So, you want to eat healthier but you aren’t exactly besties with vegetables? I hear you there. When I first went plant-based I was slightly terrified because I was not a huge fan of veggies. With a little time and patience, I got there. Now I want to help you get there too. This post is full of tips and tricks to help you eat more vegetables, even if you don’t like them. Many of these I used myself and they worked really well for me. I truly feel that if I could do it, anyone can. So, let’s get to it.
Remove the Mind Block
I wanted to address this idea first, as it is vital to success. A lot of times we hold ourselves back, simply with our minds. I can’t tell you how many times I stared at a plate full of vegetables thinking “gross.” All I was doing was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you go into trying a new food thinking it’s going to be disgusting, it probably will be. You need to let go of any preconceived notions you may have about the food you’re about to try and taste it with a clean slate. It really is mind over matter here, don’t let negative thinking stand in your way.
If the flavour is your main issue, try these tips to help.
Eat What’s in Season
Really and truly this makes a huge difference in flavour. Take tomatoes, they may be available in the grocery store year-round, but winter tomatoes are watery and quite frankly, passable at best. That’s not when you want to be making your decision as to whether you like them. Summer tomatoes, on the other hand, are juicy and flavourful. THOSE are the tomatoes you want to eat. So, when you’re trying something new, be sure to try it when it’s actually in season and you’re getting the very best version of it.
Similar to my point above, but this also makes a huge difference in flavour. When you buy vegetables that are grown far away, they are picked before they are even ripe. Then they have to ripen on the way to the destination. I probably don’t have to tell you that fruit and veggies taste way better when they actually ripen on the plant. So, head to your local farmers market and pick up some beautiful veggies grown close to home. They’ll taste so much better.
Reduce/Eliminate Processed Foods
Highly processed foods are designed to be hyper-palatable so you’ll get hooked and come back for more. The problem with this is that it skews your palate towards food that is high in salt, fat and sugar. The result is that natural foods like fruit and vegetables won’t taste as pleasing to you.
If you stop eating these foods your palate will eventually return to normal and you’ll start to enjoy natural foods again. For more info on this, check out the related post below.
Start with What You Like
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s something many people forget. It’s easiest to start where you are most comfortable and then branch out from there. Love sweet potatoes? Great! Eat them regularly and then try branching out into a similar flavour palate like squashes. If you like carrots, try expanding into other root vegetables like parsnips and rutabaga. Variety of foods is key to good health, but don’t be afraid to lean on your favourites while working on increasing your variety.
Mild Flavoured Veggies
If you are having trouble getting your vegetables in, start with milder flavours first. Many people have trouble with bitter vegetables, so don’t start with those right off the bat. Potatoes are pretty widely accepted, as are things like cucumber, corn, and mild greens like baby spinach. From there you can gradually build to stronger flavoured veggies. Remember that cooking vegetables tends to mellow the flavour in most cases.
If the texture is your stumbling block, these tips are for you.
Dice Them Small
If you’re not a fan of a vegetable, you’re likely not going to enjoy a big bite of it all at once. Try dicing them small so they are less noticeable in your dish. This goes for salads too. A chopped salad with a nice dressing is easier to enjoy than one with large pieces. If you finely dice broccoli florets and sprinkle over your pizza or pasta dish, you probably won’t even notice them.
Similar to dicing, shredding can help you get more veggies in without noticing them too much. Try shredded carrot, beets, cabbage or brussels sprouts on your next salad. Shredded vegetables also work really well in veggie wraps or rolls. I love to spread a whole grain wrap with a nice flavourful hummus (like this one) and then fill it with diced and shredded vegetables. Add a little dressing if you like, then roll it up and enjoy.
Again, going with a small surface area so you don’t notice them as much. You can rice all sorts of things like cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potato and more. They come out nice and fine so you can add it to a pasta sauce, soup, salad or a grain dish and barely notice they are there at all.
The blender is your friend here. If the texture is your big stumbling block, puree them up. You can add pureed veggies to dressings and sauces, soups and stews, or even baked goods. By blending them up you’re eliminating any texture you may take issue with. Pureed vegetables also make a nice substitute for oil in baked goods.
Sometimes it’s all in how they are prepared. Try out these pleasing preparations.
Try Different Preparations
If you don’t like a particular vegetable raw, don’t eat it that way! Try it cooked or steamed. Don’t like it steamed? Try it raw. Personally, there are a few veggies that I don’t particularly love raw, so I cook them instead. No biggie. Whatever it takes to get more veggies into your beautiful bod.
Experiment with different preparations of vegetables, as each will result in a different flavour. Also, try using different seasonings and sauces to find that right flavour for you.
Dress Them Up
Nobody said you had to eat them plain. Sitting down to a plate of plain vegetables is a little yawn inducing. Instead, utilize your favourite dressing, sauce or dip to dress them up a little. This will make them much more appealing and enjoyable. Who doesn’t love a good dip, right?
If you don’t have a favourite dressing yet, take some time to do some taste testing. It’s all in the sauce, my friend. A great dressing can take a meal from boring to incredible!
Related: Creamy Sundried Tomato Hummus
Fruit is normally an easy sell. Why not use it to help you get more veggies in? Try some salad greens topped with fresh fruit, or a salad topped with a fruity vinaigrette. If adding a little touch of sweet helps you eat more veggies, then why not?
This has to be one of my favourite ways to get veggies into someone who doesn’t really like them. You take away the visual factor here by blending them up. Then you cover their flavour with some fresh or frozen fruit and you’re well on your way to an enjoyable and nutrient-dense meal. Get creative, you can add all kinds of different veggies to a smoothie. Greens, cauliflower, beets, zucchini, cucumber, sweet potato, squash, pumpkin and more. The sky is the limit here so experiment away.
Add Some Flavour
Again, there’s no rule that says you need to eat your veggies plain. (BORING!) Try adding your favourite seasonings. I love to do this when sautéing or roasting vegetables. Add garlic, onions and your favourite seasonings to impart some delicious flavour.
Soups & Sauces
Soups and sauces are great ways to get more vegetables in without even noticing. Adding vegetables to a soup will soften them and allow the flavours to mellow. You can even blend the soup if you feel the texture is going to be a problem. If you’re looking for a soup that hides vegetables well, check out the related posts below.
Sauces work in the same way. You can either add chopped veggies to a sauce like marinara, or you can puree and incorporate them into any sauces or dressings you like.
Maybe you aren’t digging the savoury preparations. Try them sweet! There are some vegetables that can go either way. Sweet potato works well with cinnamon or some nut butter and banana slices. Or try baked acorn squash filled with apples tossed in cinnamon. The same goes for salads. If you have trouble getting them in, try a bed of greens topped with lots of fresh fruit. The sweetness can help bring out more pleasing flavours. The point is, don’t be afraid to try them in an unconventional way.
Ever tried a zucchini bread or a carrot cake? What about sweet potato brownies or pumpkin pie? You can add shredded or pureed vegetables to a number of different baked goods. It just takes some creativity. If you don’t believe me, check out these orange carrot muffins. My self-proclaimed carrot hating daughter devours them every time.
Related: Orange Carrot Muffins
Roasting vegetables brings out a slightly sweet and tender side. Many people who don’t like certain vegetables raw, love them roasted for this reason. Roasting isn’t just for potatoes, think cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, onions, bell peppers and more. This is super easy to do as well. Toss some chopped vegetables in your favourite seasonings or drizzle with balsamic vinegar and spread out on a sheet pan. Then bake at 425°F until softened and cooked through. Time will depend on the type and size of veggies you include. Just be sure to turn part way through so they don’t burn on the bottom.
Mimic Foods You Like
Nowadays there are tons of plant-based recipes out there turning humble vegetables into fantastic mains. Check some of these out and give them a try. Things like cauliflower hot wings, carrot dogs, portobello fajitas, eggplant bacon or shredded oyster mushrooms made pulled pork style. The idea behind this is to take a flavour profile you like and make a vegetable the star of the show. Get creative and have fun with it.
This was something that helped me a lot. Typically, when you make a vegetable juice, you’re using primarily vegetables and then adding some fruit for flavour. This allows you to slowly get used to some of those veggie flavours while they are partially covered by the pleasing fruit flavours. Just be careful of proportions here. Juicing removes the fibre, so if you use too much fruit, you’ll be heading for a large spike in your blood sugar. (Followed by the inevitable crash). For tips on juicing best practices, check out the related post below.
Related: How to Start Juicing the Right Way
Above all else…
Yes, this is going to take some patience and a lot of taste testing. You can’t try something once and call it gross forever. You need to keep trying things and let your taste buds adjust. Just like they advise parents that it can take upwards of 10 tries for a child to develop a taste for a food, the same advice applies to you. Keep trying them in new and different ways and you’re bound to expand your palate. Don’t give up, you’re worth it.
The Bottom Line
If you dislike vegetables, know that it doesn’t need to be a permanent thing. I hear people say all the time that they just don’t like them, and if they are less healthy because of that, so be it. This mindset wasn’t good enough for me, and it shouldn’t be for you either. The science on this is clear, a lack of important nutrients from vegetables (and fruit) will result in poorer health and likely an earlier death. You deserve better than that, so don’t give up on yourself. I hope some of these tips help you get past your veggie issues. If you’ve had some success with this, let us know in the comments below.
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Feature image credit: Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash