Retraining Your Taste Buds

One of my biggest challenges in my profession is getting people to eat better. Sometimes it lasts for a week, others a few months, and other times people are resistant to any change from the beginning.

I never ask clients to make big changes right away. It’s a proven recipe for failure to try and completely cut out the unhealthy staples in your diet such as (diet and/or regular) soda, sugary processed foods, and so forth.

What I usually do is suggest trying to cut back slightly on something, while adding something healthier into the mix. I can’t even tell you how many people come to me consuming nothing but coffee, creamer and sweet n’ low for breakfast that after a few months are eating a balanced healthy meal, cutting out the cancer-causing, metabolism-slowing aspartame all together! You have to be determined, you have to want it, and you have to be prepared that it’s the small changes over time bring big results.


[photo source]

The most challenging is when I have people who simply “hate vegetables.” Or don’t eat anything but bread. Literally, I have had clients who only eats bread (products) and butter/dairy. True story.

I’ve had people look at me like I have three heads when I suggest they cut diet soda out of their lives. {On average, people who drink diet drinks eat more in a 24 hour period than those that don’t.} I have gotten the question “well, what will I drink with lunch?” Don’t even ask about what happens when I reply with: “water!!?”

With that being said, I wanted to bring up the topic of retraining your taste buds. Guess what? It is possible! I have done it a few times over the years! At one point my taste was so adapted to fake sugar laden processed foods {my fake sweet tooth was through the roof!}– and I enjoyed it. Now, if I accidentally got a taste of the fake chemicals on my tongue, I would gag.

Recently a client underwent some testing for food allergies in regards to an autoimmune disease and GI problems and we discussed in length how these changes would effect his life. Some of the literature from the doctor/dietician had great analogies and advice, so I thought I would share that along with my own two cents.

Back to Primal Times:

what would a caveman do?


photo source

Imagine back in the stone age, how cavemen found what foods were “safe” to eat. The hunters and gatherers would go out to seek food. When picking berries, perhaps they tasted one to see how it would effect them. Did it make them sick, fall down in pain? Maybe the next day they went back and picked a few more berries from that same patch because of their positive experience. It became a food generally recognized as “safe” for consumption, in which they chose to consume regularly.

Another week the caveman chose another berry patch and tried a berry that made them extremely ill. Do you think that caveman would go back the next day to try it again? I wouldn’t.


The old “blame your parents” excuse.



Many of our food preferences develop as a child. Sometimes, however, those preferences go much deeper than taste.

Have any of you had to sit at the dinner table for an hour after your family had finished because you wouldn’t touch your vegetables? For my brother it was peas, for me, au gratin potatoes (blech) or Brussels sprouts. The latter is now my favorite vegetable, ironically. Many of us have been there “you can’t leave this table and go out to play until you’ve eaten 5 bites of your veggies.”

Well, even one bite tasted so bitter where you wanted to gag that you just couldn’t do it. So you sat there, and sat there until it got cold and even more disgusting. You began to despise that vegetable more than anything else in your life.

Meanwhile, it was your parents who were punishing you—but you wouldn’t direct your feeling towards them? They provide you with love, shelter, food, comfort—all of your basic human needs. And they were your parents. They were doing what they thought was best for you at that time. However, you were being taught to ignore your hunger and not listen to your body to tackle what seemed to be this huge, overwhelming portion of: {insert most hated childhood veggie here}.

Those feeling of hurt, embarrassment, anger….you direct that towards the broccoli. Later in life as a 30 something year old, or even 60 something year old you still have those feelings but in the form of disgust and bitterness towards the offending vegetable{s}. In retrospect, your taste buds mature over time and foods that tasted bitter as a child will tone down, or even (God-forbid!) taste good as an adult!

What to do?

Baby steps.


There is a huge connection between food and your mood. All around. The best time to make positive changes is on a day you are feeling, well, positive. In other words, make sure you are in a good mood once you start this experiment. When you are retraining your taste buds you are also retraining your brain.

Have you ever heard the term: “fake it til’ you make it?” It applies to many aspects  of your life. When I am coaching someone with poor body image, I often give the advice to look at yourself in the mirror each day, smile and say something nice instead of the instant reflex to pick at yourself. When someone compliments you, smile and accept it even if it’s your instinct to shoot what they said down. Eventually, your brain will start to accept your body a little more.

Start small with the offending food. Prepare a portion, season slightly as desired. Take one bite, and one bite only. Enjoy the rest of  your meal. Repeat this a day or a few days later. One bite only. Over the next few weeks repeat this same thing up to 8 times…one bite only. Move on, don’t think about it. Eventually your body will accept that this food isn’t poison. You ate it while in a good mood, so there are no ill psychological feelings surrounding it. In fact, you maybe even enjoyed it once you introduced larger portions? The best part—you were in total control. No one was “forcing you” to eat it!

This will work with any food! Some foods you may find you will tolerate more than love…but it’s worth the process when it comes to your health! I find that the more healthy, whole foods that people eat, the less processed, empty calorie foods they eat in the long run! And remember…more healthy fats will help curb your sweet tooth!

 I also find it comes down to the way food is prepared.

When I was a kid I had Brussels sprouts steamed with butter and lemon juice and they were stinky and bitter. Today, I enjoy them roasted with coconut oil or olive oil, salt and pepper. They are crispy and I gobble them up like candy!

In the meantime, you can do the reverse with foods you want to cut out. By doing so little by little. If you are a soda drink who drinks one can per day, open it, dump half of it out, and only allow yourself  the half of a can. Try adding in some herbal or green tea and overtime, try to replace the soda altogether!


Children and taste buds:

Another note I want to add, then I am going to end this lengthy post, is that with kids, their taste buds are much more sensitive that ours as adults. While us as parents may do our best to train their taste buds at a very young age to love healthy wholesome foods—you will still find there are texture and tastes that your children simply won’t like! Don’t force them, but also don’t give up. Keep trying in small amounts, or in different recipes. If they resist, move on and try later. {This is something I will revisit in the future in length}.


Have you made or had to make major or minor food changes? How did it play out?

What tips do you have to retraining your taste buds?

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  • Reply Susan

    Great post, so true about taking the baby steps. Since competing i the competition last November, I’ve gone more vegan in my diet. I still eat chicken and fish when I’m out socially but when I prepare food,for myself I try and eat whole foods, veg, beans and fruit. Crazy to think I used to eat 12 egg whites a day!!!

    June 1, 2012 at 8:26 am
    • Reply laury

      12 egg whites a day! Wow!

      I am curious to hear how you feel now vs. during training. It’s interesting. Our bodies are not meant to be so lean/low in body fat and it takes the extreme dieting and workouts to get there (like in comps). My friend is training for another one. I am so fascinated by it and the changes that happen in your body!

      And are you planning to do another??

      June 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm
      • Reply Susan

        I think I would do a competition if there was someone like a good friend or boyfriend doing it with me because the strict diet is so isolating. Also I felt that in the last few weeks, I didn’t look well, my face looked gaunt and I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes. It’s the one thing that confused me about fitness. The way a person has to really diet and go on a very high protein diet to attain a level of fitness. Is it a level of fitness??? Or fakeness?? With the tanning and the large breast implants, veneered teeth which most of the top competitors have. Then add in some steroids to the equation which some people take. I found it a fascinating experience.

        June 3, 2012 at 2:43 am
        • Reply laury

          I love how level headed you are about it all! I agree with you 100% It is not natural. It is a sport…and the issue of drugs and all that, well, I know you are not “supposed to” but I also heard they just give you a lie detector test also!

          June 3, 2012 at 9:23 pm
  • Reply Jaime

    Fabulous post! I’m going to share this with my clients and friends!

    June 1, 2012 at 8:37 am
    • Reply laury

      Thank you, Jaime!!

      June 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm
  • Reply Kimmie

    Great post! Good tips! My 13 year old son is a picky eater when it comes to veggies. We don’t push him, but try to serve him what he does like (oddly, he will tolerate spinach and will usually eat a good fist full with a little shredded cheese and no dressing for a salad). Rather than push him or force him to eat veggies, we talk about nutrition and healthy eating habits. It is working! In the last month, he will often reach into the steamed veggies dish and take out one or two pieces to eat—lately it’s asparagus and broccoli! We smile at him and I thank him for making a healthy choice. Have a great weekend Laury!

    June 1, 2012 at 9:40 am
    • Reply laury

      Your son is so lucky to have such awesome parents! Thanks for sharing what you do, it’s really helpful! I am impressed he likes spinach! I couldn;t even really eat raw spinach until I was in my mid 2o’s

      Have a great weekend, Kimmie!!!

      June 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm
  • Reply getfitchick

    I discovered that once i stopped eating sugar and other unhealthy foods, my body couldn’t tolerate them much afterwards. The body becomes accustomed to what you feed it. Great post!

    June 1, 2012 at 11:53 am
    • Reply laury

      Yes it does! Thanks!

      June 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm
  • Reply Lisa @ Healthy Diaries

    Great post Laury!
    I too am shocked at how the majority of Americans eat. I overheard a pregnant woman say how she limited herself to 1 diet coke a day when pregnant. EEK!! I cringed when I heard that. 😐

    I totally agree that many of our food preferences develop as a child. My child hates veggie soups or any kind of legume and that’s because his mom never cooked those things for him when he was growing up so his taste buds never got used to them. I’ve been working on changing his taste buds, but it’s not easy!

    June 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm
    • Reply laury

      Just more of a reason to offer your kids a variety of foods. I will say it’s really tough though, I find, because you want your kids to eat…and if they stick to foods they like and get mad at the new foods it’s easy to stick with the same things. That’s a challenge I have with Ella. She’s so tiny so I don’t want her skipping meals, but I follow her cues. She is picky with new textures and things so I always have foods I know she likes as back up! The mini baby sliders I make are the best…loaded with different veggies, healthy grains and beans. I just wish she would love the texture of kale, not in the sliders but I know it’s a stretch hahah. I will keep trying!

      June 1, 2012 at 2:59 pm
  • Reply Lisa

    Great post! I love this topic!! I feel like you and I have had many of the same experiences with clients too. It’s so strategic, and all those background experiences from childhood really do play a big role in how we deal with food now. I love the tips you gave–the one thing I know for sure is that it IS possible to change, with intention, strategy, and effort over time.

    It’s SO worth it! I was just talking with my mom about how we used to think it was a treat/splurge to eat McDonald’s….and that was only about 7 years ago. You couldn’t pay me to eat that crap now!! I love changing for the better….it just makes life better 🙂

    Ella is one lucky little girl to have a mama who is so insightful about these topics!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm
    • Reply laury

      It is so funny how our mentality changes! You said it right..intention, strategy and effort are key!!!

      Yes, you definitely could not pay me to eat McDonalds! I know too much about what’s in it…blech!!!!

      And thank you, that means a lot coming from you!!!

      June 1, 2012 at 3:01 pm
  • Reply Madeline @ Food Fitness and Family

    Great post!! There are a few things that I have retrained my tastebuds to like over time … IE asparagus and yogurt. Now I LOVE them!

    June 1, 2012 at 10:13 pm
  • Reply glidingcalm

    great post!!! I am trying to cut back on my SF gum habit, but it’s TOUGH.

    June 2, 2012 at 10:24 am
    • Reply laury

      I’m a gum addict too! I have actually taken big steps in cutting it out…try adding parsley into your smoothies or juice…it helps!!!

      June 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm
  • Reply Lisa

    Awesome post Laury! It’s so true that you can retrain your taste buds. I remember as a kid only eating white carbs, and slowly I changed my diet. And now I can’t even eat white bread without feeling sick, I just don’t like that stuff anymore. Another thing that helps is to change your mentality on how you view the healthy food. Instead of viewing it as disgusting or nasty it helps to view it as nourishing and it providing benefits to our bodies

    June 3, 2012 at 12:16 am
    • Reply laury

      I love that! And it’s so true! I often tell friends and clients the same thing…I think of food as fuel! Your stomach is not a garbage can!

      June 3, 2012 at 9:25 pm
  • Reply Heather @ Fit Mama Real Food

    You can definitely retrain taste buds! I’ve had to do it many times in the past to get my sweet tooth under control.

    June 3, 2012 at 5:10 am
  • Reply thehealthyapron

    Excellent points! I completely agree with everything you said. It’s impossible to get people to change or cut out foods they may or may not have been eating for 20+ years, over night. However, with realistic expectations, SMALL changes, and a little education, it CAN be done over time. I have to say that I’ve NEVER been a picky eater. Whether it was healthy and wholesome or fattening and junky…I typically enjoy everything (still can’t muster trying sardines or raw sushi though). However, like you, I was a faux sugar addict in college! Thankfully, I HAVE retrained my tastebuds and when I get even a small bit of artificial (same with my hubby) it’s disgusting! It’s SO sweet and unnatural tasting! I still have the occasional diet soda (not while preggo…it repulses me for obvious reasons) but when I do…more than a couple sips and I’m done! Such a positive change 🙂

    June 3, 2012 at 8:11 am
    • Reply laury

      Yes it is!! We have so much in common in that sense 🙂

      June 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm
  • Reply Kathleen @ KatsHealthCorner

    I’ve found that I don’t like the taste of super sweet things (or artificial sweeteners) anymore. For instance, I love making these chocolate protein cakes and I usually only frost them with almond butter. Today I tried them with artificially sweetened preserves (that’s what we had) and you know what? I didn’t enjoy it as much. And the preserves seem to be playing with my mind. I used to be a sugar addict, but through small changes I’ve been able to love dark chocolate (even baker’s!), plain oatmeal, plain baked potatoes, etc. One day at a time is how I got there. 🙂 Thank you for this post, Laury. 🙂

    June 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm
  • Reply Chocolate & Cherries for a Grain-Free Holiday

    […] I did nothing for me.  I thought this mousse was a million times better. Yet another example of how taste buds can change! For those that don’t want it…or think it’s weird….you know what I’ll say to […]

    July 4, 2012 at 11:52 pm
  • Reply Trevor

    My family and I have recently gone vegan, and I was wondering how long does it take for fast food, milk products, junk food start smelling and tasting bad?

    When does the craving stop for processed food end? After 2 weeks? 3 weeks?

    January 4, 2014 at 2:10 am
  • Reply Leandro

    Currently it appears like BlogEngine is the best blogging platform available right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

    September 26, 2014 at 4:30 am
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