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Learn to love healthful foods

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Show your sweet tooth who’s boss with smart tricks that make you crave more nutritious fare.

Give your taste buds a workout
Fun fact: Did you know? The 10,000 taste buds that line your mouth will typically become less sensitive as you get older. As a result, you will be able to eat and enjoy many foods that you once thought tasted too strong.

Find reasons to like it
Reading up on why a particular food like turnip greens is important for your health (because it’s loaded with fiber, vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene, calcium, iron and health-promoting phytochemicals, for example) may give you an incentive to keep trying it.

Related: Delicious Low-Calorie Desserts You Have to Try

Use the buddy system 
Pair a food you prefer with one you don’t. If you don’t care for beets but you do like goat cheese and walnuts, try eating them together. Similarly, if you don’t like avocados but you love burgers, try slicing some avocado onto your next lean sirloin burger. Also, adding a favorite sauce or condiment to a food that’s not to your taste can help. If you can’t stand broccoli, try it with a sprinkle of Parmesan. Toss bitter greens into a pita pocket with sliced turkey and mango chutney for lunch. And if you can’t stand the sour taste of plain yogurt, stir in a teaspoon of honey for dessert.

Play with the prep method
Cooked versus raw, roasted versus steamed—how you prepare some foods can have a dramatic effect on their flavor. Certain cooking techniques—like broiling, grilling and roasting—bring out natural sugars in many bitter vegetables. Can’t stand the taste of steamed broccoli? Try slow roasting it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and serving it with a tangy dipping sauce or reduced-fat ranch dressing. Likewise, if you don’t care for steamed or sautéed spinach, mix raw spinach with sesame dressing. Sometimes it’s the temperature or texture of a food, rather than the flavor, that you’re rejecting.

Related: Cheap and Healthy Meals Your Family Will Love

Take the bite out of bitter or sour foods
Don’t shy away from foods you think may be too bitter. Instead try this trick, serving sautéed kale with a dash of honey mustard vinaigrette can create a sweeter, less bitter taste sensation.

Sample on an empty stomach
Believe it or not, you might be particularly receptive to and accepting of unusual flavors when you’re really hungry. A study conducted in the United Kingdom found that people developed a liking for new yogurt flavors if they ate them when they needed to refuel after a workout.

Play with the presentation
We eat with our eyes first, experts say, so it can help to dice or slice unappealing veggies or fruits into attractive shapes. Arranging them on a pretty plate can also pump up the palatability factor.

Related: Save Money With These Meals on a Budget

Try, try again
There’s no escaping the fact that cultivating a taste for specific foods can require repeated exposure. Nutritionists say it can take as many as 15 attempts before a child will accept a new flavor—fortunately, the timeline may be considerably shorter for adults (closer to a handful of tries). If at first you don’t appreciate the taste of healthful, bitter-tasting veggies, be persistent. A study found that when people consumed a bittersweet beverage once a day for a week, their liking of the drink increased by 68 percent.

Try less desirable tastes in a festive environment
It’s the positive association principle: If you consume a previously rejected food (like cabbage) when you’re among friends at a lively dinner party, for example, you might enjoy it more because you’re having a good time. Or if you have caramelized Brussels sprouts with a friend who loves them, there’s a chance her enjoyment will rub off on you. Such experiences can help you think more fondly of the food in the future and boost your willingness to eat it.