How you can use two techniques to teach yourself to like vegetables
At the back of your mind somewhere, there’s a childhood memory you’re trying to forget. It involves sitting at the dinner table, anticipating crispy pancakes and alpha bites.
But that didn’t happen.
Instead of a plate of processed glory, you were actually dealt a punishing blow.
The evil that is vegetables.
What was tasty and fun turned into something revolting and cruel. And that’s not even the worst part.
Preceded by talk of “being grateful” and some babble about starving kids, your Grandmother wouldn’t let you leave the table until you ate the lot. While that was a bit mean, she did have good intentions. But it didn’t work. After half an hour of holding your breath and pretending to be sick, she relented. And in the end, it only made you like them less.
Now you’re an adult. You realise that a higher vegetable intake is a good thing. You know it decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and cancer. But, you still don’t eat them. The literature says you don’t, and a glance at your food diary tells me the same thing.
Granny couldn’t teach you to like them with her poorly thought through table punishment. But I think I can. Here’s how.
Palatable > Neutral
I spend a fair amount of time looking at food diaries. Even though my clients have a knowledge of nutrition much higher than your average Joe. The fact that you know all about Calories in vs Calories out, doesn’t mean that what you eat isn’t important. And more often than not, you’re not eating vegetables. Usually, because you still don’t like them.
Is there a way to learn to like a food that you don’t like now? It turns out there are two:
With these tricks, you can learn to experience the neutral flavour as being more palatable.
Here are the ways I recommend you do it.
Both sweetness and colour affect your perception of vegetables. Smoothies are a great way to change both.
When it comes to blending, spinach should be your veggie of choice. Even a large amount of it will go unnoticed when other ingredients are in the blender. Whey protein, berries, and bananas are all fantastic ways to “hide” spinach in a smoothie. Add a fat source such as peanut butter into the mix for taste and satiety. Then, throwing in some ice cubes will turn a thin, wimpy, mixture into a thick, filling shake. I’m not a recipes kind of guy, so feel free to find your own version. It all works.
But what’s that I hear you say, drinking smoothies isn’t healthy? You think it’s better to eat vegetables in a more natural state? Are you sure?
Some of the important nutrients you want to get from vegetables need a bit of coaxing out. Chewing helps get the job done. Blending helps too. In fact, blending might even do a better job than chewing alone. You are eating veggies without knowing you’re eating them. And if that’s not enough, you can feel smug about the health benefits too.
You know that the liberal addition of butter makes anything better. Added fat makes a vaguely healthy looking plate of fibrous green horribleness actually taste ok. It turns out that throwing fat at your food is a legit way to train yourself to like the food more. With veggies, this couldn’t be easier. If your macros can handle it, getting liberal with the olive oil is an easy way to make things altogether more palatable. Add more salt than usual, and something sharp like red wine vinegar or lemon juice too. You might actually start to like what you were forcing down before.
Over time, you’ll want to reduce the fat content and take it a bit more easy with the seasoning. What you’re doing is changing your taste preferences. What you once thought of as vile becomes neutral. In time, neutral becomes quite nice. You may never find yourself jumping for joy when the broccoli is on the table. But you don’t have to cower in fear anymore.
It doesn’t have to be olive oil either. For those of you who actually cook, go wild and make a gratin. These bad boys take the humble vegetable and turn it into a vessel for butter, flour, cheese, and double cream. If you have the time and can handle the Calories, you won’t be sorry.
So there you have it. You might not be enthusiastic about vegetables, but at least you can use science to learn to like them. Hide them by changing their colour and masking their taste in a smoothie. Or douse them with fat, salt, and sharpness until you hate them less. But make sure you eat them.
Granny was right. And while I’m not going to make you sit at a table until they’re all gone, I am going to suggest you use these techniques. If you’re an adult veggie avoider, it’s time to forget about being six and take action.
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