Want to lose weight but can’t stop eating junk? Self-control alone might not be enough, so why not try training your tastebuds to love healthy food.

Step #1 Start slow:

If you struggle to eat bitter foods, try white cabbage rather than broccoli when first introducing more leafy greens to your diet.


Step #2 Quit warm turkey:

“Most people find reducing – not eliminating – foods like saturated fat, sugar and refined carbs works best if done gradually,” says psychologist Kellee Waters, who specialises in food addiction and obesity. For example:

Swap, don’t stop: If you’re a Dairy Milk fiend, choose a healthier chocolate – think a six per cent cocoa dark chocolate – and build up over weeks/months to an 80 per cent one. Likewise, rather than trading white bread for wholemeal, try a white fibre-enriched bread, then a sandwich with one slice of white and one of brown to help you adapt to the taste and texture.

Reduce sugary drinks: Reduce sugar in your tea from two teaspoons to one then to half then to none. Start diluting juice with water until you only need a dash for flavour. Eventually, cut it out completely.

Switch oils and spreads: If you’re trying to use less butter and more olive oil, start with one that has a light flavour.


Step #3 Serve the same food different ways:

Not a fan of vegies? Start by grating them into meatballs or adding a few more to your stir-fry. Or use a different cooking method – for example, roasting your vegies with olive oil instead of simply boiling. This will give you different taste sensations and increase the chance that you will find one or two that make the food appeal to you more.


Step #4 Edit:

If you don’t trust yourself with foods that belong to your old taste way, the best cure is prevention. “Avoid [keeping] unhealthy food at home and then you will have no choice but to adapt your taste buds to the healthier choices,” Taste expert Eugeni Roura from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences advises.


Step #5 Combine:

“When cooking at home, make healthy food taste great by combining tastes like umami (e.g. mushrooms or soy sauce) with sour (e.g. lemon juice),” says Roura. “This more complex taste stimulation is likely to enhance your fullness and satiety.” In short, by mixing and matching a few different tastes in one dish or on one plate, you will get greater enjoyment from the food and feel more satisfied at the end of your meal.

NEXT: 5 ways to resist your cravings