You probably know all about the recommendations—you’ve heard about “food pyramids” and plate proportions for most of your life, but that hasn’t changed your struggle with vegetables. And you aren’t alone. According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 9% of Americans get their daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. There are plenty of reasons people don’t get enough: cost (fresh produce can be expensive), access, and “you just don’t like them.”
Despite all these challenges, the benefits that come from eating more vegetables are proven. Some of the most significant include their ability to lower or regulate cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar spikes with fiber, and reduce your risk for chronic illnesses like heart disease or diabetes. So, you need more, but how do you work them in when you just don’t like them? Try these tips to get you started.
- Find one gateway vegetable. Now admittedly, you’ll have to open your mind to the possibilities here, but try little bites of vegetables until you find one you don’t hate. If you aren’t repulsed, maybe you can pick up one or two of whatever that was at the store and try to cook it the same way at home. If you only find one veggie that you can eat, that’s better than no vegetables.
- Hide them in something else. Vegetables can be masked by the flavor of foods you do like, but be careful what you choose so you don’t offset your healthy efforts. For example, cooked pinto beans completely disappear inside a chocolate brownie recipe, but you could cancel the benefits of fiber with the sugar and extra fat found in the brownie. You can do an internet search for recipes that hide vegetables in other foods or check out the book like Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious for some fun ideas.
- Eat them any way but raw. Roasted vegetables can taste totally different from their raw versions and it’s a great way to enjoy them if you don’t like them fresh. Toss a vegetable of your choice (like asparagus, bell peppers, or cauliflower) in olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe even a little parmesan cheese and bake until lightly browned and softened.
- Try a green smoothie. There’s no need to pay top dollar for a fancy smoothie in the mornings—make your own! Toss in some greens along with your fresh fruit, some yogurt, honey and a little ice and enjoy. The flavor of the greens will be masked by the fruit, and if you don’t like the color just put it in a cup with a lid and drink it with a straw. This is a great way to help kids get their fruits and veggies too!
Once you find some success, you may want to consider boosting your efforts by learning more about how your body’s unique makeup influences the use of vitamins and nutrients. Nutrigenomic testing can tell you more about what’s happening on a genetic level and give you details about what foods are right for your body. Start small and don’t be too hard on yourself when you have an off day and remember that eating right is a major component of living healthier, longer and every step you take in that direction is a good one.