How to Love Eating Your Vegetables and Not Gag

By Lisa Kimrey | Maintain Wellness

Does the mere thought of trying to love eating your vegetables make your stomach turn?

Or, perhaps the thought of vegetables brings a disgusting image of bland, mushy, squishy and waterlogged food only seen on a senior buffet to your mind?

Do you dislike eating vegetables as much as you hate to exercise?

Sounds like you are miles away from the honeymoon stage with your vegetables. But, most of us have room for improvement. According to the CDC, only 1 of 10 adults eats the daily requirement of produce.

Are you ready to narrow that distance a little?

Here is what you need to know:

Vegetables can taste…magical.

I’m telling the truth. Scout’s honor. You just have to dig up some veggie secrets to love eating your vegetables. (And by dig up I mean keep reading because I’ve already done the digging.)

One secret to love eating your vegetables is the preparation.

A lot of adults turn up our noses to the beloved vegetable. But most of us were only taught one way to cook them. And typically that way was taught by our parents (or grandparents) so therefore, we are likely overcooking our vegetables.

We are cooking the taste right out of them.

But, did you know there can be at least a dozen ways to prepare each vegetable? It’s a fact, so be adventurous! The road to loving vegetables is paved with the willingness to experiment and prepare foods in multiple  ways.

Don’t panic – you don’t need to be a fancy chef.

One of my favorite ways to try a new vegetable is to substitute it for a cracker or chip and eat it with other things I know I like (like my favorite dip).

Straightforward, but an effective first step.

Eat a naked vegetable

Not to be confused with eating a vegetable while naked of course. The simplest way to eat a vegetable is to eat them raw. Use them in a salad or as crudités with dip or hummus to try unknown vegetables along with familiar flavors. And aim to prepare at least 1/2 of the 5 daily servings of vegetables raw.

Carrots, peppers, radishes, kale, cauliflower, spinach and snap peas are all examples of vegetables that taste delicious raw.

Vegetables are simple to wash, cut and prepare. Some may be unfamiliar or seem more complicated but that issue can be remedied by a quick watch of a Youtube video. You can learn quickly and conveniently in the privacy of our own home. Nope, there’s no stopping you now.

Ideas to try:

  • Slice them up as crudites
  • Eat them with your favorite dip, hummus or salsa instead of crackers or chips
  • Toss it in a salad
  • Serve them as a cold side at mealtime
  • Shred them up and mix into a salad (I never thought I’d eat Brussels sprouts but I like them this way)

Give vegetables a spa treatment

Many vegetables taste better cooked. But do not overcook. It may shock you to realize you most of us are overcooking vegetables by 50%-75% of the time necessary.

Want to enjoy a vast improvement in the taste and texture in vegetables? Prepare them with less cooking time. Cooking can also enhance the flavors and nutrient absorption in some vegetables. Use online tutorials on Pinterest or Youtube to learn how to prep, cut up and cook a new, unfamiliar vegetable.

The options are endless but here are some examples

Throw it into a pasta

  • Roast in the oven
  • Rice it
  • Grill it
  • As a stir fry (yum, try chopped kale this way)
  • Fry it in a pan or in oil
  • Spiral cut
  • Mashed (with butter and toppings)
  • Use it as a crust
  • In a casserole

Think outside of the vegetable to love eating your vegetables!

So, sometimes it just works to do something crazy with a vegetable to bring more of it into your diet. Not everyone needs to know they are eating a vegetable. Do you know what I mean? Well…

Ok, try this – puree extra butternut squash, sweet potatoes, spinach or carrots and use it as a substitute of 1/2 of the fat ingredient of waffles or baked-goods.  (Cooling the food masks the vegetable flavor). What a great way to use up food on hand and feed your family more vegetables-even if they think they do not like that vegetable (wink wink).

Dazzling ways to try veggies:

  • Inside a baked-good (substitute for 1/2 of the fat)
  • Ribbon it
  • Pickle it
  • Frozen (my daughter loves to eat frozen peas!)

After listening to thousands of adult patients during my career tell me why they do not eat vegetables, I’ve learned it is not always about the cost or access to vegetable. It is because they don’t like the taste or texture of certain vegetables, but they tend to only prepare them the ONE way they have been taught by their parents, and they do not try new ways to cook them.

Explore even more new ways to love eating your vegetables.

The secret to loving to eat vegetables is to invest in at least 2-3 ways to prepare each vegetable before giving up on liking that vegetable.

Here are a few interesting ideas:

    1. Follow a good vegetable side or vegetarian entree recipe. Stop winging it! I am loving spaghetti squash vegan bolognese. It is one of my family’s favorite (of everything I cook)! Consider buying a vegetarian cookbook and make the entrees as new sides to try. These recipes are loaded with flavor-vegetarians eat a lot of vegetables and want them to takes wonderful.
    2. Invest in a good food encyclopedia or vegetarian cookbook so youcan easily learn step by step how to choose, buy and prepare vegetables that are unfamiliar to you.
    3. Look up preparation instructions online. The best source is Pinterest. Seriously you need to be there.
    4. Subscribe to a cooking magazine so you can also learn which foods are in season (the time when they are the most flavorful). I’ve subscribed to Cooking Light for over 15 years. It is a treat to buy in-season vegetables. They are less expensive and more flavorful. You’ll look forward to each new season!
    5. Take a cooking class at your local grocery store with another adult friend who also doesn’t like vegetables:)
    6. Talk to your local farmer at the farmer’s market. They have lots of vegetables and know how to cook them (you eat what you have).
    7. Read menu descriptions to see how your favorite restaurant prepares them or talk to the chef.
    8. Try new vegetarian dishes or sides while you are out. A great tip-split a vegetarian entree as an appetizer.
    9. Watch cooking shows. You can even learn from the kid shows. Have a competition in your own kitchen.

Lastly, no need to get overwhelmed

The shortest route to love eating your vegetables is to be adventurous.  But remember the point is to find a way to love eating your vegetables, not turn into a vegetarian. Vegetables contain nutrients which preserve health and prevent disease. That is your goal-to stay well by getting those disease preventing nutrients into your body.

Set a goal, be good to yourself and take it slow.

It texture bothers you perhaps try a smoothie or putting the vegetable in another food or form (baked-goods) may work best for you.

If your issue is flavor, preparation variety will be your weapon of choice. The easiest way is to try something raw. In fact, you can find raw vegetables ready to eat now in the grocery store.

The benefit of many vegetables being quick and easy to prepare gives everyone the opportunity to try them raw, cooked or in another type of preparation. It is definitely worth the time investment to learn several preparation techniques to find the best method to enjoy eating a particular vegetable.  When cooked the right way, you may find that you love eating a vegetable you’ve disliked your entire life! Wouldn’t that be awesome?

So, what new vegetable or new preparation are you going to try first? Make a list of 3 vegetables you want to try today.

Send me an email and let me know how you prepared it and your response! I can’t wait to hear you love eating your vegetables!


About the Author

Lisa has been an RN for 25 years and has a passion for helping people make healthy choices & build healthy habits related to self-care. Check out Lisa's free tip sheet "10 Ways to Save Money on Healthcare"!