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Ask the Diet Doctor: I Hate Vegetables

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Q: What is better to do if I don’t like a lot of veggies: not eat them or “hide” them in something unhealthy (like butter or cheese) so I can tolerate them?

A: It is better that you find ones that you like and eat them. The truth is that if your vegetable consumption is so limited that you’re counting the sauce on your pizza and the potatoes in French fries, then you need to step up your vegetable game. From a nutrient perspective, there is no substitute—vegetables are the major vehicle for vitamins in our diets. From a calorie perspective, vegetables represent a key source of low-calorie/high-volume sustenance.

Despite only about 25 percent of Americans meeting their daily fruit and vegetable requirements, the bar is set pretty low. I’m sure you’ve heard about the “Strive for 5,” which urges people to eat five servings of vegetables a day. This may sound like a lot, but when you consider the fact that 1/2 cup broccoli is one serving of vegetables, it is almost absurd that people cannot hit this dietary goal.

RELATED: 16 Ways to Eat More Veggies

Vegetables: More Than You Think
It is important to realize that when we talk about eating vegetables, there is much more to this than your grandmother’s boiled carrots or over-steamed-until-they-turn-grey broccoli. Purely from a taste perspective, your options are limitless. Once you start looking, you’ll find that the variety you have at your disposal for eating more vegetables is expansive. Here are seven general ways that you can enjoy vegetables:

  • Salad
  • Raw
  • Grilled
  • Sautéed
  • Roasted
  • Baked
  • Pickled

Now layer on top of that all the different vegetables that you have to choose from, and layer on top of that all the different herbs, spices, and seasons you can use for additional flavor. With all these possibilities, you should be able to find vegetables, cooking methods, and flavorings that you not just enjoy but crave.

This will take some testing and trying, but I’m confident that with a couple trips to Pinterest searching for interesting ways to eat more vegetables, you’ll find some dishes worth trying. Until then, hiding vegetables needs to be your go-to strategy.

RELATED: 7 Veggie-Packed Pasta Sauces

Hide ‘em and Eat ‘em
You suggested hiding vegetables by slathering them with cheese and butter. While this is an option, and generally the one adults choose when trying to encourage children to eat more vegetables, I want to give you a more waistline-friendly approach developed by researchers at the Pennsylvania State University Human Ingestive Behavior Lab: Hide pureed vegetables in your meals.

Now, before you balk at this idea, know that is has been successfully used on little children as a means of increasing their vegetables intake. This strategy has been shown to not only boost vegetable consumption by upwards of two servings a day, but it also is an effective method to decrease your total calorie intake. Here are the dishes and the pureed vegetables used in the Penn State study:

  • Carrot bread: added pureed carrots
  • Macaroni and cheese: added pureed cauliflower
  • Chicken and rice casserole: added pureed squash

One of the more interesting findings from this study, and the one most relevant for you as a vegetable hater, is that the study participants’ liking of carrots, squash, or cauliflower did not impact how much of each of the dishes they consumed. Participants who dislike cauliflower eat just as much mac and cheese as those that love cauliflower.

So start out hiding pureed vegetables in some of your favorite dishes while also finding a handful of vegetables and preparation methods that you do enjoy. You’ll be surprised how good vegetables can taste.

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