“I hate vegetables.”
I’ve had many clients tell me this over the years.
It’s fine to dislike the taste or the texture of some foods, but if you’re a vegetable hater, I am here to show you some holes in this blanket statement.
Why you hate vegetables:
Many vegetables have chemical compounds that make them taste bitter to some people. Not liking bitterness or strong flavors can be an innate protective reflex, so if you can’t stand broccoli or kale, that is a perfectly normal starting place.
Some vegetables are soft or chewy naturally. Many vegetables can turn mushy or slimy depending on how they’re prepared. If you don’t like the texture of vegetables, chances are you’ve only been exposed to these less-desirable versions.
How you were raised.
How did your family eat when you were growing up? What were you exposed to while you were forming your first opinions of foods? If you were only given iceberg lettuce and cardboard-tasting pink tomatoes as a “salad”, you may find fresh vibrant produce to be overpowering.
Were you forced to sit at the dinner table until you had finished all your cold, mushy, overcooked vegetables? No wonder you think you hate them!
What’s your cultural heritage?
Tastes, texture, and odors change wildly between geographic, cultural and ethnic groups. A common food in one culture can be a really weird thing in another.
Why you should find some ways to eat vegetables that you don’t hate
- Vegetables are full of nutrients that your body needs. Vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. These nutrients help keep you healthy and avoid nutrition deficiencies.
- Vegetables have a lot of volume, but not a lot of calories. They fill up your stomach without adding a lot of extra calories. High-nutrient, low-calorie foods are the best way to lose weight. Eating a lot of vegetables allows you to eat a lot a food without eating too many calories.
- Vegetables add fiber. Fiber not only helps us feel full, it feeds our intestinal bacteria, keeps your bathroom habits regular, and slows down the entry of glucose into the bloodstream (that’s a very good thing).
- Vegetables add extra water to your diet. Staying hydrated is important. The extra water also helps the fiber do its job.
- Vegetables add variety. With so many different kinds of veggies to try, learning to enjoy them can make it easy to stick to healthy eating. You have dozens of options for vegetables, and hundreds of options to prepare them. Veggie variety can keep you from getting bored with “healthy” eating.
The habits of taste
We all become accustomed to what we’re repeatedly exposed to. Fun fact — flavor habits are actually started before birth. Amniotic fluid contains a remarkable array of molecules that expose babies to flavors and smells before they ever eat!
While you might think that as an adult, your palate is already “set”, the research shows that your tastes and preferences can change a lot over time. If you hate certain flavors and textures, you can change that through gradual exposure and variation.
How to eat more vegetables
Think outside the box.
You may start with the statement “I hate all vegetables”, but chances are if I rattle off enough options, we will be able to find at least a few vegetables that you’re open to.
Here are some commonly non-offensive starters for “vegetable haters”:
Find a handful of veggies you can manage in one form or another (maybe you can handle a few carrots if you dip them in Ranch dressing?), and start with those as your Go-To’s every day.
Baby step your vegetable intake.
Now it’s time to start to expand your total vegetable intake. While the official recommendation is 10-15 servings of vegetables and fruit each day (sheesh!) start from wherever you are: If you’re typically eating 0 vegetables a day, get to consistently having one by purposefully planning it somewhere each day. If you’re already eating 2 servings a day, shoot for some sort of produce at every meal. You get the idea — don’t try to go from “hardly any” to “loads of exotic vegetables at every meal”. That will never stick.
Sneak in new foods and extra vegetables.
Sneak in small amount of extra veggies to what you’re already doing. If you already eat a sandwich for lunch, just add a tomato, some lettuce, or a couple slices of onion or pickle to it. If you already make a morning protein shake, throw a handful of spinach in there. If you’ve got pasta sauce, add some extra peppers, mushrooms, or other veggies you enjoy.
Try a new color.
If you find that most of your preferred veggies are green, for example, add some red tomatoes or orange peppers to the green salad. Different colors indicate different phytonutrients, so make an effort to include red, green, orange, purple, and white plants over time:
Red vegetables and fruits: Tomatoes, red peppers, strawberries, cherries, cranberries, radishes
Green vegetables and fruits: Spinach, lettuce, green beans, broccoli, soybeans, green peppers, asparagus
Orange/yellow vegetables and fruits: Banana peppers, oranges and tangerines, pineapple, lemons, carrots, papaya
Purple/Blue vegetables and fruits: Beets, blueberries, eggplant, currants, plums, purple onion, grapes, purple cabbage
White vegetables and fruits: Cauliflower, pears, potatoes, garlic, mushrooms, onions
Cushion it if you need to.
If a new ‘naked’ vegetable is too much for you to stomach at first, you can cushion the add-in.
Start with fruit – Fruit is typically sweeter and less bitter than vegetables, so if you want to add a new color to your diet, you may have better success starting with blueberries instead of purple onion.
Pair it up — A new veggie by itself may be too much new flavor or texture for you. So pair it with something you already know you like — mix a few peas in with your corn, or add some swiss chard to the lettuce mix. You never know what delightful combinations you may invent!
There is no ‘right’ way to improve your vegetable intake. Explore some new foods, experiment with ways to try it, and discover what works best for you. Any improvement is better than none, and you’ll probably come up with some great ideas you can share with your family and friends.
If you need help putting together healthy nutrition plans, just shoot me an email and we’ll set a time to talk.