Vegetable Haters: How to Start Eating Vegetables
“Hey Steve, I want to start eating healthy, but I don’t like vegetables. Can you help me eat healthier without having to eat vegetables? Actually, I love corn, so can you tell me how to make more foods with corn?”
“Hey man, hate to break it to you…but corn is actually a grain.”
I’ve had some variation of this conversation with more people than I can count. Many people like the IDEA of eating healthy, but eating vegetables feels like Superman eating a bowl full of Kryptonite (hey, they’re both green!).
Whether it’s the taste, texture, or just the mental block, veggies consistently prove to be a challenge for many Rebels. Considering we recommend filling up at least half of your plate with vegetables, this is a serious problem.
I didn’t start eating vegetables regularly until I was probably 22….and even then it was a challenge. If you are like I was, fear not!
By the end of today, I’m going to have you excited to eat vegetables, and ready to take the NF Veggie Challenge.
If you’re someone who doesn’t eat vegetables because you don’t like them, don’t know how to buy them, or don’t know how to make them, this article is for you.
Why vegetables rule!
You’ve probably been told since you were a toddler to “Eat your vegetables! They’re good for you.”
Do you really know WHY they’re good for you? Let me jump into a few reasons why vegetables kick ass.
1) Vegetables are nutrient dense. It should be no surprise that Popeye turned to a vegetable when he needed a powerup. Think of vegetables as one of our body’s most efficient fuel sources: they are packed full of vital macro and micronutrients. Just take a look at our article on how to eat healthy on a budget – it should be no surprise that vegetables are an important part of efficiently eating healthy! Simply put: vegetables are the backbone of any solid diet.
2) They fill you up, without “filling you up.” Ever seen what 200 calories worth of broccoli looks like? It’s the size of a grocery bag compared to 200 calories of a doughnut or other treats. If you are feeling hungry but don’t want to overeat, choose a vegetable. Kind of hard to overeat when you’re eating carrots or celery!
3) Veggies keep your body operating at max efficiency! Vegetables are a great way to keep your…um…indoor plumbing…functioning properly. Adding a vegetable or two to each meal is a great way to keep things working right! Seriously: if you’re someone who doesn’t eat many veggies, you will notice a considerable difference after adding veggies to your diet regularly.
4) They can be delicious! Sure, a point of debate…but as a former veggie hater, I am now firmly on Team Vegetable. A plate full of veggies used to make me want to gag, and now I’m thrilled at the idea of a plate covered in a cornucopia (what a great word, right?) of multicolored plants
“Ok,” you might be thinking, “I know they’re good for me, but I don’t eat them. Help me!” Okay, okay fine.
Here’s how you can get over your vegetable-aversion and get started.
Find your gateway vegetable
When I was 22 I proudly proclaimed that I was a “carnivore” and boycotted veggies. Essentially, I ate things like chicken, hamburgers, pizza, pasta, french fries, rice, and not much else.
One day, I decided “I’m an adult, I should probably eat like one.” In my mind, all vegetables were disgusting, but the reality was that I hadn’t really tried many different kinds. Instead I tried a few and just assumed they were all bad.
So, for starters: stop saying you hate all vegetables. Instead: you simply haven’t found a vegetable that you LIKE yet.
I started trying teeny tiny bits of vegetables. If I went out to dinner with friends, I would ask to try some veggies off of their plate. Once I got over the idea, I would order a new vegetable each visit and give it a shot.
I did this for two reasons:
- I figured any vegetable, even if I didn’t like it, and even if I only ate a small bite, was better than nothing.
- If I found a vegetable I DID like, I could learn to prepare it the same way and eat more at home.
On top of that, I simply forced myself to go into any new vegetable with an open mind and positive mindset. It’s amazing what positive or negative expectations can do to convince ourselves. So, instead of thinking “this is gross,” say “this is what I eat and it’s good.” Sounds a bit hokey, but it works.
My gateway vegetable: asparagus. I bought some asparagus at the store, put them on a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil, covered them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and stuck them in the oven (at 375 degrees F) for 12 minutes. BAM! Crunchy, delicious, and nutritious. Plus, I felt like a 5 star chef!
For my first year as an omnivore, asparagus was the only vegetable I ate. I didn’t branch out too much beyond this, but at least I had found one that I liked. Once I had gotten over the mental barrier that “all vegetables are gross,” it was time for me to branch out.
YOUR MISSION: Find your gateway vegetable. (We’ll be giving you some great options later in the article.)
Suck it up, take one bite of many different kinds of veggies, and see which ones you actually enjoy.
Before each bite, clear your mind, Neo. Stop going into each veggie encounter expecting to hate it! You never know when things change.
How to BUY Vegetables
First and foremost, buying vegetables can be daunting!
- How can I tell if a vegetable is fresh or not?
- How long can I leave the vegetable in my fridge before it goes bad?
- Which ones do I get?
For starters, here are just some of the vegetables that are Nerd Fitness Approved. The next time you go to a supermarket, your mission is to pick ONE of these vegetables, and bring it home with you.
- bok choy
- collard greens
- romaine lettuce
- brussels sprouts
- green peppers
- acorn squash
- butternut squash
- red peppers
Notice: we’re not counting tubers (potatoes and sweet potatoes) or legumes on this list – technically they’re veggies, but for the purposes of this article we’re aiming for low calorie, nutrient dense options to start.
Use this wonderful guide on how to select fresh and tasty veggies at the grocery store.
Once you’ve bought your veggies, use StillTasty.com, to figure out how long you can leave them in my fridge.
If you really want to make it easy, buy a bag of “Steam Fresh” vegetables – most of these only require you throwing the bag into the microwave, opening it, and putting it on your plate.
As a last resort, check out canned vegetables! They might not be as fresh as regular veggies, and there might be preservatives added to keep them from going bad, but I’d prefer you eating canned vegetables to no vegetables at all!
Hide vegetables in other foods
Once I got my “gateway vegetable,” I stopped telling myself that I hated vegetables, and became more likely to try other vegetables.
However, I still didn’t love the taste of many veggies, which presented a problem.
The solution? “Mask” the taste and texture by hiding the vegetables in other foods until I became accustomed to the taste.
I started adding vegetables to everything in ways that didn’t make me taste veggies:
1) I added frozen spinach or kale to my smoothies. I make a post-workout smoothie with fruit and protein and realized that other than giving my drink a greenish tint, the taste was unchanged. I continued adding more and more spinach each time until it changed the taste too much. That’s one daily serving of a super veggie without even trying!
2) I added veggies to your omelets! I’m not a breakfast person (Intermittent Fasting ftw!), but if you’re making omelets, try adding different vegetables to your omelets each time and see which ones don’t change the taste. Plus, who says you can only eat omelets for breakfast? They make a great dinner meal too.
3) Eat a small bite of a veggie with something you actually like. When I started cooking chicken stir fry, I made sure that every bite of delicious grilled chicken was paired with part of a vegetable:
- a single broccoli crown and chicken.
- a chunk of grilled onions and chicken.
- rice, a wedge of zucchini, and steak.
- a slice of asparagus, and salmon.
- a wedge of sweet potato and peppers.
- steak, onions, and pineapple
Take something you enjoy eating, and add some vegetable on the same fork-load.
5) Try making carrot fries. These things taste like sweet potato fries, but they’re made of carrots. Cut some carrots into fry shapes, toss them in olive oil, put them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast them in the oven at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 10 minutes. Ta da!
6) Try zucchini “noodles” – (instructions below)
7) Hide some veggies in a casserole (like paleo shepherd’s pie) – when they’re mixed in with other stuff you like, it makes them easier to eat. If you aren’t a fan of big hunks of veggies in your bites of food, chop them up really small before cooking. This way they’re less noticeable!
8) Add greens like spinach, chard, or kale to your paleo spaghetti sauce.
9) Add kale to guacamole.
10) Hide vegetables IN your burgers (here’s a turkey burger with spinach in it).
All of the above examples accomplish the same goal: getting more vegetables into your system. This makes your stomach happy, your mother happy, and Popeye happy.
Prepare vegetables differently
“Okay Steve, just give me some options!”
I hear ya: When I first considered eating veggies, I just wanted ONE simple recipe I could follow along, cook, and actually enjoy.
I realized that vegetables can taste completely different depending on how they’re prepared. Once I was able to learn one way to prepare a vegetable that I actually enjoyed, the kitchen was no longer a scary place!
With some help from our NF Rebel Chef, Noel, here are some easy and delicious options for getting started with your first vegetable:
1) Steamed broccoli: I’m not a fan of raw broccoli, but steamed broccoli? Sign me up! Steamfresh veggies come in a package that you can throw in the microwave for five minutes, add seasoning, and that’s it. Add butter or any seasoning, and eat it with a protein for a balanced meal!
For the stove, plop about a 1/2 cup of water in the bottom of a pot. After separating the broccoli florets from the stem, plop them in the water and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes.!
Don’t want to use the stove? You can also steam broccoli yourself in the microwave. Plop those florets (the “tree” minus the “trunk”) in a microwave safe bowl with a few tablespoons of water. Cover with a microwave safe lid or dish, and cook for 3-4 minutes. If the broccoli isn’t soft and warm, put it back in for a minute or two!
2) Roasted veggies (bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, etc.): Roasted veggies can taste very different from steamed and raw veggies (they get crispier and a little sweeter because they caramelize in the oven). Take your pick of vegetable: bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, etc.
Cut them up literally however you want, drizzle/toss them toss in olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and put them on a foil lined pan in the oven at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 20-30 minutes. Don’t over think this: You can use more olive oil or use less. You can use more salt or use less. Just cut them up, drizzle, and plop them in!
3) Asparagus: Asparagus was (and still is) my go-to veggie. It’s what started it all.Simply chop off the ends of your asparagus and coat it in olive oil. Feel free to add salt, paprika, or whatever seasoning you enjoy. Plop in the oven at 375 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 10-15 minutes, and enjoy!
4) Sautéed zucchini and squash.Zucchini and squash both taste great with just a little oil and salt, and are super easy to prepare.
Throw the slices in to a pan with some oil on medium high heat for about five minutes until they become soft and lighter in color.
All of these options can be paired with basically any protein for a delicious and healthy meal (or eaten as a healthy, stand alone snack!).
Looking for some more advanced veggie options?
- Grill up some stuffed jalapeños or sweet peppers – try ‘em stuffed with pulled pork and wrapped in bacon!
- Don’t forget about paleo spaghetti!
- Hate kale? Try making kale chips!
- Don’t like brussel sprouts? Have you tried sautéing them in bacon fat?
- Don’t like cauliflower? Have you tried mashed cauliflower, or grilled cauliflower, or raw cauliflower?
The Nerd Fitness Vegetable Challenge
Are you up for the Nerd Fitness Veggie Challenge?
For the next five weeks, we want you to try a new vegetable each week:
- The next time you’re in a store, buy a new vegetable and learn to prepare it.
- Can you find a way to add vegetables discreetly to your favorite meals (mix in with your smoothies, add to your omelets, etc.).
- Can you find a new vegetable that you actually like?
I’m in. Are you?
We’d love to hear from you:
If you hate vegetables, what are you taking away from today’s post?
What other questions do you have about preparing vegetables?
What’s keeping you from starting to eat vegetables, and how can we help?
Leave a comment and let us know!