Learning to like vegetables can be a transformative experience, not just for your palate but also for your overall well-being. You can do it even if you hate vegetables. I did and I love them now.
Vegetables are powerhouses of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Despite the common knowledge of their benefits, many people find it challenging to enjoy eating them. Here are some comprehensive strategies to help you cultivate a liking for vegetables.
I was raised by a junk food junkie and I was one too. When I married my wife, she was healthy, but I took her down with my bad habits and she had to do something to change things for us. So she did a lot of research and studying and learned how to cook really nourishing food and she dragged me and our daughter kicking and screaming down the path of better health.
I still ate too much and I’ve been working on that. I’ve lost 89 pounds over the past 3 years. It’s been hard to learn to balance macronutrients and to use portion control. I love working out, so that part was the easy part for me. But I had to eat nutritious foods which means learning to like fruits and vegetables.
If you want more of my weight loss story and how I grew up on little Debbies and soda and learned how to change my health and life through exercise and nutrition, check out this nutrition guide. It has some basic dos and don’ts that my wife and I used for me to lose 100 pounds and be on no medication at age 53. There are also some sample meal plans in there. It was a long process, not a quick fix, but if I can do it, so can you!
Understanding the Mental Block of eating vegetables
The first step towards enjoying vegetables is understanding your mental roadblocks. Many people’s aversions to vegetables stem from negative childhood experiences or cultural biases. Maybe you had to eat overcooked Brussels sprouts as a child, or perhaps you grew up in a household where vegetables were not a staple. Recognizing these barriers can help you approach vegetables with a fresh perspective. At our house, the only veggies we ever ate were french fries or mashed potatoes. It was a special occasion if we had salad and it was just lettuce dripping in thousand island dressing. I had to learn to give vegetables a taste instead of saying I didn’t like them because I didn’t know them.
When my wife and I were dating in high school, she asked me to try a bite of broccoli. I was actually scared to death. It seemed so gross. But one bite and still 35 years later, broccoli is my favorite vegetable. Don’t get her started on how close minded I’ve always been. She’ll go on and on… But she is right about a lot of things. I didn’t “like” bagels either, but dang it if they aren’t freaking amazing!
Your taste buds are malleable. What you didn’t like a year ago, you might enjoy now, especially if you try it prepared in a new way. Commit to trying one new vegetable each week. Keep an open mind and let go of past judgments.
How you Prepare Vegetables
How you prepare vegetables can make a world of difference in taste and texture. Here are some methods to explore:
- Roasting: This method caramelizes the natural sugars in vegetables, making them irresistibly sweet and crispy. Toss them in some olive oil, add your favorite spices, and roast at a high temperature.
- Sautéing: Quick and easy, sautéing vegetables in a pan with some garlic and olive oil can elevate their flavor.
- Grilling: For a smoky aroma, try grilling vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and asparagus.
- Steaming: For a softer texture, steam your veggies and season them well.
- Raw: Sometimes, vegetables taste best in their natural state. Fresh salads with a delicious dressing can be incredibly refreshing.
Don’t underestimate the power of good seasoning. Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and herbs like thyme and rosemary can go a long way. Also, try incorporating sauces and dressings that you already like. For instance, if you’re a fan of Caesar dressing, start by adding it to milder vegetables like romaine lettuce or steamed asparagus. And work your way to less of that in the future. It works with bacon and butter too. Learn what seasonings you like, and use those to make healthier things enjoyable. You can do it.
If you still find it challenging to enjoy vegetables, try incorporating them into meals you already love. Add spinach to your morning omelet, bell peppers to your pizza, or a handful of kale to your favorite smoothie. These are stealthy ways to get your daily dose without feeling overwhelmed by the taste. My wife is an expert at this. But besides me, she feeds 7 toddlers, so I guess it’s a skill of the craft! She’s amazing. She makes everything more nutritious by adding shredded or powdered vegetables of different kinds to her recipes.
Another trick is to pair vegetables with foods you already enjoy. If you love pasta, make a primavera with lots of fresh veggies. Love meat? Pair your steak with a side of grilled asparagus or roasted Brussels sprouts. Pairing vegetables with your favorite foods can create a balanced meal and make the experience more enjoyable. This steak salad is a great example of a recipe I just love that’s packed with tasty veggies. I love lettuce because as above, it’s one thing we had on special occasions. Over time, I learned to eat better quality lettuce and use far less dressing. Although I do still love a good soaking, I’ve learned to live with less.
Sometimes sharing food experiences with others can enhance your enjoyment. Consider dining at restaurants that specialize in vegetable dishes or inviting friends over for a vegetarian potluck. Positive social experiences can reinforce your new food choices.
Variety is the Spice of Life
There are countless varieties of vegetables, each with its own unique flavor profile. From the peppery kick of arugula to the earthy sweetness of beets, diversity can keep your meals interesting and make you more inclined to eat vegetables regularly. You can start with sweeter vegetables like corn and raw carrots with ranch dip and work your way to even more diversity until you are eating the rainbow every day. A variety of nutrients offers optimal health.
Your first experience with a vegetable may not be a love-at-first-bite scenario, and that’s okay. Palates evolve, and what may have tasted bitter and unappealing before might just become your next favorite food. The key is consistency. The more you expose yourself to different vegetables, the more likely you are to start liking them.
Setting Achievable Goals
Set yourself achievable goals like including one serving of vegetables in each meal or trying one new vegetable each week. As you hit these milestones, you’ll gain more confidence in your journey to love vegetables.
As you venture into this journey, you’ll start noticing the benefits—better digestion from increased fiber, clearer skin from the plethora of vitamins and minerals, and even potential weight loss from lower-calorie options. These health benefits can serve as additional motivation to continue incorporating more vegetables into your diet.
If you have kids or a partner who’s also not a vegetable lover, make it a family challenge. Not only does this provide moral support, but it’s also a wonderful way to spend quality time together. Plus, children are more likely to eat vegetables if they see an adult doing the same.
Remember, learning to like vegetables is a lifelong journey. Your tastes will evolve, and you’ll discover new preparation methods and recipes that make you wonder how you ever lived without these nutritional powerhouses. By setting yourself small, achievable goals and being open to experimentation, you can cultivate not just a taste for vegetables, but also a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.
Here are some of my very favorite meals with vegetables or vegetable dishes. Pick just one and give it a try, you might be surprised at how much you love them:
- Roasted Broccoli
- Bacon and Broccoli in Creamy Garlic Sauce
- Fried Rice
- Picadillo Chicken Taco Salad
- Greek Yogurt Broccoli Salad
- Poblano Chicken Enchiladas without Tortillas
I can’t wait to hear all about how your life and health change when you learn to like vegetables. It’s a work in progress. I’ve been working on it for 20 years and I like a lot more than I used to, but I don’t love every veggie there is. I love that my wife incorporates as much nutrition into our diet as she can and that makes my health better. I know that you can change your life too!