Recently I participated in a healthy living workshop for The Daniel Plan, manning the smoothie table and answering questions about healthy eating. One common thing people said was, “I want to eat healthy and eat more vegetables, but I just don’t like them.” Eating more vegetables is not just good for us, but seriously necessary to be healthy long term. Here are 10 tips for how to learn to love vegetables.
Whenever someone tells me they don’t like something, I ask how they have had it prepared. I often find that it is not the food in particular they don’t like, but the way it was cooked. So often, vegetables are over-cooked.
Even then, not all vegetables work for all people. Case in point: I love bell peppers; my husband hates them. And sadly there is no changing that fact, as much as I have tried.
For those of you who do not share my love of all of the colorful vegetables in the produce department, I hope these tips will help you and your family become vegetable lovers.
10 Tips For How to Learn to Love Vegetables
- Get exposed – Try new vegetables and don’t give up on the first try. It’s been reported that it takes kids anywhere from 7-15 exposures to like a new food. So why would it be any different with adults? Keep trying new vegetables and be open.
- Don’t eat naked vegetables – Plain, undressed, naked vegetables? Unless you are hard core, you are just inviting disappointment. Drizzle vegetables with good olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, some sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Try fresh chopped herbs like parsley, scallions, chives, oregano, or cilantro. Splash on a little vinaigrette (homemade please) as dressing. One of my go-to’s is Balsamic syrup. It makes everything taste great.
- Toss with sauce – Sauces are great multi-taskers in the kitchen. Just a dollop of sauce can transform even plain, steamed vegetables into something wonderful you can’t get enough of. Plus some add a hit of healthy fat, and fat transports flavor. If the sauce is thick, thin it down a bit. Thicker sauces go with sturdier vegetables. Here are a few sauces to try over green beans, steamed cauliflower or broccoli, carrots, mixed veggies, snap or snow peas, asparagus or zucchini. Experiment and have fun.
- Dip it – Instead of a sauce, try dipping your vegetables into fresh salsa, creamy avocado basil dip or creamy guacamole. Those emerald spears of broccoli, asparagus or bell peppers will disappear.
- Eat with the season – While many vegetables are available almost year round, they taste the best in season. Think spring asparagus and summer zucchini.
- Prepare them differently – Vegetables can be steamed, roasted, grilled, sautéed, spiraled, pureed, stir-fried and eaten raw or barely cooked, dropped for a minute into boiling water. Try a different way of cooking them.
- Mix it up – Think stir-fry, where you can mix all kinds of vegetables together. Try cooking two vegetables and serve together, like broccoli florets with cauliflower florets, or green and yellow squash. Remember those old peas and carrots as a kid? Yeah, it’s ok, not even my favorite. Try red, yellow, and orange bell peppers all together, or multi-colored carrots. Brussels sprouts and broccoli florets are great steamed together. The more color, the more visual interest, the more we want to dive in. As the saying goes, we do eat with our eyes first.
- Get them into smoothies – Yes, you heard me right. I add fresh baby spinach leaves to my smoothies every morning. While it’s a green smoothie, you don’t taste the spinach! Great way to get your veggies in, especially the most important green ones. Fresh vegetable juices are good too, but not a replacement for eating your veggies.
- Don’t overcook them – Don’t cook vegetables until they are soggy and limp. Cook them just until they are “al dente” like pasta, tender to the bite, even still a bit crisp. The texture and flavor will be more appealing.
- Try vegetable salads – Add chopped vegetables, whether raw like carrots or roasted beets, to salads. You can even use vegetables as the salad, like this green bean and tomato summer salad. Other options include this crunchy Asian Coleslaw, Cucumber Mint salad or Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Pesto
No matter what tricks you try, learn to get more vegetables into your daily diet. The benefits are huge.