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Learn to Love Vegetables: 8 Tips

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
8/17/2008 3:53 PM   :  184 comments

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.

Are you a picky eater when it comes to vegetables? How do you make them more palatable? Share your insights in the comments below!


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Comments

  • 184
    I am pretty new to the vegatarian world and I am looking for new resources. I have decided to cut meat out of my diet, for now. This decision has forced me to figure out how to shop and cook in a whole new way. Your article is very good. Thank you for the links to the books and website. - 2/22/2013   3:17:53 PM
  • 183
    I love vegetables; however, I do need to expand my horizon and try different ones. - 11/4/2012   8:14:06 AM
  • ANUTTER20
    182
    This was so helpful! I always buy vegetables but then I just leave them in my freezer or the cabinet. At least when (if) I buy fresh veggies my incentive is to eat them before they go bad, but with canned stuff there's no such incentive so the obvious next step is making myself do it! And it's not that I don't like veggies; I can just never find the motivation to actually eat them, but I know I have to! - 8/19/2012   12:53:19 PM
  • 181
    OH DEAR ME !! I am a veggie HATER FROM WAY BACK WHEN !! I just read this and ALL the comments, some which are quite good, such as making the veggies very small and "sneaking" them into food. So yeah tomorrow I'll try that with the FEW I have here, that a "friend" (sure she's a FRIEND giving me THOSE ! LOL) gave me. OH MY ! - 12/17/2011   9:41:00 PM
  • 180
    OH DEAR ME !! I am a veggie HATER FROM WAY BACK WHEN !! I just read this and ALL the comments, some which are quite good, such as making the veggies very small and "sneaking" them into food. So yeah tomorrow I'll try that with the FEW I have here, that a "friend" (sure she's a FRIEND giving me THOSE ! LOL) gave me. OH MY ! - 12/17/2011   9:41:00 PM
  • 179
    I love this article, I am just getting into healthy eating, and am having a bit of issues getting in all my veggies. - 6/18/2011   12:18:30 AM
  • MEETNEWME
    178
    Gr8 tips! - 3/22/2011   6:01:27 AM
  • 177
    I love salads, soups, and stews. I find it's a great way to get a variety of vegetables, and there is something - a sauce, dressing, or seasoning - that makes them tasty. My brother is a vegetable hater and a food mixer - he finds his food tastes a lot better when he puts a bit of everything on his plate onto his fork. I find it especially odd when he mixes spaghetti with tossed salad, but it works for him - and he is actually eating the salad. - 9/13/2010   9:39:38 AM
  • LUV2BFIT4
    176
    Loved the suggestions! Very helpful! Thanks! - 4/30/2010   12:48:26 PM
  • FREELYNN
    175
    awesome article. I have found that broc. tastes great in spag. especially if you eat it vegatarian style,it gives it texture and added crunch.(cook brc. first before adding it to your sauce. It is a great way to get your kids to eat bro. My husband likes it even though he likes meat in his sauce-we take turns on haveing meat in the sauce, but either way we always add the broc. Also want to thank everyone for their comments also. - 4/22/2010   12:12:22 PM
  • ANNE737
    174
    Thanks for the great ideas! - 4/21/2010   2:19:57 PM
  • FISHINGLADY66
    173
    I love vegetables, but I didn't know how to make them taste BETTER. Thanks for the tips. - 4/21/2010   10:50:15 AM
  • 172
    I love most all veggies and my favorite way of cooking them has become roasting them in the oven a little drizzle of olive oil and garlic - great and more flavorful than boiling them to death! - 4/20/2010   12:03:29 PM
  • SULLISC
    171
    I have always loved veggies. I just don't like to prepare them. - 4/20/2010   5:20:53 AM
  • KIMSFITNESS1
    170
    I love veggies!!! I think I have always been really good about eating them... This post does help though to find new ways for my family and myself to enjoy them... - 4/19/2010   9:25:48 PM
  • 169
    If you have a garden, make sure you put some marigolds in the rows also. It will help keep the bugs off your plants. It may help some and not all. I do this every time I have a garden.

    I like my salads and could eat them all the time too. Besides when you home grown your own, you know what has been used on them. Cherry tomatoes are really good and you can eat them anytime - 4/18/2010   4:48:55 PM
  • 168
    I dislike veggies, particularly in the winter, when they lack flavour and taste kind of like whatever they're packaged in. Love fruit, not a veggies fan. When I do work towards eating my veggies, it's often in a stir fry. Salads are not my friend. Sad, but true. I'm thinking I might start trying fritattas and such to get in more veggies and protein, since that's the other thing I have a hard time getting enough of. - 3/31/2010   12:04:09 PM
  • 167
    I'm learning to like more veggies. Broccoli has never been a problem for me. But some of the ones I don't particularly care for I cook b/c my husband likes them so I usually use a low fat chicken broth to cook them in. This helps me. I have never liked peppers--red or green--but my husband says they are really good for you, so I guess my next challenge lies in acquiring a taste for them.

    Peas are a real problem as I have "flashbacks" of having to sit and eat everyone of those aweful canned things when I was a child. It was raw punishment! I do, though, like the frozen ones! But to this day I don't eat as much of them as I probably should b/c of the bad memory. - 3/10/2010   8:10:15 AM
  • XLFMLYMOM
    166
    I have always had a hard time getting most veggies down, hard to chew and swallow what you don't like, regardless of how they were fixed. I have found I can make a packet of Lipton Noodle soup on Monday and I started adding a little bit of finely chopped broccoli and spinach to it, and some pressed garlic, and at the end, stir in a couple of stirred eggs. Then I divide it up into four portions and have lunch for 4 days. Over the last 2 months, I have been able to add way more vegetables, for me the trick is to keep them tiny. I grate a whole carrot, a small zuchini, chop a handful of spinach, a few pieces of broccoli, cilantro, a few mushrooms and some herbs from my aerogrow. The flavor of the soup still comes through and I'm happy to be able to eat these veggies now, I hope someday to be able to say I LIKE veggies... - 3/9/2010   5:12:14 PM
  • GONNADOIT11
    165
    I absolutely despise vegetables except for green beans, lettuce and corn which really lettuce and corn are pretty much not healthy and don't count. I grew up not eating vegetables so my taste buds just never got accustomed to them. I can't wait to try some of these tricks. I love macaroni and cheese so maybe if I chop up the broccoli really really fine I can slip it in that and see if I can handle it and perhaps doing the same with my turkey burgers. Can you chop up vegetables really finely and mix them with your turkey meat to make hamburgers? I am excited! Thanks for the tips! - 3/9/2010   2:02:43 PM
  • 164
    I can't wait to start trying some of these for my girls. Well some we already do, like mixing corn, peas and carrots with mac and cheese for them. The girls love to add it themselves. They feel part. But I want (and they need) more veggies. They love straight fruits though. Like apples, oranges, bananas and so forth. Nuts as well, it's the veggies that lead to challenges. - 3/9/2010   1:11:37 PM
  • MARJEANNE1
    163
    New habit I've started and enjoy - fresh fruit salad with vanilla yogurt and granola. I prepare whatever fresh fruit I have, usually blueberries, strawberries, & grapes, in a large plastic container, scoop out what I need for 1 serving, add 1/2 - 1 whole apple chopped, and 1 sliced banana immediately before eating, top with 1/2 cup yogurt and 1/4 cup granola. I feel good after eating it and know I'm getting several servings of fruit and adequate fiber into my diet. I often prepare this recipe on a larger scale for church gatherings - makes beautiful truffle when fruit is layered. - 3/9/2010   7:53:55 AM
  • ONEBUSYMOUSE
    162
    I LOVE VEGETABLES SO ALL I CAN SAY IS START YOUR CHILDREN ON THEM IN BABY FOOD AND ESPECIALLY SOON AS THEY CAN EAT ADULT FOODS. THIS WILL ENSURE A LIFETIME OF GOOD CHOICES. BE EXAMPLE EAT THEM YOURSELF. SURELY THERE ARE A FEW EVERY ONE LIKES COOKED OR RAW IN SOME WAY.

    ONE WAY TO PREPARE THEM IF YOU REALLY HATE THEM ALL IS

    PUT SOME IN A FOOD GRINDER AND ADD THEM TO A CASSEROLE OR MEAT DISH

    SOME TIMES THE WAY A VEGETABLE IS CUT , THIN OR FAT MAKES A

    BIG DIFFERENCE IN TASTE TO THOSE WHO HAVE A TEXTURE ISSUE

    AS MANY DO .

    ONEBUSYMOUSE

    I LOVE VEGETABLES - 3/8/2010   10:42:39 PM
  • 161
    This is definitely what I needed. These suggestions are great! I have no problem with fruits but vegetables are a real problem and always have been. I don't mind raw vegetables but I've always been told that they need to be cooked to get the benefits of them.

    I'm OK with small amounts but feel like gagging after just a few bites. One of my goals is to have at least one vegetable with dinner and I plan on checking that box off every day. And hopefully soon I can add another one.

    - 3/8/2010   4:35:13 PM
  • CKEDDY12
    160
    I usally mix vegetable with fruit in a spinach salad or mix spinach with romaine lettuce( or fresh leaf lettuce;straight out of the garden) with a simple olive oil dressing( olive oil,splenda, and vinegar) to die for. - 3/8/2010   8:19:00 AM
  • 159
    I enjoy finding new ways to incorporate vegetables into my menu. I swap out to meals a week with meatless dishes. I am working on adding more vegetables to my breakfast routine. - 3/8/2010   12:20:28 AM
  • 158
    Vegetables are the mainstay of our eating. I do not Saute I use the microwave and I too always start off with onions and garlic with I teaspoon canola oil My large onion takes 5 minutes and then it goes in the wok pan and it works great. Canned beans rinsed well so remove sodium and you ahve a quick delightful meal. Pat in maine. - 3/7/2010   8:58:11 PM
  • 157
    Always been picky when it came to vegetable. Thanks for the suggestions. I know I need to eat them and eat them in a healthy manner. - 3/7/2010   8:53:30 PM
  • 156
    Thank you so much for sharing - several great suggestions - 3/7/2010   2:30:00 PM
  • 155
    Half my cart when grocery shopping is full of vegetables. The trick is experimentation in the kitchen with flavors. I have discovered Butternut squash soup. - 3/6/2010   9:00:17 PM
  • PRESHA911
    154
    I always thought I hated vegetables, but that's because I ate them plain and bland. I started by incorporating them with other things I liked and gradually built up a liking to eat them on their own. For some, I also started out by adding a little butter. I know that's not exactly healthy, but I like the veggies so much now that I don't need the butter anymore. - 3/6/2010   10:51:20 AM
  • 153
    I used to hide veggies in food to get my kids to eat them.
    Finely chopped spinach and zucchini in spaghetti sauce. Shredded carrots and peanut butter sandwich rollups. Spinach egg-urritos.
    - 3/6/2010   4:46:36 AM
  • 152
    Great reminders about packing veggies and fruit back into my diet. Fruit is never hard, veggies much more so. I'll give these ideas a try so I can be a big loser too!! - 3/5/2010   11:25:52 PM
  • 151
    Love the article....while I think I do good with veggies, I often get down on myself about eating them. I have to remember that I stick them in lots of foods instead of eating them on their own...it does count that way too. - 3/5/2010   6:40:14 PM
  • 150
    I grew up in a family where my Mom used salt, pepper, chili powder, onions, poultry seasoning. That's how I fed my family & continued that way when I became single. Now that I'm using Spark to manage my diet, I've made a list of spices recommended by other "Sparkers". I love onions so that tip is a good one for me. Thanks, Nicole. - 3/5/2010   3:49:10 PM
  • 149
    Great article and great comments left by everyone! - 3/5/2010   3:10:45 PM
  • 148
    I love vegetables so I don't know why this is so hard for me to do. I am going really work on eating lots of vegetables in place of all the junk I usually eat. - 3/5/2010   3:08:34 PM
  • 147
    Great ideas! Thanks. - 3/5/2010   2:38:10 PM
  • 146
    Great ideas Nicole, thank you. I've added kale to soups. Today I'm having string beans with a spritz of I can't believe its not butter for my snack. Whoohooo skinny side here I come. - 3/5/2010   1:48:30 PM
  • 145
    My biggest recommendation would be to think about color - when eating light colored meat or fish add green or red or bright yellow veggies to your plate. It is surprising how much more inviting a meal is when your eyes are pleased with the vision. Save the mashed potatoes for richly colored meats like barbeque or braised lamb shank. - 3/5/2010   10:05:52 AM
  • HALFPINTDUTCH32
    144
    I am not too crazy about vegtables but even less about fruit thank you for your article. - 3/5/2010   9:45:54 AM
  • 143
    When my children were younger, I used to "hide" vegetables in their food, much like what has been suggested in recent cookbooks like "Deceptively Delicious." I made pesto with spinach instead of basil, I added chopped spinach to soups, pasta sauce, etc. and told them those were "herbs." I finely chopped vegetables and added them to burgers, meatloaves, casseroles. And, now that they are older and will at least try whatever I throw at them, I've found that ANY vegetable tossed in a little olive oil with a little salt and pepper and roasted in the oven or, better yet, grilled tastes heavenly! - 3/5/2010   8:54:32 AM
  • 142
    I LOVE vegetables, but my husband...not so much. I am going to try to use some of these great ideas to help him learn to love them like me! - 3/5/2010   8:36:13 AM
  • 141
    I LOVE VEGGIES I COULD BECOME A VEGETARIAN EXCEPT I LIKE TO EAT FISH..THANK YOU FOR THE HELP IN COOKING THE VEGGIES. - 12/18/2009   4:34:20 AM
  • JUHOEG
    140
    I eat plenty of veggies. But thanks for your cooking tips - 12/16/2009   10:15:15 AM
  • GRANDMO1
    139
    Great ideas, thank you - 11/17/2009   8:44:09 AM
  • 138
    I try my best to incorporate as many vegetables as I can into my diet. I adore vegetables. Thanks to all the comments with all the great tips!!! - 11/16/2009   11:27:00 AM
  • 137
    great ideas --- thanks! - 11/12/2009   9:49:38 PM
  • 136
    One of the best ways to enjoy veggies, especially now that the weather is turning cooler, is to roast them. Toss chunks of butternut squash, or turnips, carrots, parsnips, and onions, or summer squash, zuchini, onions, red and green peppers and mushrooms in a large bowl with olive oil. Spread out on a rimmed backing sheet ( I line it with foil first) and sprinkle liberally with sea salt and pepper. Roast at 425 for about 20 minutes (use a fork to test for doneness.) The vegetables caramelize to sweet, satisfying goodness. Use with pasta, rice, couscous or quinoa, or as a side by themselves. - 11/12/2009   8:50:41 PM
  • 135
    I love what you call "plain" vegetables. Steamed is my favorite way to cook veggies if I'm not eating them raw.
    Once a person gets beyond their sugar and salt addiction and can taste real food... they will love veggies!
    Herbs can add a great depth of flavor in special veggie dishes without reaching for salt & sugar. - 11/12/2009   9:45:21 AM

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