So you love the idea of eating more vegetables.
But you don’t love… well, the vegetables.
If this if you, don’t despair. You can learn to love eating vegetables.
Taste has many facets
If you’re wondering how to eat vegetables when you hate them, you most likely have some aversion to how they taste.
So understanding how taste works is a good place to start.
Your sense of taste is actually a combination of several senses.
It consists of the sensations coming from the taste buds on your tongue combined with the smell, texture and temperature of the food.
Emotions are also closely tied in with taste. Things that taste good invoke positive emotions and things that taste bad make us feel disgusted, sad, or even fearful.
It goes the opposite way too — your current emotion while eating can affect how you perceive the taste of your food.
Being in a positive mood while eating your vegetables can help you enjoy their taste.
Therefore, an important place to start in your journey of acquiring a taste for vegetables is to shift your mindset into having a positive attitude about vegetables.
Instead of dreading them, make up your mind that vegetables can be a tasty addition to your meals that will enhance your eating experience.
The concept of “fake it till you make it” applies here. It really does help to just decide that that vegetables are something you like — whether you currently feel that way or not.
Over time, you will start to like them for real, and this will become easier.
Hack your taste buds
Your taste buds evolved to help you achieve optimum survival in whatever environment you find yourself in.
As the food available to you changes, your taste buds adjust to send positive signals to your brain regarding any obtainable foods that provide nutrition.
Having less picky taste buds is handy in the wild when there are few things to eat.
From the standpoint of evolution, you survived better if you could choke down more of something that didn’t taste great.
Your taste buds help you in this by adapting. The more of something we eat, the more we tend to like it.
Because of this adaptability, you can retrain your taste buds to start enjoying the healthy food — like vegetables — that you may currently have an aversion to.
And this adjustment can happen relatively quickly, because taste buds replenish themselves every two weeks.
Retraining those taste buds is a key component of learning how to eat vegetables when you hate them.
Make healthy food enjoyable
Your brain operates on a reward system that releases feel-good chemicals when you do things that it believes enhance your survival potential.
If you’ve been consuming a poor diet for too long, chances are your brain has been rewarding you for eating junk food and healthy food seems unappealing.
It does this because junk food provides concentrated energy, even if it lacks other necessary nutrients. Your body needs energy, so your brain rewards you for it.
And since you’re not eating healthy foods that are high in nutrients, the brain can’t reward you for that.
So you get into the trap of eating only junk food because it makes you feel good.
The trick to how to eat vegetables when you hate them is to figure out ways to light up your brain’s reward system — not with processed foods but with tailor-made “gourmet-like” recipes of healthy nutritious food.
Try this as a base healthy diet
To shift into eating a healthy diet on a regular basis, start by establishing a daily base diet that consists of 3–16 ounces of protein from beef, pork, chicken, fish, cheese, tofu, eggs, etc.
Add to this 3–6 cups of vegetables from the Green (leafy greens) and Yellow (non-starchy) vegetable categories. Note that we’re not talking about the color of the vegetables, but rather vegetables listed in the Green and Yellow categories in our stoplight analogy.
It may seem difficult at first, but with some strategic meal planning and a little bit of self-discipline, you should be able to satisfy yourself with this base diet.
You’ll have to observe for yourself what is enough of each type of food.
Experiment to determine what quantities of each make you feel good. How much do you need to get some “pep in your step”? It depends on your age, gender, activity level, previous diet, and who knows what else.
The vegetables in this base diet provide a wide variety of flavors and can be combined with a decent amount of diversely-flavored proteins. Add some herbs, spices, and sauces, and you should be satisfied with this base diet most days.
This base diet is about 800 to 1100 calories. It’s safe. It’s nutritious. And it can be made to be delicious.
Make it easier by staying hydrated
When learning how to eat vegetables when you hate them, you will likely find it easier when you keep your body happy overall.
An important part of keeping your body happy is staying adequately hydrated.
Drinking plenty of liquids helps avoid cravings caused by the body being low on water and also assists in keeping your stomach feeling full.
Try to drink enough liquids (preferably water, but other unsweetened beverages such as tea can also work) throughout the day to consistently achieve almost-clear urine.
Experiment with how much you need to drink each day to achieve this.
A general rule of thumb is to drink 8 glasses of water a day. But you may find that your ideal amount varies from that.
As you start paying attention to your hydration levels, you will likely notice that you tend to feel lousy and lack pep when you are dehydrated.
Try not to get to the point where you feel this way. And if you ever do start feeling this way, ramp up your hydration efforts.
Work out an ideal eating routine
A workable and beneficial system is to eat no later than 2 hours after waking up and no later than 2 hours before going to sleep.
This helps maintain an ideal metabolism during both your waking and sleeping hours.
Then schedule your lunch time about halfway between those two meals.
You can also snack as needed between meals, but do so sparingly and strategically.
When you’re hungry and feel you need to eat something between meals, eat just enough veggies and protein to get you through to your next meal.
Avoid snacking on sugary or high-carb convenience foods like candy bars, crackers, chips, etc. Stick to vegetables and proteins.
Keep vegetables exciting
The above recommended base diet has the right vegetables in roughly the right amounts for the job of losing weight.
Seeing those pounds drop away provides good motivation to help with how to eat vegetables when you hate them.
The question is: Can you eat them day after day without boredom?
Both your body and your mind have a vote in this, so there is only one way to find out — try it and see what happens.
I found that I can do it. What helped is learning how to spice them up and combine them with a variety of protein sources.
It took me about three months to lose 20 pounds on this base diet. That’s a lot of vegetables!
When I first started, the cravings and hunger weren’t bad and lasted only a few days. Your body and mind are amazing at helping you get used to stuff — they adapt.
Now I’m sharing with others how to do it with the best chances for success with the Protein, Fat and Fiber program. The important thing is that you learn how to do it your way, so that it is sustainable.
Start simple and pay attention to what works for you. Pick a basic recipe that sounds appetizing. Be sure to taste it from time to time as you prepare it. Keep adding spices until you get it the way you like it.
Repeat this while trying new recipes and themes such as using heat (hot peppers, horseradish, etc.), herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, etc.), spices (pepper, curry, and others), and all kinds of vinegar, sauces, etc. to please your taste buds.
Reading blogs and cookbooks, and watching videos, will get you competent quickly.
Become your own master chef
To really get good at how to eat vegetables when you hate them, you’re going to need to be preparing a lot more of your own food.
The question is: who is going to learn to cook for you like a personal chef?
I presume it will have to be you and/or members of your household. Don’t worry, it’s not complicated — especially nowadays with the internet to help you.
And it doesn’t need to be expensive. However, you will probably find that it is easier to do with quality ingredients — which means you may want to spend a little extra.
Keep in mind it’s an investment in yourself, so you don’t feel bad splurging a bit when appropriate.
An obstacle people often run into is not having enough time or patience to prepare their own food.
Unhealthy prepackaged meals consisting of processed food — also known as convenience food — is appealing not so much because of taste but because it is fast and easy to prepare.
The good news is that preparing your own healthy meals doesn’t have to be time-consuming. It does take some attention — lots of attention — especially at the start. But after you get the hang of it, it becomes a breeze.
Learn to create delicious meals
Once you try it a few times, you will learn how to create a variety of tasty meals by combining healthy vegetables with fish, meat, or other proteins.
You will be able to create satisfying meals that light up your brain’s reward system — maybe not as fast or satisfying as ice cream or a Snickers candy bar, but nothing tastes as good as being skinny!
Paying attention to your herbs and spices is one of the keys to success. You can start by Googling “simple stir fry recipes” and trying out some of those recipes.
Learn from what you’re doing as you try these initial recipes. Make sure you have the right tools (pots, utensils, etc.) to make it easy to prepare. Figure out how to conveniently stock and store vegetables, spices, proteins, etc. so they are always available when it’s time to prepare a meal.
Soon, you will be using olive oil to brown your protein (beef, fish, chicken, etc.) and adding green peppers, onion, garlic, etc. Then experiment with adjusting the recipes to match your particular tastes.
Yes, you can do it
You might not go professional as a chef, but you can quickly learn how to make yourself happy.
Your next try at preparing a good meal with vegetables is always coming up, so don’t worry if the meal you just prepared wasn’t quite what you had hoped.
It’s important to keep a positive attitude and praise yourself often because your body and mind will probably try to sabotage your efforts — especially at the start.
Don’t worry about failing. Just try to get more savvy and more demanding as a result.
As you tweak the recipes and find better produce, your body appreciates your efforts and adapts. Your body knows nutrients and flavors when it sees them. And your taste buds know when you got it right. So put a little effort in to learn how to get it right — it’s worth it.
Part of the process is to take the time to eat slowly and notice what you like and don’t like about what you’ve prepared. Make notes on the recipes to improve them, according to your own tastes.
Planning meals and obtaining the ingredients is more than half the battle. It’s never been easier with the internet and the selection of vegetables, proteins and spices that are readily available.