If you feel especially weak-willed around a holiday dessert table or a bowl of office candy, don’t beat yourself up. It’s human nature to seek sweet flavors. Scientists theorize that this inborn preference helped attract early humans to nutrient-packed fresh fruit, which supported the long-term health of the species.
Unfortunately, modern-day food manufacturers capitalize on our sweet-seeking nature. The processed sugars in soft drinks, candies, cakes, and other treats are calorie-dense and often combined with fat. They overstimulate our pleasure sensors, dulling our taste for fruit’s natural sweetness and keeping us coming back for more junk food.
The good news: By steering clear of overly sweet foods, you can resensitize your taste buds to the sublime sweetness of fresh fruit. Here’s how:
1 PURGE THE PROCESSED SWEETS FROM YOU LIFE—OR AT LEAST YOUR HOME.
“If it’s in your house, it’s in your mouth,” says plant-based weight-loss coach Chef AJ. A clean break makes it easier to reorient your taste buds to savor real flavors. If you can’t go cold turkey, Shivam Joshi, MD, an internal medicine physician at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, recommends buying treats in very small quantities as infrequently as possible. “If you do buy, say, a sugary cappuccino, consider pouring a portion out before you start drinking to reduce the sugar you ingest,” he says.
2 MAKE IT A DISTANT MEMORY.
“When we think about eating a piece of candy, we actually see that image in our minds and imagine the taste,” says Doug Lisle, PhD, staff psychologist and director of research for TrueNorth Health Center and co-author of The Pleasure Trap. “The longer you go without being exposed to unhealthy foods, the harder it is for your mind to create a vivid image of eating them.”
3 DOUBLE DOWN ON FRESH FRUIT.
Keep a bowl filled with a few of your favorite fresh fruits, and place it where you can see it. Position sliced fruit front-and-center in the fridge. Bring fruit to work for easy snacking.
4 BE A NICE CREAM NINJA.
Keep peeled whole bananas in the freezer for a quick “nice cream” treat. Simply break a few frozen bananas into smaller chunks, and blitz them in a food processor or high-speed blender until they’re the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Enjoy it plain, or blend with additional frozen fruit such as berries or mango.