Everyone knows that whole foods are much better than processed food choices, but let’s face it: sometimes, it’s not easy to convince our taste buds of that. When you’ve been used to eating processed foods for long enough, your taste buds actually change and make you crave them. It’s almost as if you forget what the real flavor of a raw crunchy carrot or a sweet, succulent strawberry even tastes like. With confetti flavored cupcakes, chocolate coated pretzels, and way too many cheesy flavored chips and sugar-coated cookies and crackers to choose from, our food industry has spaced us as far away from the real food experience as humanly possible.
But we haven’t lost the fight. It’s pretty easy to get away from a processed foods diet when you switch to eating whole foods more often. What are whole foods anyway? Sadly, the idea is more complex to some people than one might imagine. Whole foods are leafy greens, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, grains, and anything that comes straight from the earth without going through any (or very little) processing whatsoever. These foods are simple. They aren’t hard to find, and you can even grow some of them right in your back yard or find them at any supermarket wherever you go.
Why Transition Away From Fast and Easy Processed Foods?
Whole foods serve us well all the way around. They protect the body from major forms of disease and they also fill our bellies the way nature intended. You certainly won’t get that from packages of sugar-coated donuts or crinkly, greasy fries. Sorry, it just isn’t the way things work. But food cravings are hard to manage and trying to switch to a whole foods diet after living off processed and fast foods long enough is a task even the most dedicated health nut will find hard to do.
So it’s time to trick your taste buds into loving whole foods. Here are a few tips and tricks that work like a charm:
1. Eat Sweet Veggies At Every Meal
If you’re a sugar addict, then you’ll need to care for your sweet tooth in a healthy, yet smart way. Add sweet veggies to all your meals, which will at first help you transition into enjoying sweeter flavors in a healthier way than you used to. Include nutritious, nutrient-packed choices like butternut squash, pumpkin, corn, peas, tomatoes (a fruit), sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets at your meals. Even onions and red bell peppers have a sweet flavor when cooked. Experiment with these and don’t worry about the carbs they contain. Some people advise against them, but these are much better to eat than chips, cookies, and candy you’re normally used to. Remember, they’re whole foods and will provide nutrients you won’t get elsewhere, but also provide your taste buds with that sweet flavor it’s seeking out.
Try Warming Carrot Ginger Soup, Sweet Potato, Carrot, and Leek Soup, Vegan Country Meatloaf with Gravy, Roasted Veggies With Butter Garlic and Spinach Salad, Kale and Roasted Corn Stir-Fry, Sweet Potato Tofu Pizza, or Eggplant Garbanzo Stew.
2. Train Your Buds to Eat Greens
Listen, no one goes from hating greens one day to loving them the next. So, adding a little here and there from milder greens will help you learn to work more into your diet without seeming like a health drag at the same time. The simplest way to do this is to sneak tasteless spinach (or even a leaf or two of kale) into your next smoothie with some berries, non-dairy milk, and maybe a banana. Then, stir some greens into your next batch of soup. Make a salad one day for lunch. Add some greens to your next wrap recipe. You get the idea. Sneak them in, work them in, and enjoy eating them however you can.
Try a Superfood Salad filled with goodies, a Superfood Smoothie for Lasting Energy, or even a Raw Vegan Pizza or Breakfast Tortilla Pizza.
3. Don’t Leave Out Whole Grains
Whole grains seem to scare off some people, possibly because they contain natural (beneficial) carbs, while some people find their fibers hard to digest. So start small, but don’t leave them out. You don’t need but 1/4-1/3 cup to get their filling benefits, and plenty of whole grain, gluten-free options are available to those that fear the glutinous grains. Great options include: gluten-free oats, wild rice, teff, quinoa, amaranth, millet, and brown rice. Some of these are also seeds and not even grains but will still provide essential B vitamins, magnesium, and fiber that whole grains and other whole foods do. It’s important to include whole grains in your diet at first because they will satisfy that craving for unhealthy processed carbs like chips, crackers, and granola bars without giving you a sugar high and an addiction to processed ingredients. Over time you’ll crave the comfort of a bowl of rice or simple bowl of porridge. There’s nothing quite like the nourishment these provide. Here’s some tips on cooking them for ultimate perfection and satisfaction as well.
Try Vegan Wild Rice, Cranberry, and Pine Nut Stuffing, Banana Oatmeal With Hazelnut Butter and Baobab Powder, Cheesy Sprouted Brown Rice with Baby Spinach and Mushrooms, Toasted Quinoa Mexican Soup, Quinoa Pilaf with Artichokes, Ramps, and Green Peas, or any of our favorite oatmeal bowls.
4. Embrace Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes also seem to scare some people, possibly due to digestion issues while others fear their carbs too. It’s funny that some people prefer protein bars over simple beans and legumes, but our society has created such a health crisis that it’s no wonder we can’t differentiate the benefits between the two anymore. Edamame, adzuki beans, lentils, black beans, and chickpeas are all some of the easiest beans and legumes to digest and they also have a delicious flavor that’s irreplaceable. The best part is they will fill you up, energize you and keep you going for hours the way processed foods never could. If you have trouble digesting them at first, read these tips for ways to make things easier on the belly.
Give these a try: Sweet Potato and Spicy Pumpkin Chili, High Protein Black Bean and Mushroom Soup, White Bean and Kale Soup, Tamale Inspired Bowls with Beans, or Tangy Vegan Curried Chickpea Salad.
5. Use Herbs and Spices Liberally
When coming off sugar and salt from processed foods, you need to find a healthy replacement so your taste buds don’t backfire on you and cave in to the unhealthy stuff again. Turn to herbs and spices like basil, oregano, chili pepper, paprika, mint, pepper, lemon peel, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and any others you enjoy that will help kick that craving for salt and sugar. You can also learn to make your own! Add these to whatever you enjoy and you’ll soon learn to crave these instead of the unhealthier options.
Try using herbs and spices in: Mexican Black Bean Soup, Curried Carrots with Pistachios, Roasted Red Potatoes with Turmeric and Thyme, Stuffed Sage Carnival Squash, or Brown Rice Salad with Dill.
Transitioning to a whole foods diet really can be a fantastic experience. Give your body a chance at loving whole foods. You’ll be surprised just how much it thanks you through all the health benefits!
Lead Image Source: Eggplant Onion and Tomato Stew