I feel really sorry for people who don’t like vegetables. Yes, vegetable lovers, there are actually people out there who don’t go near them with a barge pole. Well, actually, sometimes I feel sorry for them. It usually depends on what mood I am in. Sometimes, while I might nod understandingly, in my head I’m like “what are you? 12?!” A bit mean, eh. It’s involuntary too – I don’t mean to feel disdainful, but, depending on the day, if someone can count on one hand the vegetables they do like, and ‘frozen mixed vegetables’ are three of them, I kind of feel like telling them to man up and eat their greens. At any rate, I can see that their quest for health improvements and/or performance benefits through diet is made just a little bit trickier. For these people, you can pretty much guess that their lasting memories of eating vegetables was when they WERE 12, where it was almost compulsory to boil any vegetable to within an inch of its little green life. Actually, past that point. Dead, buried and eating sandwiches at the memorial. If that’s what you think vegetables taste like and that’s why you avoid them the same way you avoid opening mail from your bank, then rest assured, noone likes those vegetables either. While I’m not always sympathetic, I totally get it. When mum used to serve us leeks I used to throw them under my sister Hayley’s highchair and hope the folks would think Hayley had dropped them. Unbeknownst to 8 year old me, Hayley was eating some pureed number that didn’t include leeks! But I digress.
Another reason I get from people for not eating vegetables is that they go bad at the back of the fridge and can’t be used. Somehow this argument is made as if it’s the fault of the produce and not the person purchasing them. I can tell you right now, that won’t happen if you plan to use them, and not just buy them. But if someone truly doesn’t think they like the taste of vegetables, then we need to work on finding ways to increase their intake in an acceptable way. I’m not talking about ‘sneaking’ vegetables into, say, a chocolate cake. Vegetables deserve to be celebrated, not stigmatised. And since we’re talking about vegetables, I guess now is time to break it to you that (in my opinion) 5+ a day doesn’t cut it. If you are serious about reaping the benefits of a good diet then you need to think bigger. Australia has a go for 2 and 5 campaign for fruit and vegetables and Canada shoots for up to 10 serves per day. Us Kiwi’s typically punch above our weight and come out on top, and it should be no different in the vegetable arena.
So it’s time to put prejudices behind you and branch out. While some frozen vegetables can be a convenient way to increase vegetable intake (and are picked and prepared when at their peak freshness), frozen peas, carrots and corn mixes are not vegetables in my book. Sorry. And potatoes and kumara don’t count either (according to the World Health Organization, who have way more clout than I do). Neither does the onion, grated carrot and chopped tomatoes in your bolognese sauce. Okay, that’s not true – the last ones do – but in order to really see the beneficial effects of a good diet, you need to expand your horizons and start introducing the vegetables your shopping trolley hasn’t had the pleasure of transporting around for years. My first piece of advice is to just try them. Really. Most people who claim to hate brussel sprouts then go on to admit they’ve not had them for years. So, give them a go, and more than once. Parents of picky eaters are recommended to expose their child to a new food on 10 separate occasions before the child can definitely say that they like or dislike a food. So, keep that in mind when you’re attempting to get over your food neophobia. My second piece of advice: cook them in a way that is flavoursome. It’s not about trying to disguise the taste of vegetables, it’s about enhancing it. I recently listened to a podcast that featured Tom Naughton of FatHead fame. He and his wife have chosen the non-processed approach to food with their children. His advice: add fat to the vegetables and enhance the flavour. Good advice. Some of my favourite ways to enjoy vegetables:
- Stirfry brussel sprouts in coconut oil, and add bacon, hazelnuts and a glaze of honey and orange juice (see below). My friend Caryn served this to me and it is awesome.
- While I can’t go past ‘faux-tato‘ when it comes to cauliflower, I’ve posted three other ways you can use cauliflower*
- Grate beetroot into a standard supermarket coleslaw mix, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and cranberries and ditch the nasty store bought dressing for your own lemon juice and olive oil mix.
- Cut carrots into batons, drizzle with melted coconut oil and sprinkle with cinnamon. Roast until done.
- Microwave cabbage leaves for around 30 seconds until soft and use as wraps for some leftover meat, avocado, grated carrot and courgette. If you wrap them in Gladwrap to prepare for the next day, they won’t go soggy the way normal wraps will.
- Thaw out a bundle of two of frozen spinach in the fridge the night before, and mix into your scrambled eggs for breakfast.
- Don’t put spirulina powder in your smoothie. Use spinach or kale instead
*the jury is out on the ‘porridge’ idea. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it piqued our interest so we thought we’d try it.