So you don't like vegetables?

You know what? I don’t believe that.

Any old supermarket stocks around 150 different vegetables. No two different varieties taste exactly the same. I get that you might not like every single one, but that should still leave scores of vegetables you do like. It is simply not possible to genuinely not like any vegetable at all. When was the last time you tried?

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Not only do the different varieties taste different from each other, even the same vegetable tastes different depending on how it was prepared. The flavour of any one vegetable varies depending on whether it was boiled, steamed, roasted, grilled, fermented or eaten raw. You can use them as they come or play around with herbs and spices; every different combination on those puts a different spin on it. Do you want them to get a hint of Italian, Mexican, Indian, Thai, or Middle Eastern flavour? Pick the right herbs and spices and you can have that.

If someone tells me they don’t like vegetables – and a lot of people do – I ask them to consider the following question:

What is it about vegetables you don’t like?

Knowing this helps getting over the barriers between you and vegetables.

Is it texture?

If you find vegetables too crunchy, cook them. If you find them tough, cook them for longer. If you find them too mushy, reduce the cooking time or even eat them raw. Not every method of cooking suits every vegetable. Aubergines, for example, are quite horrible when boiled. Don’t do that. But bake a whole aubergine in the oven for an hour, take it out once it has collapsed and let it cool. Then scrape out the soft flesh, blend with tahini, garlic, chopped coriander, cumin, and a little salt and you have a lovely, smoky dip. It is also lovely fried, but it’ll need a lot of oil. There’s nothing wrong with that. Aubergine needs it and then it’s nice.

Personally, I don’t like raw carrot sticks. I feel that I chew and chew and the carrot never goes away. Strangely though, I like carrots a lot when grated; still raw, just grated or even spiralised. They’re really lovely cooked, too, whether that’s boiled, steamed or roasted. 

As a kid, I didn’t like tomatoes. It was the slippery seedy bit I didn’t like, but that’s easily removed, and to this day I tend to scrape out the seeds when I’m going to use raw tomatoes, but I’m happy to eat them – seeds and all – if I eat out and haven’t prepared the salad myself. Tomato seeds don’t bother me when the tomatoes are cooked. When you cook tomatoes, the skins come of and roll up, which some people don’t like. No problem: get the skins off before cooking. Just cut your tomatoes crosswise at the top, put them into a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave a few minutes, then drain the water and the skins should peel off easily.

Do you think vegetables are too bitter?

Then avoid the bitter ones: radicchio, chicory, endive, and Brussels sprouts have a bitter taste. Most other vegetables are not bitter at all. Having said that though, bitter vegetables are really great for the liver and stimulate bile flow, helping with fat digestion, so you may want to reconsider. Just have a go, try them in different ways and you may find you like them after all. Sweet vegetables are bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots and other roots and squash.

Can’t stand the smell?

Of what? They all smell different, usually not of anything at all when raw. You may not like the smell of boiled cabbage. Don’t boil cabbage then. It releases a gas called hydrogen sulphide, and that’s what causes the smell. The longer you cook cabbage, the smellier it becomes. It doesn’t smell if you use it raw, e. g. when making coleslaw, or if you just briefly steam or stir-fry it. The same is true for Brussels sprouts, which you can also shred and eat raw, steam, or roast, or just boil very briefly.

If you don't like the smell or taste of food most other people seem to enjoy, you could be deficient in zinc. Zinc is important for our sense of taste and smell, and zinc deficiency can make food taste or smell bland or unpleasant. Try Zincatest (a zinc test and supplement rolled into one) by Lamberts Healthcare.

Onions, which – like cabbage – are a sulphurous vegetable and some people don’t like their smell very much either, not as the vegetable, not on their breath after eating them. In the case of onions, the pungent smell does go away with cooking. Fried or roasted onions become really sweet and have nothing much in common with the taste or texture of raw onions. Spring onions are much milder, and can replace raw onions in a salad. If you are prone to allergies, you may want to get into onions. They contain a phytonutrient called quercetin, which is a natural anti-histamine.

Vegetables are hard work and you haven’t got the time

Are they? Have you tried? If you are pressed for time, you can buy lots of different vegetables – from washed lettuce leaves, over ready-cut cauliflower and broccoli florets to spiralised courgettes – prepared and ready to use. You can even get whole stir-fry vegetable selections ready in a bag. All you have to do is shake them into your wok and stir-fry. I’d rather you didn’t, because chopped vegetables lose their vitamins faster than whole ones, but if the alternative was no vegetables, then – yeah – go for them.

A better option in terms of vitamins is to buy them frozen. Frozen vegetables are usually washed, chopped and frozen right on the farm, just as they are harvested. They will contain more vitamins than even fresh vegetables at the shop. You can get frozen peas, onions, sweetcorn, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, or mixes of vegetables. If you have no time, stock up on those.

If you haven’t got time to cook at all … find it! Here’s a lovely quote I once came across:

If you haven’t got the time to prepare your own food, you will sooner or later have to find the time to be sick.

 

You already get all the vitamins you need from fruit, which you love, so who needs vegetables?

Earlier this year researchers from Imperial College London published a study that concluded that 5-a-day is not enough, but that 10-a-day is more like it. In terms of weight, that is 800g, or a serving size of 80 g. If you think you could cover that by eating 800g of fruit (or have 8 glasses of orange juice) every day, you would be heading towards serious trouble. Fruit is way too high in sugar to rely on it as the sole supplier of vitamin C and fibre. If you are skirting around all vegetables, replacing them with fruit, you may struggle to keep blood sugar balance (click here to find out why that matters)

Vegetables – especially of the green leafy kind – are also a much, much better source of magnesium, for example, but other minerals, too. Folic acid, a B vitamin important for energy production (among many other things) is found in much higher quantities in green leafy veg than in fruit. Fruit is optional, vegetables are not.

You never liked vegetables?

It’s an answer I frequently get, but that’s not a reason at all! What’s that supposed to mean? I asked for the reason why (you think) you don’t like vegetables, not when you’ve last eaten any.

If that was when you were a child, I’ve got good news for you: You are an adult now! You can choose which vegetables to eat and how to cook them. Isn’t that great? If your Mum used to make you eat overcooked cabbage or mushy carrots or broccoli – or perhaps even boiled aubergines – then maybe she wasn’t that good a cook or happened to like them that way. We’re all different. But now you are in charge!

If you are a parent yourself, surely you are keen to make sure that your children’s diet supplies everything they need to grow and develop. How much harder is it going to be to persuade your kids to eat vegetables, if you are not? Shouldn’t you be leading by example?

So, here’s the thing: If you don’t like vegetables, get over it. Vegetables are compulsory (click here to read why). Just eat them, they’re not going to kill you. A few years ago I watched a programme on nutrition and of course one of the candidates didn't like vegetables, never did, never would. There was a behavioural therapist on the team (the others were a doctor and a nutritional therapist), who was going to deal with that particular problem. I sat up, because I come across it so often. I wanted to know how an expert would approach it. And guess what the expert advice was: "Just eat them."

If your consumption is zero at the moment, start slowly, with 2-a-day (and that’s two different ones!). After a week, increase to 3-a-day (different ones, needless to say) and keep going. Keep trying different varieties every day - your gut bacteria will thank you. In just 10 weeks, you’ll be at 10-a-day. Excellent! If you don’t like a vegetable the first time you try it, don’t dismiss it, just prepare it differently next time, you might like it then. Never give up, keep trying until you like them. Because: All tastes are acquired. Nobody is born to like olives, but they can grow on you. Click here to learn more about ‘acquired taste’.

Have fun, experiment with different ways of preparing your veg, use herbs and spices liberally to create new taste sensations every day. Discover a whole new world of food out there!