Ask most people to state a preference for pizza, cupcakes or lentils and likely the choice would rarely be for the latter. Why is that? The short answer is three little ingredients – salt, sugar and fat. Individually and in combination, these three pack a flavor punch that is hard to resist.

Evolution has a role

From a biological stand point, human taste buds are suspicious of bitter foods. That’s nature’s way of protecting us from anything that may be potentially poisonous. As it happens, many good for you foods can be somewhat bitter.

Habit is also a hinderence

Taste buds quickly become acclimated to flavor profiles. In this rush and hurry age, much of the food we consume is packaged and flavor enhanced with sugar, salt and fat. We just don’t have a lot of time to prepare real meals.  What that means is as we consume widely available food, our taste buds adapt. When we do try good for you food it simply cannot compare to the flavor enhanced foods our taste buds have come to expect. As an experiment, try something as simple as not salting your food or eating a bagel or toast without butter, cream cheese or jelly.

Taste is its own reward

The big three (salt, sugar and fat) don’t just taste good, eating them feels good. Some would even say amazing – hence the quest for comfort food. Our common go-to’s for culinary comfort are things like macaroni and cheese, ice cream, cake, and chips. These flavor bombs light up reward centers in our brains and encourage us to keep reaching for me. In fact, the rush from eating comfort food can be so addictive that we continue eating, or reach for food, even when we are not hungry.

Association brings greater enjoyment

Eating is often social experience. Our best memories are often associated with decadent food choices. Think pie and Thanksgiving or hamburgers and the 4th of July. These foods then by association, become elevated in our minds as special and more worthy of room on our plates than say broccoli.

Here’s how to get in more of the good stuff…

Try the Mary Poppins approach. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

  • Serve black beans and brown rice with a dollop of sour cream for the taste boost fat brings.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and caramelize root vegetables to bring out their sweetness. Season with kosher salt for a trifecta.
  • Enjoy mixed green salad topped with avocado for fat you can feel good about eating.

The new year is the perfect time to reboot your taste buds. It will take about two weeks before you notice lessening dependence on sugar, salt and fat to please your palate. Adjust gradually and be patient with yourself as you go. It is possible to enjoy food that is good for you.

Returning to exercise after an injury

Sports related injuries happen to weekend warriors and professional athletes alike. Ease your return with a strategy that supports oongoing recovery. These tips can help.

Slow and steady wins the race

Though you may be tempted to pick up where you left off, resist the urge. First, get the go ahead from your health care professional. Next, commit to the slow and steady approach. It is better to work at 40 to 50 percent of your pre-injury effort and build than to start at 100% and risk reinjuring yourself.

Mix it up

Many injuries result from overuse and overcompensation. For example, when glutes don’t fire properly runners may experience hamstring strain or low back pain. That’s an example of overcompensation. Basketball players may experience overuse injuries to shoulders or knees. Changing your exercise routine can help. Try cross-training to develop strength in muscle groups you have not used as much. The benefit of doing this is also that injured muscles get rest as well as support. One more bonus – you still get a workout. Good examples of cross-training include yoga, swimming and walking.

Be mindful

Pain and injury are the body’s way of communicating information. Your job is to interpret that information in a way that supports health, recovery and healing. Don’t push too hard. Recognize when to body is warning you to pull back.