why does my food taste weird?
August 10, 2007 3:00 PM   Subscribe

why does all my food taste bad,and where can i find replacements which taste great?

i spent three months traveling. i ate whole wheat bread, cheese, tomatoes, nutella, granola bars and 2 minute noodles for three months. i mostly drank water, tea and some coke zero. i also consumed a lot of chocolate bars and trail mix when i was went tramping.

i came back to the civilized world and nothing tastes good anymore. i can't bear diet coca cola or my low fat soy patties - they have horrible chemical taste. i used to enjoy chocolate. now i can go through half a tub of nutella before getting to the point of "yummy, i've had enough". i don't even like cornflakes,baked goods, even sugar cereal anymore - everything tastes bland. most ice cream just tastes sweet. the beef noddles and the grilled chicken in my favorite restaurants do not taste the same anymore. i cannot taste the finer flavors.

i do seem to enjoy avocados and eggs, fruit, and while other breads are not hot - white bread is delicious. oh, and for the first time in my life i actually enjoyed a protein shake.

i'm trying to get back to eating clean, but all the bland food is making my life very tough. instead of avoiding it because it does not taste good, i eat too much to compensate.

why does everything taste weird?
what can i do to stop overeating and craving crap that does not even taste good? it's very hard to stop "cheating" if your cheats aren't pleasing your cravings.
posted by ye#ara to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Look up umami.

I can't speak to why things taste weird, but the above link may help you find things that taste fantastic and are not bad for you.

You also might want to take this to a doctor. No clue what 'weird taste' could be a symptom of, but just in case..
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:04 PM on August 10, 2007

Maybe there was a lot of unnoticed salt in your travel diet, and you don't have that in your normal life.
posted by smackfu at 3:24 PM on August 10, 2007

This is a left field guess, because you've said you're having trouble with "finer flavors" rather than having a bad taste in your mouth in general: Have you added any new vitamins to your regimen lately? Zinc supplementation can make things taste funny.
posted by jocelmeow at 3:25 PM on August 10, 2007

Seconding the salt intake. Cheese, nutella, granola bars, and especially 2 minute noodles are rife with sodium. Perhaps you should try "spicing it up a bit" by adding curries and other interesting foods into your diet.
Also, from personal experience of eating Nutella for a month straight while biking through Spain, I *still* can't really eat the stuff. It used to be such a joyous treat, but now it's just kind of a bland sweet thing.
posted by nursegracer at 3:30 PM on August 10, 2007

Its not too hard to prepare simple food that tastes great. You're at a big loss if you don't know how to make a vinegrette.

Processed food not only tastes crap, but tends to be extortionately expensive. Do you have a local butcher? It's amazing how much mileage you can get out of the 'cheap cuts'.

Get to know your cheeses! That bottled crap is not cheese! Proper butter not lo-crap spread.

Pickles, chutneys, cured meats, fresh veg, sweet potatos and stilton, fresh fish, honey, natural yoghurt, sundried tomatoes, yummm... god, I'm hungry now!

Stock up with stores, spices and herbs. Learn a few tricks. Cook properly -- not in the microwave! Taste comes from the method as well as the ingrediants.

Low fat soy patties? They sound f**king disgusting. What conman invented those?
posted by popcassady at 3:32 PM on August 10, 2007

Well, that's why I don't really understand: nutella and 2-minute noodles aren't natural or nothing, so this isn't the general "I can't handle processed food after eating healthy" issue.
posted by smackfu at 3:35 PM on August 10, 2007

It sounds like you spent three months mostly eating real food -- real, whole food, not just processed junk -- and so now processed junk tastes like processed junk.

I would guess this problem would go away if you stick to whole foods: whole wheat breads, fresh fruits and vegetables, food cooked from scratch rather than just thawed. If you still have problems with those foods, then it may be time to look for some other culprit.
posted by occhiblu at 3:36 PM on August 10, 2007

I think Nutella has actual sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup, which actually does (in my mind) mostly keep it out of the "processed crap" category.

Can't explain the noodles, though.
posted by occhiblu at 3:37 PM on August 10, 2007

introduce yourself to curry. (and other wonderful spices.)
posted by RedEmma at 3:46 PM on August 10, 2007

Your profile puts you in Israel, but you used the word "tramping", which I thought was a New Zealand thing, so i don't know where you are...but I'd suggest trying to cook more homemade stuff on your own time and with the freshest, nicest ingredients you can find and afford. Luckily, that shouldn't be too tough in either of those places.

I've lived outside the US on and off for a few years, often in pretty poor places, and whenever I come back it takes months for me to get back into our food, even food made from whole/unprocessed/home-grown ingredients. I usually end up finding some new passion when I come home (banh mi!) and leave many old foods I used to love by the wayside, with little connection between the place I went and the food I now enjoy/don't like.
posted by mdonley at 3:49 PM on August 10, 2007

One more guess, reading back over your list and sparked by the mention of umami by dirtynumbangelboy: those 2-minute noodles are likely high in MSG, which is a flavor enhancer. (They are intensely umami as well.) If you got accustomed to having a lot of MSG in your meals, food might taste bland when you were no longer consuming it.

As a side note, I think everything tastes better outdoors. Maybe civilized life is bland so food tastes bland now too?
posted by jocelmeow at 3:49 PM on August 10, 2007

Not wanting to dis Nutella -- but it's not the tastiest thing in the world. 'Bland' seems fitting.
posted by popcassady at 3:50 PM on August 10, 2007

I think you have two issues here: food tends to taste better when you are travelling and the food you are eating isn't highly flavourful.

It sounds like you spent a while traveling and did some hiking too (tramping?). I have found that food that tastes good while traveling/hiking doesn't taste at all good at home. There are a lot of processed, salty, etc. foods that I will only eat while out in the mountains. This is very common amongst people that I've hiked/traveled with. Pretty much anything tastes good when you are tired and hungry, especially from exercise.

Diet cola and soy patties (probably) have a chemical taste. That's normal. Nutella and sugar cereal taste mostly like sugar, as does a lot of ice cream. A lot of bread is fairly unpleasant, especially in texture.

My guess would be that you are growing out of tastes for processed, sugary food that you have held all of your life (sorry if I'm wrong here, but your profile does seem to indicate you are fairly young). Embrace your new tastes! Eat more fruit and vegetables, eat less processed sugar. Eat things that taste good to you. Eat some good food cooked at home or from a real restaurant.

I think once you find new foods that you like, you'll adjust your eating habits, but it will take some time.
posted by ssg at 7:04 PM on August 10, 2007

Could something be wrong with your sense of smell? That can really affect your ability to taste food.
posted by whoaali at 7:41 PM on August 10, 2007

if it is umani you are craving, go for pasta with alfredo sauce (made with reggiano parmeggiano, not padano) (saute shallots & garlic over low heat in olive oil - DONT brown - put in a cup of half'n'half, simmer until reduced by a quarter to a half, take off heat, carefully stir in grated parmesan until thick -- don't stir too much or add heat after putting the cheese in or you get rubber. Add chopped basil.)

for chicken with super high umani flavour, fry breasts in olive oil sprinkled with one of the "chicken seasoning" mixtures over medium high heat. Turn only once. When done, scrape up all the brown stuff and smear it on the chicken (it is the glutamates). (don't try this in a teflon pan, it will ruin it and possibly give you cancer)

use miso & seaweed as seasonings in soups & sauces

if you were preparing your noodles over a wood fire, that would have increased the glutamates even more. I buy liquid hickory/mesquite "smoke" and use it to give my vegetarian food more umani flavour.
posted by lastobelus at 7:42 PM on August 10, 2007

oh, and extra old gouda. Try to find the actual orange stuff if you can, if not Extra Old Amsterdam is ubiquitous. Important: eat it at room temperature. Umani overload, yum yum.
posted by lastobelus at 7:46 PM on August 10, 2007

i indeed traveled to new zealand. i complained about the food there every day and the best day of my trip was the first day we ate in Singapore. now i miss a lot of the stuff i ate there and can't find here - vogel bread, one square meals, bircher museli and trail mix.

biggest problem is ice cream, chocolate and chocolate bars - they used to taste real great. i could eat a couple of pieces of chocolate everyday and it satisfied my cravings. it has stopped working. i cannot taste the finer tastes under the sugar. it does not even register as sweet, just sugar. same happens with corn flakes and baked goods. maybe i should add some salt :)

i guess i have to stick to a clean diet nowadays, which is not a bad thing.
thanks for the balasmic vinegar suggestion - i did not have a great salad for months, and another thanks for pointing out the salt issue.
im going to try and upgrade my chocolate choices as well.
posted by ye#ara at 12:23 AM on August 11, 2007

I also reached a chocolate "diminishing marginal utility" at some point in my life where it stopped being satisfying. The solution? I only eat chocolate now if it is really really good. The problem is not you, the problem is commercial chocolate, which has no complexity of flavor. Try only eating chocolate occasionally, but eating the best chocolate, expensive chocolate like Leonidas (Belgian) or nice French chocolate. The difference is amazing.

I now also enjoy the dark chocolate + salt combo. Dark chocolate coated pretzels= yum.

I also suggest purchasing some good sauces. Yes, making your own is better, but some Thai green curry paste or Indian korma sauce can make a boring meal great. I'm a busy person, but after a long illness of eating bland goo, I just can't live with bad food. I chop some fresh veggies, pull out a "base" like naan or rice, add the sauce, add some protein like chicken or tofu, and finally dash on the sauce for flavor. I then cook...it doesn't really matter if I use the microwave or the stove, it usually comes out delicious. Curries are the staple of my diet now.

Also, invest in good bread. If there is an artisan bakery near you, do check it out. Good bread is totally unlike the squishy grocery store loaves. I buy a type made with almost and olive oil and spread on some fresh chevre....heaven.
posted by melissam at 7:13 AM on August 11, 2007

i don't even like cornflakes,baked goods, even sugar cereal anymore - everything tastes bland.

These things are bland. Thus, they taste bland.

Eat spicier foods. A good chipotle sauce (only use a little bit!) will do a lot. Try some sushi with wasabi.
posted by yohko at 9:23 AM on August 11, 2007

While you were biking, tramping, hiking, traveling, you were burning a lot of calories, and hunger makes food taste great. Go for a long walk, and eat an apple with peanut butter or some other pleasant but unexciting whole food when you get back and are hungry.
posted by theora55 at 5:31 AM on August 12, 2007

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