While there are veggie lovers out there, I have to say that I have met far more people who are not fans of these amazing plants. I used to be one of them. I really didn’t eat vegetables, unless we were at someone’s house who prepared them for a meal. I would put a few token pieces on my plate to be polite. I only prepared them on my own if it was a holiday…or if I literally had nothing else in my kitchen. When eating a salad, it had to be smothered in dressing to help me choke it down. Oh, and we can’t forget the croutons and bacon bits!
Today is a different story. I love vegetables and I commit to eating large quantities of them every single day. As a trainer, the number one question that I am asked is how to learn to love vegetables and incorporate them into the daily diet. Here are a few tips:
First, changing your palate (your preferred tastes) takes time, but not nearly as long as you might think. The taste buds in our mouths have a 2-week lifespan and regenerate every 10-14 days. This is good news! We can remove the things that are not as good for us (sugar) and will find that after 2 weeks, we won’t have the same degree of preference for it as we had before. On the flipside, we can keep adding in new foods (vegetables) and eventually develop a preference for their taste.
Second, it helps to understand exactly what vegetables can do for our bodies. It is equally beneficial to learn what sugar and processed foods do to the body. Notice that I said that vegetables do for, yet processed foods and sugar do to the body. This is an important distinction. What do vegetables do for us? They provide many vital nutrients that help with all of the processes that occur within the body. Without these nutrients, the body cannot run as efficiently. Vegetables also prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and protect against some cancers. Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, balances hormones by clearing excess estrogen from our bodies. Additionally, greens aid the liver in its crucial job of removing toxins from the body. The build-up of toxins can cause weight gain, hormone imbalances, and disease, so we want to support our livers!
Third, be intentional about adding vegetables into your day. Experts agree that, in order to get the maximum health benefit from vegetables, people need to have at least 7 servings per day. Plan your meals one to two weeks ahead of time on a printable calendar or device. This will allow you to shop for everything you need, including vegetables. When planning your meals, list vegetables FIRST before your protein, fats, and healthy carb. This will give you a “veggie-centered mindset” that puts vegetables in the forefront, rather than the typical afterthought that they have become. You’ll have them in stock because you’ve made your list and done your shopping.
If you currently do not eat vegetables, start intentionally adding them into your day, one cup at a time. For breakfast, chop up spinach or peppers/onions and cook it with eggs. You can’t go wrong with salads and soups, or even hiding veggies in a healthy smoothie or protein shake. Blending greens like kale or spinach into a smoothie with half of a frozen banana and some berries will cover up the “green” taste.
Healthy eating is an evolution and doesn’t happen overnight. It requires intentional persistence, as it takes time to retrain your palate. Just because you tried something and didn’t like it doesn’t mean that you will never like it (I used to say that about Brussel’s sprouts). Maybe it needs to be prepared differently or seasoned in a new way. Challenge yourself to try new vegetables and recipes several times a month; you never know when you will find something that you like. Don’t give up; if I can do it, you can too!