Nutrition Articles

Learn to Love Vegetables

8 Tips to Go for the Green!

When I became a vegetarian, I could have probably counted the number of fruits and vegetables that had crossed my lips the previous 18 years on two hands.

But things are different these days, and veggies are the highlight of my lunches and dinners. But it wasn't always that way. Like most people, I hated all things green and healthy.

I get questions about this a lot--people calling themselves picky eaters, saying they don't like a single vegetable out there. Take it from a person who was just like you. You CAN learn to like vegetables. And beyond that, you CAN meet your daily quota in a variety of tasty ways.

Here are 8 techniques and tips I used to like vegetables. Try them yourself--you just might be surprised.

Say no to plain vegetables. One of the main reasons people don't like vegetables is because they try to eat them plain. If you're new to eating healthy, this is one of the worst things you can do! Most people don't have the taste buds for a plate of steamed broccoli or spinach. And why should you have to suffer through that for the sake of your health? The thing I did most when I started eating healthier was put vegetables into things I already ate: broccoli mixed in with macaroni and cheese, chopped carrots mixed in with seasoned rice mixes, and frozen spinach added to a can of soup are just a few examples. This is a great way to introduce veggies into your diet, where the flavors of the other foods you eat them with help them taste better and less noticeable. Start by adding small amounts of veggies to your standard meals, and as your taste buds adapt, you can add more and more.

Mix your food. If you're one of those people who neatly puts your food into distinct piles on a plate, never mixing them up, then you might hate this idea. I'm not one of those non-food-mixers myself. Most of my meals get mixed up into one big jumble, and while it doesn't look pretty, it sure tastes good. This is similar to the tip above, incorporating veggies into dishes you already eat. But sometimes you can't just add a helping of peas to, say, a turkey burger. But served as a side, you can mix bits of veggies on your plate with the other main dishes--to add flavor and mask the taste if you don't like it.

Add some flavor. When cooking vegetables, it usually takes just a little bit of flavor to make them more appetizing. I'm not a fan of plain vegetables either. I don't think many people are. But you can add flavor (and nutrition) to raw veggies with healthy dips like hummus (great with carrots, celery, sliced peppers, cucumbers and more) or your favorite salad dressing (yep, it works for things other than salads). When cooking vegetables, most taste great with just a little salt, pepper and garlic. But I find that sautéed onions and garlic make just about anything taste good, so I often cook those first and then add some vegetables to the mix, which brings me to my next point.

Learn how to cook! I've had to teach myself how to cook as an adult. I come from a family of…whatever word exists to describe the opposite of a chef. Cooking has become quite a hobby for me and it's surprisingly fun, relaxing, entertaining and interesting. So how'd I learn to cook? Mostly by trial and error. But I can't take all the credit. I read books and magazines and would call my cooking friends to ask how to prepare a random vegetable that I bought at the store. Little by little, you'll pick up knowledge and learn how to make food taste (and look) great. Even if it doesn't come out perfectly, you'll still learn what NOT to do, and that's a step in the right direction.

Try, try again. Most of you are probably parents who have to deal with picky eaters on a regular basis. What most feeding experts will tell you is that a child has to try a food several different times before they might being to like it. What's true for kids is the same for adults. There are foods that I swear I hated my entire life that now, I really like. I just kept trying them in new ways, in different combinations, etc. I used to think I hated strawberries because I had never had a strawberry that I ever liked. But a couple years ago, I was on a mission to find that perfect strawberry, because I just knew I'd like it if I just found a good one. And what do you know--I did. And in the process I learned that, to me, organic tastes best. And so does freshly picked berries in summer (when they're at the peak of freshness and flavor), so I only eat them then. I also learned what color they should be to taste perfect. This is just one example of how you can't write off a food, especially if it's been a very long time since you last tried it.

Learn the seasons. Seasonal food is fresher, healthier, and all around better tasting. Strawberries in winter and pumpkin in summer doesn't make much sense, even if you find it in the grocery. Go to your farmer's market and talk to the growers of all things green. They'll tell you what's good and how to eat it, too.

Look for veggie-packed dishes when dining out. Restaurants sure know how to make anything taste good, and that applies to vegetables too. Think outside the box. Order a vegetable side dish or a vegetarian meal instead of your usual meal. I learned that even though it looks weird and kinda gross, I sort of like eggplant sandwiches. I haven't learned how to make them on my own yet, but a local restaurant sure does a good job, so I'm leaving it to them.

Do some reading. I recommend the following resources to help you love veggies a little more.
  • Vegetarian Times Interestingly, most of their subscribers aren't vegetarians--just people interested in eating more vegetables or healthy food in general. I adore this magazine, which is more than just recipes. It's chockfull of cooking techniques and tips, interesting bits of information about food, and a super eco-friendly spin. I'd recommend it to anyone interesting in eating healthier.
  • Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. I recently picked up this cookbook, but like the magazine above, it's far more than recipes. Learn cooking tips, food preparation techniques, and all sorts of useful kitchen information, such as how to cook and prepare beans, homemade bread and seasonal foods.
  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Need inspiration to eat more plants? Look no further.

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Member Comments

  • Further to the comments I don't mind plain vegetables, Not everything is better floating a bowl of dressing or slathered in some other sauce. When I was growing up vegetables were served up plain with salt and pepper and (horrors) real butter. I also wish these articles would STOP demonizing MEAT, If I want to eat meat that is MY choice.
  • I can't stand vegetables either. BUT her suggestion to add spices or other flavorings to the dreaded vegetable are excellent. I figured this out a while back, adding some lemon, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper (I try to avoid salt, but to those without hypertension this is another good addie). I still hate and won't eat peas, but I love vegetables that most people hate. I love Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and esp. spinach from a can. Cauliflower ain't bad but I can't buy it frozen and prepared so I don't buy. Try Green Giant Brussels Sprouts w/butter sauce or the Green Giant Broccoli with cheese sauce. MMMMM, now those are the kind of vegetable I love to eat.
  • I appreciate Nicole's article. I've been a picky eater all my life, and though I eat some veggies, it's not nearly enough. I've always tried to "hide" them in foods like meatloaf, roasts with lots and lots of carrots, onions, celery, and some soups, but the problem I find is the food that I'm hiding them in is food I should probably avoid when trying to reduce. I probably try 5-6 major weight loss attempts each year, and I manage to take some off, but invariably gain it back.
    Thanks, Nicole, for offering advice to us picky eaters. I really enjoy your daily exercises too!
  • I like your article. For someone that is not into veggies your suggestions are helpful. I don't think you are saying unhealthy sauces but there are ways to make healthy sauces. I am not an authority on veggies. Thanks for wrting this article.
    "Say no to plain vegetables."

    Are you serious?!?!?!?!

    Plain is the best way to eat vegetables, and most other foods.
    What would you suggest???? Sauces (calories) Frying (more calories)

    Who writes this kind of crap on a healthy eating/weight loss site?
    Sorry, Nichole. You lost me at your first suggestion. I love plain vegetables. There's nothing better than a dish of lightly steamed fresh green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc., with just a squirt of fresh lemon juice.

    I dislike any sauces on my vegetables, or salt. I do occasionally put other spices on, but
    For those things where it is possible, I try to buy Grown in the US. I'm finding that much easier with strawberries now. I'm still finding California grown in late Fall and Winter. Florida starts producing strawberries as early as January or February.
  • I like almost all veggies --- different ways of cooking are interesting. But, my hubby has to work on "liking" veggies since childhood -- We figured out that a lot had to do with texture issues for him. He tries, but for him it is trying to do the "right" thing instead of an automatic pleasure. I could go all vegetarian, but he couldn't happily.
  • I second JLYN1013's recommendation for roasting. I think almost all vegetables taste best roasted. You can even roast leafy greens like kale!!

    One of the keys to delicious roasted vegetables is to make sure you cook them long enough. How do you know they have been cooked long enough? They will be delicious :). (I also think they are best if roasted at a higher heat, like 425.)

    One of my favorites is to roast colorful peppers, red, yellow, and orange. Roast until they are blackening a bit and the have started to ooze syrup. I swear it is like eating candy.
  • I love a good stir fry with lots of veggies.
  • I like the idea of adding frozen spinach to canned soup...I never would have thought of that but it sounds delicious!
  • NANCY12101964
    Recently I have rediscovered young brussel sprouts. I like them wrapped in bacon and baked, but any other suggestions ?
    Growing up in the 60's, I don't remember many Moms cooking "fresh" vegetables, and don't remember them using the herbs and spices we use now, so things were VERY bland. Love the idea of hiding vegetables in other foods--me Mom used to make us eat at least some vegetables, and my brothers and especially didn't like black-eye peas. We would smother them with ketchup and bury them in our mashed potatoes! I love many vegetables now - but still can't eat those peas!
  • It would be a LOT easier right now if the prices weren't skyrocketing right now with the low dollar.
    I've added vegetables to things I already eat too. I always have frozen broccoli on hand and I add it to mac & cheese and even to ramen. It makes the dish more hearty so I feel fuller after I eat.

About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

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