Do you need to get more vegetables into your diet? If you do, you’re not alone. Most people don’t eat all the servings of vegetables that they should. Even some vegetarians and vegans, people who eat plant-based diets, admit they just don’t like vegetables. Yes, it is entirely possible to eat a plant-based diet without eating a lot of…well, plants. Of course we all know we are supposed to eat our vegetables because they are healthy for us, even perhaps, the most health-promoting food group that exists. Yet, some people still can’t bring themselves to eat them. Perhaps it is genetic. Researchers have discovered that 25 percent of the population has a genetic trait that makes them more sensitive to bitter tastes. These “super-tasters,” as they are called, tend to not like cruciferous vegetables, dark greens or other bitter veggies such as eggplant. Or maybe you have bad memories of being forced to sit at the table until you ate all your peas or spinach and now you can’t stand the sight of them.
The good news is that people can learn to like veggies. No one is saying you have to learn to love all veggies but there are ways to make many of them more appealing to you. There are ways to cook veggies that will remove the bitter taste and ways to make eating veggies fun and exciting. Check out my tips on how to get yourself or some veggie-hater you know to eat more vegetables and like it … maybe even love it.
1. Expose Yourself to More Veggies
In order to eat more veggies, you need to get yourself in the same room with them. Read cookbooks and online recipes (like ours here at One Green Planet) and get inspiration for new dishes. Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and have a box of vegetables delivered to your door every week. You will probably get veggies you never would have chosen yourself. Visit your local farmers’ market and the produce department of your favorite supermarket and take your time looking at the variety of vegetables available to you. Check out all the shapes and colors and don’t be afraid to ask questions from the people who know produce best. They will be happy to offer advice and cooking suggestions for each veggie. Make it a goal to buy one or two new vegetables each week, read up on the best ways to cook them and try them in a recipe that sounds delicious.
2. Make Veggies Easy and Available
Out of sight, out of mind. If you buy veggies and then stick them in the back of the fridge, you might next see them when they look like a science experiment a month later. Keep your veggies where you can see them. Put them in a pretty bowl on the counter or on top of the fridge. If they must be refrigerated, put the veggies on the top shelf in the front so you see them as soon as you open the door. Keep organic frozen veggies in the freezer so you will always have some on hand. Check out 6 Tips to Keep Your Veggies Fresh Longer for storage advice.
Prep veggies in advance to make them more accessible. Cut up carrots, celery, bell peppers and zucchini and put them in storage bags or containers with other easy-to-eat veggies like cherry tomatoes and snap peas. Alternatively, you can buy pre-cut vegetables at the store. When we look for a snack, we will be more likely to grab the cut-up veggies since all the work has already been done. Grab a bag of raw veggies to take with you to work or when you go shopping. When hunger pangs strike, reach for that bag of veggies rather than buying chips or donuts.
3. Drink Your Veggies
There is a reason those veggie juices on the market do so well. For some people, it’s easier to get a day’s worth of vegetable servings if they can fit several of them into one drink than having to cook and eat them in their whole forms. Get out your blender and make your own veggie juices and smoothies with beets, kale, cucumbers, and carrots. Try adding some fruit like coconut, watermelon and apples for sweetness and flavor. Here are 7 Delicious Juice Recipes and the Ultimate Green Juice Cheat Sheet to help get you started.
4. Put Veggies Into Your Favorite Foods
Maybe you think of vegetables as a side dish all on their own, but you can increase the chances of your liking a vegetable if you put it into a dish you already like. If you love mac and cheese, add broccoli or spinach to it or make the sauce with squash. Lasagna and all its cheesy layers is a great place to put some greens or zucchini slices like in this Creamy Pumpkin and Spinach Lasagna. If burgers are your idea of comfort food, try making them out of something different like roasted beets or eggplant . Check out 10 Vegetables You Can Make Burgers With for lots of ideas. Use vegetables such as eggplant, mushrooms, cauliflower and beets in place of meat in your favorite dishes likePhilly Cheesesteaks, Sloppy Joes, tacos or spaghetti and meatballs. See this article 10 Vegetables that Can Substitute for Meat, for inspiration and recipe ideas.
5. Use Veggies in Every Dish You Make
Make it a habit to add at least one vegetable into every single dish you make. If you make pasta, add spinach, broccoli or cherry tomatoes to the dish. Try this Vegetable Rigatoni with Creamy Cauliflower Sauce or my Creamy Rotini Alfredo with Asparagus and Peas. Chili is the perfect food to bulk up with veggies such as carrots, parsnips, beans, tomatoes, zucchini and more. This Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili is hearty and delicious. Soups usually start with veggies; add more such as beans, corn, squash or cauliflower. If you don’t want chunks of vegetables, blend them into the soup for smooth, creamy flavor. Try this Spring Kale and Dill Soup with Rice and this Mango Butternut Squash Soup. Salads can be so much more than just lettuce and tomatoes. Use cabbage, carrots, radishes, jicama, broccoli, spinach, kale and pretty much any vegetable that exists. Take a look at this Superfood Salad with Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Chickpeas, Kale, Sprouts and Seeds.
Make new, amazing salad dressings to make your salads even more appealing. Having pizza for dinner? Try new veggie toppings – my favorites are mushrooms, artichoke hearts, caramelized onions and olives but I would love a slice of this Fresh Summer Vegan Pesto Pizza. You can even make the pizza crust out of vegetables like this Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Black Mung Bean Curry.
Replace the carbs and starches in your meals with veggies. Instead of pasta, make noodles out of zucchini, eggplant, spaghetti squash and carrots like this Roasted Pepper Zucchini Pasta. Use slices of eggplant to layer a gluten-free lasagna. Lettuce and other green leaves make great wraps for your favorite fillings. Try these Raw Zucchini Wraps and these Veggie-Filled Collard Green Wraps.
6. Start Your Day With Veggies
I eat vegetables for breakfast every single day. My favorite breakfast is hummus on brown rice toast topped with marinated cucumbers, raw spinach and raw tomatoes. Mix vegetables such as onions, zucchini, mushrooms and greens into your tofu scrambles. Fill a tofu or chickpea omelet with sauteed tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms or spinach. Put veggies in your muffins like these Butternut Squash Muffins and in your pancakes as in these Mushroom Rosemary Pancakes. Have a Spinach and Almond Feta Breakfast Wrap or a Vegan Breakfast Pizza. Before you know it, breakfast will be your favorite meal of the day.
7. Seasoning, Dip and Sauces
Even if you like the taste of vegetables, seasoning them always makes them taste better. Marinate veggies in a mix of tamari, lemon, balsamic or apple cider vinegar and your favorite herbs and spices. This article on 10 Ways to Make Awesome BBQ Sauces, Rubs and Marinades lists ideas for getting the most flavor out of your food. Or toss them in a spice blend with an Italian or Asian twist.Saute them in olive oil or coconut oil. Glaze them with maple syrup.
Vegetables like to get dressed up so try some dips and sauces to dress them in, especially in the beginning when you are learning to like them. Whip up a salsa verde or Tzatziki dressing to dip raw veggies in. Make Asian stir-fry sauces or a vegan cheese sauce to drizzle over your broccoli. Check out 15 Double-Dip Worthy Vegan Dips for incredible recipes.
Think of veggies when you need a spread for your next sandwich. Use hummus or pesto instead of mayo or mustard. Add minced veggies to the cream cheese you’re about to spread on your bagel. Enjoy the savory flavor of this Char-Roasted Eggplant Spread or this lovely Muhammara Spread.
8. Party Food
Have fun with veggies and invite them to your parties, cookouts and picnics. You can have your bowls of chips and pretzels but be sure to put out a crudité platter and bowls of kale chips and roasted chickpeas as well. Serve veggie versions of fun foods like Butternut Squash Tacos with Tempeh Chorizo, Spicy Nachos, Mini-Calzones, Onion Rings and vegan Mozzarella Sticks. Food on a stick is always a hit so make skewered food like these Spicy Balsamic Veggie Kebabs at your next barbecue. Have a veggie-themed potluck where everyone has to bring a vegetable dish. Make it a contest and give the best dish a blue ribbon and a prize – maybe a bouquet of greens.
9. Challenge Yourself
Set fun and attainable goals for yourself and keep track on a list where you can check off your accomplishments. Possible weekly goals can include buying one or two new vegetables each shopping trip, cooking a new vegetable, trying a familiar vegetable in a new way or practicing Meatless Monday and having one “vegetables only” day. Daily goals might be incorporating one vegetable into each meal of the day or eating one veggie-focused snack. Maybe this is the week to give Brussels sprouts or artichokes a try?
10. Don’t Make a Big Deal about It
Adding more veggies to your meals might be a very big deal to you but it’s better if you act like eating veggies is the most natural thing in the world. Sometimes when we make a big deal out of something, it’s even harder to do. Serve vegetables to your family without bringing it to their attention. Vegetables should just be a regular part of eating, not something you have to bribe or reward people into doing. When we do that, we are saying that vegetables are not enjoyable but something they need to get through in order to get the reward. Be enthusiastic about everything you set on the table because it’s all delicious, even the vegetables.
The truth is I didn’t always like vegetables but the more I ate them, the more I loved them. It may not happen overnight but I promise you, if you give veggies a chance and try them in lots of different ways, you will find ones you like and even love.
By: Rhea Parsons