Sometimes familiar and previously well liked foods may taste different, unpleasant or have no taste at all. Occasionally your taste buds may be very sensitive to sweet or sour flavours, or foods may leave a metallic taste. These symptoms may be the result of infection, medication, or may occur after certain treatments. Usually taste changes are temporary.
Different flavours, textures and temperatures may improve your ability to taste and enjoy food. This leaflet gives ideas on adapting flavours, which may help food to become more acceptable again. As your taste returns to normal, go back to your usual diet. If you are still struggling, ask to speak to a dietitian. If you have a sore mouth ask your nurse or doctor for advice.
Try the following suggestions
• Eat the foods you enjoy. Re-try foods every few weeks as your taste may change.
• Choose a variety of flavours each day such as sour, spicy and sweet.
• Adding strong flavours to foods, e.g. marinades / spices / herbs / Worcester sauce / extra salt or sugar can help to improve taste.
• A sauce or gravy can also help especially if you also have a dry mouth.
• Select foods that smell good to help improve your desire to eat.
• Why not try stronger versions of your favourite foods, i.e. mature cheese/smoked ham, etc.
• Try foods cold or at room temperature rather than piping hot.
• Try sharp tasting foods and drinks that are refreshing, e.g. fresh fruit, fruit juice, citrus fruit, boiled sweets, lemonade or tonic water.
• Sucking sweets or mints may freshen your mouth.
• If you cannot take tea or coffee, try alternatives such as lemon, fruit or herbal teas, cocoa, hot chocolate, malted drinks, Bovril, fruit juice or fizzy drinks.
• Drink plenty of fluids, at least 8 cups per day and drink frequently.
• Use plastic utensils if foods taste of metallic.
• It is important to keep your mouth clean so brush teeth regularly and thoroughly.
• Brushing your tongue or using a mouthwash may be helpful so ask your doctor or clinic staff about appropriate products and visit the dentist regularly.
Ideas to flavour food
• Experiment with herbs and spices to perk up the taste and smell of your food, e.g. garlic, oregano, basil and black pepper.
• Add chopped onion, bacon bits, grated cheese or parmesan cheese to dishes.
• If you find sweet tastes unpleasant, try using sharp or tart tasting foods to disguise the flavour, e.g. lemon juice, grapefruit juice, spices, rhubarb.
• Make tarts or pies with fruit like gooseberries or rhubarb but do not add sugar.
• Sieve, blend or liquidise these fruit and mix with custard, cream or blancmange to make a fruit fool.
• Add spices to puddings such as nutmeg to rice pudding or egg custard, cinnamon to stewed or baked apple, ginger to cold fruits like melon or grapefruit.
• Frequently people develop an aversion to meat.
• Soaking or marinating meat or chicken for a couple of hours before cooking will improve the flavour and tenderise the meat.
• Wine, fruit juice, sweet and sour sauce, tandoori and barbeque sauces can all be used as marinades.
• Fish can also be marinated.
• Try poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, beans and pulses as these are all good protein-rich meat substitutes.
• Cold meats may taste better than hot meats. Try having them with pickles and chutneys.
Recipes to try
Wine Marinade. Suitable for pork or veal.
Mix 1 sliced onion, ¼ pint dry white wine, 1 bay leaf, 6 cracked peppercorns, 4 parsley stalks nd 2 tablespoons (tbsp) olive oil. Pour over meat and refrigerate for 2 hours before cooking, basting occasionally.
Simple Marinade. Suitable for beef and lamb.
Mix 2 tbsp olive oil with 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice, 1 finely chopped onion and seasoning. Pour over meat and refrigerate for 2 hours before cooking, basting occasionally.
Marinade for Fish.
Combine together juice of 2 limes, 4 tbsp of vegetable oil, 1 to 2 cloves crushed garlic, 3 tbsp fish sauce, 4 tbsp fresh coriander, salt and pepper. Pour over fish and refrigerate for 2 hours before cooking.
Contact us for further information or to provide feedback
St Richard’s Hospital
St Richard’s Hospital
Chichester, West Sussex
Worthing and Southlands Hospital
Upper Shoreham Road
We are committed to making our publications as accessible as possible. If you need this document in an alternative format, for example, large print, Braille or a language other than English, please contact the Communications Office by emailing email@example.com.
The information in this leaflet is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.