change the way we look at food,” Kessler ex­plains. In­stead of look­ing at a huge burger on a plate piled high with chips as a guilty plea­sure, we need to look at it and say to our­selves: “That’s not go­ing to make me feel good.” For more tips see op­po­site page.

An­other im­por­tant key is to avoid the cues that turn your brain’s at­ten­tion to those easy-to-eat foods: change your route so that you don’t walk past the bak­ery each morn­ing with the yummy muffins, turn down the vol­ume on food ads or swap that third milky cof­fee of the day for a herbal tea.

Crav­ings also arise from think­ing about the food you crave, which in­ten­si­fies the an­tic­i­pa­tion. To break this thought cy­cle, Kessler sug­gests a more struc­tured eat­ing ap­proach where you cre­ate a plan of what you’re go­ing to eat and when. To re­train your tastebuds keep rules sim­ple (such as ‘eat more whole foods and plant food’) and al­low your­self small serv­ings of food like choco­late some days. Ac­cord­ing to Kessler, “What’s im­por­tant is that you an­tic­i­pate when you’re go­ing to get hun­gry, and not al­low your­self to feel ex­ces­sively de­prived – be­cause that’s only go­ing to in­crease the re­ward value of food and make it harder to stop.”

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