I think we all know the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods.
The hardest part about choosing a healthy lifestyle is actually eating the vegetables we bought, instead of just having them go bad in the fridge.
Next to time being a constraint for eating healthy, many people say they just don't enjoy the taste.
While I totally agree (Brooklyn-style pizza, you have my heart), that will only set us up for a life full of discomfort, dysfunction and health issues.
So, I've outlined some different ways to "trick" your brain into incorporating more healthy foods.
1. Reset your reward system.
When you put it that way, we sound like a bunch of mice in a Psych 100 experiment, but we kind of are when it comes to punishment and reward.
Having that bowl of ice cream every night before bed is literally training our bodies to expect that sugar rush, just as if we were to take a drug.
If we constantly feed our bodies sugar (every day at 3 pm or every night after dinner), the dopamine is constantly firing and increasing our high.
Eventually, our bodies build up a tolerance to the food, causing us to need more to reach that same high.
So of course, the veggies and hummus won't cut it if we're used to that candy bar because our reward system is expecting a much greater high.
However, you can actually re-train your brain's reward system and taste buds by weaning off the sugar.
Having sweets every other night (or lessening the portion) can slowly reduce that high you're receiving.
Soon, your brain will actually light up for something like apples and almond butter.
You will allow yourself to enjoy the taste of healthy foods more when you eat the highly addictive foods less often.
2. It's an acquired taste.
We may need to be exposed to certain foods a few times before acquiring a taste for them.
You might be like, "OK, well I didn't need to taste that Frappuccino more than once for me to like it."
And you'd be so right. As a species, we are biologically trained to enjoy sugar and sweets.
Don't be discouraged if you don't like brussels sprouts right away. Most of us actually don't!
A good way to incorporate these kinds of foods into our diet more is to sneak them in.
3. Sneak them.
I'm the biggest fan of sneaking veggies into foods. It's so much easier to get comfortable with them when they're in foods you already enjoy eating.
For example, I add spinach to smoothies, and I can't even taste it (promise). I've made sweet potato brownies, and I've even added zucchini to oats.
If it means cooking brussels sprouts in a butter sauce, or adding frozen avocados to smoothie bowls for you to eat them at first, I'm a huge proponent of that.
You'll get accustomed to the vegetable and will eventually acquire a taste for it by itself.
I also think we shouldn't rely on this. Only doing this can reinforce unhealthy habits and picky eating, but I think it's really smart in the beginning.
Personally, I love spinach, but not at 6 am. There's not a big chance I'm craving a big pile of leaves, so in the smoothie it goes.
On the flip side, after I come home from class or work, I'll throw spinach leaves into a stir-fry and enjoy them without "sneaking" them.
4. Don't make huge changes immediately.
Going from bagels, pasta and cake to wheat grass, broccoli and kale chips is drastic.
Do what you can at first so it's not overwhelming because in this case, there's no reason to "go big or go home."
Doing too much all at once can turn you off to lots of foods for good.
Instead of that caramel macchiato coffee creamer, use almond milk and a dash of honey.
The next week, use Ezekiel bread instead of white. Then maybe you can do something like make your own chia jam instead of buying processed ones from the store.
Small changes eventually lead to big results, and they are way more sustainable to maintain than changing lots of things at one time.