Going vegan or trying to eat a little healthier by choosing more plant-based foods can be difficult, especially if you’re used to eating a lot of processed, packaged and fast food. Next to a double bacon cheeseburger with fries, a bowl of spinach can taste like dirt in comparison. But like quitting cigarettes or any other bad habit, swapping artificial food for plant-based choices will eventually become easier to swallow. After religiously eating plants for nutrition, your taste buds will transform to make you love the sweetness of fruit and the crunchiness of greens.
Here are five ways to transform your taste buds with plant foods.
1. Use beans to get a meat-like texture
Often, meat-eaters who don’t want to go vegetarian say they like the taste and texture of meat too much to give it up. But veggie dishes can pack great texture, too. For just about any meat dish, there is a vegan alternative, like tempeh, beans and lentils. Try putting these natural foods into meat-free loafs and patties. With some spices, oats and veggies, you can make one mean lentil loaf with lots of texture.
2. Choose sour flavors to eliminate the bitterness of greens
Many people can’t stand the taste of leafy green vegetables. Unless you’re used to eating them raw and without globs of dressing, they do take some getting used to. Darker greens like spinach and kale can taste especially bitter, so we’re accustomed to choosing from a dozen different dressings to pour on top. But dressing can contain tons of sugar and fat, so try not to use it as a cover-up. One healthy trick for masking the taste that Dr. Oz explained on his TV show is to balance that bitter flavor with sour or rich flavors. Instead of your packaged dressing, try drizzling a tablespoon of olive oil and vinegar. Or, change up the texture by baking greens into kale chips.
3. Eat fresh fruit to kill sugar cravings
Sugar gets a bad rep. But not all sugar is created equal. There’s a difference between the 7 grams of sugar in one cup of organic strawberries and the sugar in a Snicker’s bar. It’s not the apples and bananas that are making America the fattest country in the world — it’s the sugar we get from packaged candy, cookies, baked goods, crackers and even ketchup or salad dressings. Those unhealthy foods are engineered to make you crave them, and their refined sugar content can make some people think fruit isn’t sweet. But fruit is nature’s candy. Try reaching for fruit instead of that 4pm coffee shop pastry. Eventually, your taste buds will adjust and cherries will taste as sweet as milk chocolate.
4. Use nutritional yeast to replace dairy
Getting that creamy, dairy taste in vegan food is easy sans milk and cheese. A trick of the vegan chef is nutritional yeast, which can be used as a thickening agent. Nutritional yeast is a good source of fiber, complete protein and several B vitamins. Mac n’cheese and cheesy breakfast scrambles are easily veganized with it. Trick your taste buds by sprinkling nutritional yeast on top of pasta, like parmesan cheese. Try whipping up some cheesy vegan mac n’ yeast or cheezy kale salad.
5. Use cashews to make creamy sauces
Who doesn’t love a good, comforting creamy sauce? Going vegan doesn’t mean giving up that warm, creamy taste that so many of us know from childhood. When milk, butter and cheese is out of the question, cashews are a surprising alternative to tricking your taste buds. Alfredo sauce can be cruelty-free by soaking 1 cup of raw cashews for about three hours, then adding ½ cup of water, a dash of nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon of sea salt, one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of onion powder and one tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Blend everything using an electric hand mixer or blender. You can make any type of creamy sauce or dip you can imagine with cashews, like a chipotle cashew crème.
Image Source: Vegan Philly Cheezsteak Sandwich