How to Overcome Your Disgust of Vegetables
Author - Stephen Griffith C.S.C.S. Pn1
If you‘d like to live a long prosperous life then vegetables should be considered required eating.
Their health benefits are numerous and well documented. Despite their benefits vegetables remain one of the least popular food groups.
Many people come to see me because they want to get healthier. They know vegetables are good for them and they should be eating them but have trouble overcoming their plain and bitter taste or fibrous textures.
You too may be dealing with this same struggle and I can say I understand. I never liked vegetables besides corn, potatoes, and ketchup growing up but I learned to change.
In this article, I’d like to share that story and the lessons I learned that could help you also come to like your vegetables.
Freshman year of College I was a young and ambitious 18-year-old who wanted to be the best athlete and coach I could. I was studying Exercise Science and my coursework involved several classes in both nutrition and exercise.
That first semester taught me how much of an impact the food we eat could have on the health and performance of our body.
Front and center was the value of vegetables. The little nutrient-packed superstars full of all the vital nutrients a body needs to function optimally.
They’re like little pharmaceuticals without the side effects.
The benefit was clear but there was one problem - I hated them.
As a kid, I was a picky eater and I don’t think a vegetable past these lips for almost 18 years. I found the taste bitter and their texture laborious.
But alas, I knew I needed them and that I needed to learn to like them. It was time to start eating like an adult.
So fueled by sheer determination that’s what I did.
Every day at the dining hall I would get a scoop of veggies on my plate. “A Scoop of veggies“ is misleading, what I actually got was a pile of steamed flavorless mush. It was terrible and I complained about every bite of every meal of every day. How my friends did not ostracize me from meal time I do not know.
I tried a few different strategies. The most successful was the Mary Poppins Approach.
As Ms. Poppins once sang " a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”. Instead of using sugar I substituted with various seasonings such as salt, hot sauce, salsa, or the other tastier parts of my meal. A piece of broccoli is much more palatable when paired with an ounce of steak.
After a semester, my complaints subsided, and I found that the green mush on my plate wasn’t as bad. Eventually, I came to not just tolerate veggies but love them. I don’t consider my meal complete without them.
My story shows it is possible to change your taste preferences and enjoy vegetables. However, your story does not have to be as miserable as mine was. I made several mistakes which taught me valuable lessons that I now use to help clients overcome their own adversions to vegetables.
Here are three of those lessons
Lesson 1 - Taste can be acquired
I once came across an article advising parents on how to help their children to eat new foods. Children are notoriously picky eaters but the article mentioned that it takes several exposures to a food and flavor before we acquire the taste. It suggested parents continue to share and expose their children to different foods.
Through sheer will, I powered through and overcame the mushy green monster. I kept putting it on my plate meal after meal till my taste adjusted.
However, it also advised that parents not force the food on them. People like to do things because they chose to do them not because they were made to do so. It‘s important to avoid creating negative experiences with the food we eat.
I don’t suggest the masochistic force-feeding approach I took. However, I wish for you to understand that while it may not be the best-tasting thing at first that your taste buds will adjust.
2 Articles on how our body develops taste preferences, how to reprogram yourself to enjoy healthy foods and not crave junk, and lastly how to eat according to your body's needs.
Lesson 2 - Cooking
Poorly cooked food doesn’t taste good. This applies as much to veggies as it does any food. For 4 months my learning to like veggies was a miserable experience both for me and those around me - but it didn’t need to be. I learned this later once I learned to cook.
When people tell me they dislike veggies it's usually because they too have been eating poorly cooked or seasoned veggies.
Even the most ardent veggie lover would grimace at the green fibrous mush I was eating.
If you want to learn to like vegetables then do yourself a favor - learn to cook, prepare, and season your vegetables.
I like to start most of my clients off with a saute or stir-fry.
To saute food you cook it in a pan with a thin layer of oil over high heat. Onions and peppers are a great start as when they will caramelize and sweeten as they cook.
You can even also throw some dreaded broccoli into the mix with a little olive oil and garlic and serve with a meat and starch of your choice.
A stir-fry is also a nice touch - high heat, some oil, and a constant stirring of the food until they are tender but not mushy. Add soy sauce at the end, and serve over a bowl of rice and stir-fried chicken and you will have a savory, salty meal that will leave your mouth watering.
I’ve made this meal for some of the biggest veggie haters I know and it left them asking for seconds.
Buy a cookbook or use the internet and learn to cook. It will do wonders in making veggies a colorful flavorful addition to your meals.
You’ll find a handful of useful resources for learning how to cook and prepare food below
Lesson 3 - Small Steps
In my coaching career, I have learned that small changes that can be sustained over time yield better results than the large drastic ones that only last for a week or two.
Unintentionally, my journey started by adding one small scoop of veggies to my plate each meal. It was this small ritual change that allowed my taste buds to acquaint to the new taste and a habit to be formed.
I encourage you to do the same by starting with a small change and building from there.
One exercise to get you started is the ABC Exercise.
Make 3 columns on a Piece of paper.
Column A - Foods you like
Column B - Foods you Might Eat
Column C - Not Right Now
Make a list of foods - particularly vegetables and place them in their respective column.
For your first week make a resolution to add column A into your meals.
Week two try to find different healthier ways to cook and prepare the vegetables you already enjoy eating.
Week 3 - try adding a vegetable from column B into a meal. Find a way to cook or season it that will make it palatable for you.
Week by week look to incorporate vegetables from column B then C into your diet.
Another good resolution to try is to add one new recipe to your repetition each week. This will help you build the cooking skills you’ll need to live a healthy and fruitful life.
The recipe resolution makes for a great date night with your significant other or just a friend of yours.
Over time these skills add up and you’ll learn how to tastefully prepare vegetables. Slowly you introduce new flavors and foods to your die and slowly you’ll acquire a taste for them.
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