My friend Kathie hates veggies.
Pretty much anything green. The less color, the better, seemingly.
Iceberg lettuce, tomatoes are OK. But not on a sandwich. Heaven forbid. She’ll yank them out of a subway sammy so fast it will give you lunchtime whiplash.
Heck, she won’t even eat raisins in cookies, which along with the rolled oats is about the only redeeming factor in my Aunt Jo’s Oatmeal Cookies.
Kathie is also a good 70 lbs overweight. And it doesn’t seem to bother her. Every couple of years she casually mentions teaming up with one of her kids to drop some pounds. Lose a little weight. But then again, the entire family of 5 is, well, big. They are all just large humans yet with lots of extra layers of avoir du pois to boot.
You CAN learn to love your veggies!
Though Kathie insists she “doesn’t like vegetables”, she persists with this notion despite the fact that she has considerably compromised her health, energy, and well-being by shunning plants in her diet.
She’s not alone. When one is used to a diet of heavy, high fat foods, processed meals, and burgers-to-go, there can be some serious re-alimentation that needs to take place. Let’s talk about that.
Re-alimentation: changing your tastes
We become accustomed to our food choices. They become our preferences, then our habits of choice, and then what we really desire, if not downright crave.
Food choices are largely learned behavior. Reflect on Kathie’s family. It’s hard for any of them to face a veggie. Vegetables are an afterthought to meals. A garnish. And at great cost to their health.
The good news is, these tastes can be massaged, educated, and morphed so that the foods that are most instrumental in building health, facilitating weight loss, and assisting us in realizing our fitness ideal are the ones we like!
You may have experienced this. Did you ever try to cut out sugar – completely – even for a few days? I remember doing that as part of “induction” on Diet Center (years ago, don’t get me started) and noted in just 2 short days how darn sweet an apple tasted.
Fruit tasted like dessert! And so it should be in the natural order of things. In a slim universe.
Our alimentary system – the process of digestion and absorption – begins in the mouth. I argue that this system can be totally re-sensitized to support our body composition, weight loss, fat loss, and health goals.
I call it “re-alimentation”. Learning new tastes.
Are your taste buds corrupt?
If veggies don’t sound good or you need to slather them with dips, sauces and dressings to choke them down, then chances are very good – ahem – that your taste buds are corrupt.
I’ll give you this: there ARE some people – a segment of the population – who have a genetically induced aversion to certain cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. You can read more about this in Dr. Neal Barnard’s Turn Off The Fat Genes. As I said, a small segment of the population. But really, these veggies are just a fraction of what await you to delight in in the plant and vegetable kingdom.
Strap on your veggie training wheels
- Decide, first of all, that it is worth your while to invest in your enjoyment of the vegetable.
- Start with the vegetables with which you are most familiar, and like.
- Then take a trip to market – farmer’s or super – and investigate at least one new choice. Bok choy? It’s like mild, mild cabbage and steams or stir fries up beautifully. Leeks? Light, flirty onion taste and go great in the stir fry with the bok choy.
From there, an ever-widening circle of delights awaits you.
Not to mention a trimmer waistline.
© Lani Muelrath 2009 All Rights Reserved
Lani, I love this article. I printed it off for 2 sisters and a friend! I’m not creative with my food but I knew a couple of years ago I needed to add more veggies to my diet, so I just did it. Honestly, I made myself eat them, I didn’t want to. BUT my tastebuds acclimated themselves to the veggies all on their own. I didn’t do anything to the veggies to make them more palatable, just ate them raw or steamed them. And after awhile of forcing myself to eat them, one day I realized I liked them! You can train your tastebuds to like just about anything. My sister is a diabetic and when she was first diagnosed (years ago), she was making special food for herself and she made this sugar free chocolate cake that she went on and on about how delicious it was. I took a slice of it and I almost gagged, it was so stinkin’ dry!!!!! I told her something had happened to her tastebuds, but she insisted that they were fine. That’s when I first knew you could train yourself to like something disgusting! And in like manner, you can train yourself to like something delicious like fruits and veggies!
Sorry for the length, Lani. I have a hard time keeping it short!
@Jean Myers: Jean, thank you for the detailed response I enjoyed every minute! It just gets my goat when women whine and complain that it’s “so hard to lose weight” but then when I suggest they add more veggies to their diet and reduce the desserts, up come all the excuses. We want it to look at taste just like it always has PLUS get the results of weight loss and health. But the truth of the matter is you can’t solve a problem with the same behavior with which it was created.
People do NOT like to change their diets. But it is the single most important lynchpin of fat loss.
I’m flattered you are distributing the article! I meant for it to inspire and sure hope it does!
You do bring up a point here, Lani, about trying new veggies. Years ago my son had me trying a few of his raw veggies and some of them were quite bitter. Well, rather than continue with the new experiences, I just stopped, thinking that all I had not “tried” was because of a reason. Yes, I love bok choy in stir fry, but do I do it myself? You guessed it! I need to widen my choices from my standard, broccoli, carrots, celery, green beans, asparagus, cauliflower, mushroom, onion staples and start introducing a few newer ones. I’m certain I can find tasty ways to prepare them on the internet. Thanks for the nudge.
@Nita: Nita, thanks for your notes and personal story. Truth is, we ALL get in ruts, veggie or otherwise – and your veggie list as noted is probably longer than that of many others!
I nudged myself back into kale a couple of months ago. I love it in soup, but had just gotten away from it (don’t usually do soups in summer) and for awhile, had even been getting it but not “getting around” to it – it was just getting frequent flier miles in my crisper! I specifically mentioned the bok choy and leeks because they have been my nudge this Fall as well.
Let me know what new choices you come up with!
I remember after I gave up diet cokes how sweet water tasted. I do have a reverse osmosis system at home and my water is well water. However, I was surprised at the taste, sweet and refreshing.
I also was shocked at how different fruit and vegetables tasted. If you have a farmers market, it even goes up another notch. I love raising my own fruits and vegetables. If you live in the city, try a few container plants. My daughters are hooked on the taste of fresh, vine ripened tomatoes.
@Neecy Rohrs: Neecy, I’ll be right over to sample from that garden! You are so right, there is nothing like homegrown, followed by farmer’s market. How large is your garden? I know what hard work they are yet the rewards!
Thanks for telling about your garden. Must send pic!
The other day one of my daughters who is in charge of supper was having a hard time coming up with a veggie dish. I suggested she take the summer squash and zucchini I had bought for *me*, add some red pepper and stir fry it in a little butter. She added half an onion and we had a BIG pot of it!
The “bad” thing is–*everyone* ate it! I had no leftovers!
Better be careful when I “share my veggies” next time! 😉
But it was great to see them gobble it up and love it!
@Trisch: Trisch, sounds like you had the magic touch. Looks like you may need to buy double next time!
This T’Tappy Holidays is a real challenge and eye opener for me. Vegetables have never been high on my priority list and it has been very difficult to get them in, but it is getting better. Can’t say I enjoy them yet, but need to tell you about an experience I had at my daughters. I absolutely detest asparagus but she had fresh out of her garden and asked me to try it. She said the reason you don’t like it is because it is cooked to death. I did try it and it wasn’t at all bad. So changes may be slow but they can be done.
Thanks so much for sharing,
@Maggie Chilcote: Maggie, you brought to mind how I used to hate asparagus as a kid – and avocado, and eggplant! Go figure, I love ’em all now.
And you are SO right about prep. Asparagus likes to be crisp-tender – and I also learned it is the ones with the fat stalks that are better! I can drop them into a steamer or a boil for 3 minutes and they emerge perfect.
Thanks so much for sharing Maggie and keep up the good veggie work! You know where to find a good veggie cheerleader! 😉
wonderful article and oh so true. if anyone ever told me that i’d crave salad, eat plain, steamed kale and enjoy smoothies that contain 4 or 5 handfuls of spinach i’d say they were nuts!
i have also been very successful with weight loss due to incorporating lots of veggies into my diet!
madness is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping you’ll get different results…you can’t change your body without making healthy changes to your diet and adding exercise!
@isabel: Isabel, you HAVE been so successful and it is so apparent from seeing your video – and seeing you in person! You are excellent testimony to the power of the plant – truly! And thank you so much for stopping in to underline it!
Man, I am totally in the minority here! I like virtually all vegetables, except okra. It’s a textural thing. And my sister insists that it’s good deep-fried, but I don’t do deep-fried! It might be from my Italian background. My Nonno had a vegetable garden, and he could grow anything, and did. Who else likes zucchini flowers?
Just taught a friend how to cook spaghetti squash. Great if you are low-carbing. Also, I’d like to tell folks that virtually any veggie can be roasted. It intensifies the flavor and brings out the sweetness. Anybody need instructions?
Glad to encounter other veggie-lovers, and thanks for coming in to share about it!
And DO share 2 things:
1) spaghetti squash cook directons
2) roasted veggies as you make them
If you get a chance! Thanks!
It has been interesting to read the comments. I so agree with you about the asparagus, Lani–we love the fat stalks!
I roast a lot of our veggies–especially love roasted yellow squash, asparagus, and sweet potatoes. Roasted edamame is delicious!
Thanks for the veggie encouragement!
@DeLynn: DeLynn, what are YOUR roasting tips and tricks? Would love to know!
And I never thought of roasting edamame. Genius! Spill the “beans” 😉
Thanks for the post, too.
I love collard greens! I cook them in the crock pot for several hours. But on the T’appy Holidays it’s funny eating 2 cups of collard greens to get in 2 servings of veggies!! I also love spinach – I put in a cup in my morning eggs & also make a mean spinach dip!
@Tesser: Tesser, do you just steam the collards? It’s been awhile for me on those and I’ve got to jump back in. Do you just steam them?
Nice thing about spinach, it is so versatile. Sounds like you’ve gotten creative!
Thanks for your comments!
Yes, you actually have to really boil them for hours – I add a chopped onion to mine and sometimes serve them with some red wine vinegar or just eat them plain. If you’re a meat eater, [I know you’re not, Lani] – you can add ham or sausage as well but I put them in the crock pot with water to almost cover – otherwise they don’t seem to cook as well. (and I’m not one to add tons of water with other vegetables!!)
@Tesser: Oh, hours? Are you exaggerating? Holy cow! Vinegar on dark greens is always a yummer, isn’t it?
For collard greens – yes. I hate saying that – because I tend to be a “lightly steamed” vegetable person…but unless you REALLY like to chew…but also, did you know you can put a collard leaf in your green smoothies? 😉
1) Spagetti squash. Okay, first you need to get a machete to split the thing open. Just kidding, but it is thick and tough. Cut it vertically in half. Scoop out the seeds. Grease a baking sheet w/ a little oil. Place the halves, cut side down on baking sheet. Cook at 350 for about an hour. Then you take a fork and scrape down on the flesh, making long strands.
You can add a bit of cinnamon and sweetener
or, butter or olive oil and parmesan cheese (I preferred the shredded or flakes rather than grated) or even Spagetti sauce. (Yipee!) Check the sugar content of the sauce if low carbing.
2) Roasted veggies. The trick with this is to be sure all the veggies are the same size, because little ones will cook quicker. You’re going for a golden browning.
You clean and pare the veggies as you would for steaming. Basically you are going to roll them on a baking sheet with olive oil, sprinkle with sea or Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. You want to have just one layer. Half way through the cooking time you, you will stir or flip to reverse which side is on the baking sheet.
Time and temp depends on how delicate the veggie is.
At 400 for maybe 10 minutes:
Cherry tomatoes with sliced shallots.
Asparagus, break off the tough ends, when nearly done, sprinkle w/ Parmesan and/or breadcumbs.
String beans, or in the spring you can get harcot vert, which are tiny and cook up quick and get real crispy.
Of course you can do all the root veggies, beets, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, potatoes etc. I would do them at 415 for about 20 minutes or so. Depends on how thick you make them. Add whatever seasonings you like.
Another very Italian dish in to broil whole peppers of any color you like (but the green ones stand up to the fire a little better), moving often until the skin is charred all over. (You can also do this on a gas stove, if you have one.) Put peppers in a brown paper bag to cool. They will continue steaming there. When cool enough to handle, peel the skin off, breaking half and remove the stem and seeds. You might want to do this over a bowl, so you can capture the juices. DO NOT RINSE! While they are still warm, tear into lengthwise strips and dress them with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, lots of chopped garlic (you can use slices if you want to be able to pick them out later), chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley, small sliced black olives. Chill, then let it come a little bit to room temp, so the olive oil is not coagulated.
I know this sounds like a lot of work, but in my family, it’s not a holiday without them!
@Laura Roggi: Thanks Laura, this is fabulous! I have a spaghetti squash on my counter and you’ve given me the push to make it a meal.
Thanks for taking the time to put this up!
I roast veggies in big Pyrex pans. I smear a bit of olive oil around the bottom of the pan, put the veggies in, drizzle more olive oil over them, and sprinkle with sea salt that’s slightly coarse and freshly ground pepper. I do this with asparagus, green beans, combinations of root veggies, and the little multi-colored potatoes from Trader Joe’s (packages of white, red and purple small potatoes). All family members will gladly eat any vegetable prepared this way.
Lani – I meant to tell you about the collard greens – after washing them, set the greens lengthwise on your cutting board, then cut them across in thin strips before cooking!!
@Tesser: Thanks Tesser, note taken!
Lani, veggies are soooo wonderful. Here is a delicious recipe our DIL shared with us a few years ago. Although it calls for fresh asparagus, it does quite well with fresh broccoli, green beans, or other fresh veggies:
1 bunch asparagi, cut into 1″ angled bits – toss with 1 Tbsp tamari soy sauce (low salt variety), 1-1/2 tsp safflower oil and 1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp safflower oil
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
On medium high heat, brown sesame seeds in safflower oil until just toasted (watch because they can quickly burn once browned.) Add the asparagus mixture and stir fry quickly – they will be done in about 3 minutes. Be careful – it can spatter if your veggies are too cold. Do Not overcook.
For extra pizzazz ad 1 tsp freshly shredded ginger.
My hubby who HATES green beans will actually eat them this way; and our grandkids who do not normally like broccoli will eat it this way. Yum!
@Nita: Well Nita you’ve got our mouths watering on this one. Thanks for the simple recipe!
If you really want to take control of your health it is vital to consume foods with the highest micronutrient per calorie scores and green veggies, colorful veggies and fruits score the highest. If you want creative recipes that taste great check out Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat for Health on his website, http://www.drfuhrman.com. You will be glad you did!
@Sue: Thanks Sue, I’ve long been a fan of Dr. Fuhrman and you’ll often see me quote him and refer to his work.