Photo: Mackenzie Stroh
Q: I'm trying to feed my husband and three kids healthier food at home, but they prefer eating restaurant food. Does it contain something that would make them dislike the meals I make? —Karen Stalnaker
A: It might. If they are used to the taste of foods prepared with trans fats, they may lack enthusiasm for olive oil or canola oil, far more healthful alternatives. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is notoriously common in Chinese food, but it's also used in other types of restaurants and in processed foods. It enhances flavor, so your family may miss it in the food you cook, along with the high amounts of sugar and salt typically found in restaurant food.
You can adjust their tastes, though. Talk to your family about the importance of food to good health, but acknowledge that it's a source of pleasure as well. Engage their help to find healthy recipes that sound appealing (you can get some ideas at DavidKatzMD.com/Recipes.) If you can show them that healthy foods include flavorful foods, they'll turn into allies in a flash. And if you make a habit of eating well, they may even come to dislike the high-salt, high-sugar, high-fat foods they used to prefer.
You can also meet them halfway: A study from the Netherlands found that kids who ate a few servings of a sweetened vegetable came to accept the unsweetened version. It's called flavor-flavor learning: Mix a little sugar or butter with a vegetable the first five to ten times you serve it, and then phase it out; your family will end up preferring the natural taste.
Do this with your family, not for them. It's their responsibility to help you help them.