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Learn to Love Vegetables: 8 Tips

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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

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. Report
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. Report
Thank you so much for sharing - several great suggestions Report
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. Report
PRESHA911
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. Report
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.
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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!! Report
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. Report
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. Report
Great article and great comments left by everyone! Report
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. Report
Great ideas! Thanks. Report
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. Report
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. Report
HALFPINTDUTCH32
I am not too crazy about vegtables but even less about fruit thank you for your article. Report
HEALTHYHOKIE
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! Report
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! Report
I LOVE VEGGIES I COULD BECOME A VEGETARIAN EXCEPT I LIKE TO EAT FISH..THANK YOU FOR THE HELP IN COOKING THE VEGGIES. Report
JUHOEG
I eat plenty of veggies. But thanks for your cooking tips Report
GRANDMO1
Great ideas, thank you Report
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!!! Report
JANE1216
great ideas --- thanks! Report
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. Report
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. Report
KANDICE26
I am not a vegetarian but I love to eat veggies every day. I am willing to try everything at least once and if I am really crazy I will try it a second time. I feel this way about eating veggies. As I have gotten older I used to be picky about the veggies that I did eat and would have my favorites that I would eat and ignore the rest. Through different opportunites and having a small garden to grow food in I have have the chance to experience many veggies that I have come to love. There are still those veggies out there that I cannot stand but I love way more than I dislike. Another important point that this article makes is about eating seasonally. It may be hard to do during the winter months, but when the weather starts to improve fresh local produce is the best. During the summer and spring I hardly buy any produce from inside a grocery store unless I know that it is from a local farm. Otherwise I am buying produce from roadsides and farmers markets. This is a great way to get more infomation about how to prepare veggies that might be new to you. Farmers at these types of markets are full of information on the best ways to prepare thier produce. Report
When thinking about trying a vegetable you haven't ever had - search through some recipes at sites like : http://vegetablerecipes.org / Something is sure to sound good Report
I am very grateful to the frozen vegetable and canned vegetable folks... I didn't eat veg at all, but knew I had to and splurged on some of the healthy combos to get me going. I now cook my own raw vegetables in many forms and nibble on raw ones and have transformed the content of my diet. Calories can be high at times but healthfulness is better and the rest is coming along... who knew? Report
My daughter is a vegetarian who hates veggies... she eats way too much pasta though! Thanks for some great ideas to add more to her daily meals. Report
Love veggies, but I am still learning to eat fruits Report
PAULA_PANTS
I love veggies myself, and I enjoy trying new ways of cooking them. Just recently I decided to grill some veggies drizzled with olive oil and a little salt and pepper and they were great! Give it a try, its quick and easy and delicious. Report
I, too, am a vegetarian (okay, vegan) who didn't like vegetables until going vegetarian (okay, vegan). In fact, when I told my dad that I was going to go vegetarian, he said "But you don't like vegetables." Now, veggies, fruits and grains make up the biggest portion of my diet. For example, my dinner last night was summer squash and zuchini and some multi grain toast. My lunch for today is cantaloupe, blueberries and grapes. Yummy! (In case anyone was wondering, my breakfast was a banana and some peanut butter.) And I've learned that I like to eat salads! Who would have ever thought that?
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I agree with this blog, keep trying different recipes until you find one that works for you. Try Cucumber Kimchee, Mushrooms with whip cream, carrots with brown sugar and butter. Look for healthy recipes. Report
As a person who needs high protein and low carb to stay healthy, vegetables are a problem. Your mac & cheese or rice mixes can't be part of my diet (even if I could manage the taste, which I can't). I don't like hot drinks, so don't eat soup. Hummus is something created by a person who did not like food. Both texture and taste are revolting.
And I have tried and tried vegetables again. My five children all ate two vegetables for dinner every night, and so did I. I believe in setting a good example no matter what the cost . . . and I still do it when any of the nine grandchildren are at the table. I force veggies down until I gag and never comment on how revolting they make me feel.
Throughout the thirty years my children were at the nightly dinner, I rarely enjoyed a meal because of them. Two of my children were vegetarians for years, and liked the way I cooked and the sauces I added. I consumed them all and hate them still.
Mushrooms and onions sauteed in butter and served on a steak is my idea of two veggies now. The only way I can get anything else down is by so coating the cooked veg in enough butter that it slides down my throat with little chewing. And the endless trays of crudites and dips that I serve make the table look pretty but do nothing for my taste buds.
Some of us just aren't made for vegetables and our bodies know that. Fruit, while I enjoy some of it, has just too many carbs for regular consumption. So I'll just stick to a multi-vitamin and try to make do until God gets around to producing a veggie that tastes good. Report
I love all sorts of fruits and veggies. I just can't eat that many because I'm allergic to most of them. That makes life kinda hard. The same things over and over get pretty boring. Report
I've finally conquered the last holdout in the category of vegetables I don't like: radishes (nectarine or peach and radish salsa...yum). Otherwise, I pretty much live off veggies. I'm a master of the one-pot meal and add obscene quantities to everything that I cook. Report
DORSKI
I use to be a very picker eater and ate few vegetable. What i discovered is that the reason i hated most vegetable is that my mom used to over cook them. I now eat most vegetable as long as they are steamed and cook for only a few minutes. Report
CORASDIET
I love vegies, the best way to fix them in the summer is to brush them lightly with olive oil sprinkle with italian seasoning and place on grill until cooked. This work great with zucchini sliced the length of them. And eggplant and mushrooms for vegie sandwiches. Report
BRIBIEN
I would love to see more blogs about going vegetarian! Report
I cannot think of any vegetable that I do not like. My Mom grew up on a farm in the western part of NC so we always had a bountiful garden growing up and she would “can” of course – so it was all good all of the time.

I bought a 3 tiered steamer a few years back and it is amazing what you can do with steaming combos and cooking with herbs. The vegetables are bright and have a burst of flavor – at least for me.

Sadly my husband is a corn and beans only kind of guy except that he does like salads. I have tried to win him over but to no avail. He likes what he likes and rightly so.
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Try shreded apples with shreded carrots and honey! More then good. My mom did that to me when I was younger Report
I love veggies raw, cooked and added to other foods. It is sweets that are my downfall I could live on veggies and fruits. Report
Great. Report
I didn't like the taste of capsicums, But eversince I've started eating salad, I mix them in my salad, and the next thing I realised I'm already eating them. Report
HOLLY_23
ive always hated salads but iv also always secretly wanted to love them iv tried them maybe twice and now as im getting older it makes me want to go and make one right now and just suck it up! great article!! very motivating! Report
DONHARCHC
Vegetables are great. I love them. Report
SYDME17
Just from reading this blog. I am going to keep a veggie tray in the box at all times. In the see thru containers on the shelves, instead of down in the veggie keeper. Report
My best friend from high school started out as someone who had never met a veggie she liked, especially anything green. Then she started coming to our house! Turns out her mom "prepared" vegetables by dumping them out of a can, or in the case of salad, by mixing some iceberg lettuce with mushy hothouse tomatoes.

My mom pretty much always steamed our veggies or served them raw, with very little on top except maybe some Good Seasons Italian dressing. My friend discovered that green beans don't have to be that icky puke green color (canned), asparagus is supposed to snap, lettuce comes in other flavors beside bland iceberg, tomatoes don't have to be mushy and mealy, peas can be sweet, broccoli doesn't have to be mushy...

Now, I get frequent calls from her asking how to cook different vegetables she's picked up at the store! Report
It's really funny how your taste buds can change. Somehow we think of our likes and dislikes as a personality thing. I have been amazed to find that since changing the way I eat, I can eat a meal with an "old favorite" such as fried chicken and also eat vegetables and find that I actually like the vegetables better! I would have never believed it a year ago! Report
CHOCMOM
I hated asparagus until about 3 years ago. I am over 50! 3 years ago, I ate asparagus at a dinner party with much hesitation. And it was wonderful. I loved it and have been eating it ever since. The reason why I previously hated it - the only way I had ever eaten it was out of a can. That is the way the schools served it, that is the way my mother served it and I was married to man who wouldn't eat hardly any vegetables and definitely wouldn't try anything new.

Now I know how to take fresh asparagus and steam it, grill it, etc. I still can't stand "canned" asparagus. Report
My boyfriend hated green beans growing up, but he gobbles them up the way I like to prepare them! I saute fresh green beans with chopped garlic and either a little bit of olive oil or cooking spray. They're still crunchy and go great with almost anything! Report
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