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Eat Your Vegetables: 15 Tips for Veggie Haters

Try these easy ways to get more vegetables into your diet.
WebMD Expert Column

Vegetables are one of those foods people either love or hate. The problem with hating vegetables is that they are arguably the most health-promoting food group on the planet. If you aren't eating vegetables, you aren't getting all their amazing components like fiber, antioxidants, and other powerful phytochemicals.

So what's a veggie-hater to do? People who think they hate vegetables can definitely learn to embrace this colorful food group. But before we talk tips, we need to understand what causes some people to scatter when broccoli is served.

Are veggie haters born, or made? The answer seems to be both. Some of us have negative veggie experiences from our childhood that come back to haunt us as adults. Maybe you were forced to eat vegetables, or had to plow through a stack of green beans to get to dessert. Maybe you were served overcooked, mushy vegetables. Or perhaps some time in your life, you were on a fad diet where all you could eat were certain vegetables.

I trace my distaste for peas to a childhood memory of having to choke down a pile of them before I could be excused from the table. To this day you will never see me eat a spoonful of peas. I won't pick them out of a casserole or fried rice, mind you, but they stand, 40 years later, as my least favorite vegetable (no offense, Green Giant).

"If veggies are only served in ways that don't match your personal flavor preferences, they won't seem exciting," explains Karen Collins, MS, RD, nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research. So if you love spicy food, you won't like veggies served plain; or if you love simple, earthy flavors, veggies covered with rich sauce won't appeal.

But there are also innate physical reasons why some people have an aversion to certain vegetables. According to Collins, a genetic trait has been identified that seems to make some people have extra-sensitive receptors for bitter tastes.

"They are sometimes dubbed 'super tasters' and they make up about 25% of the population," says Collins.

The vegetables that tend to be the bitter offenders are cruciferous vegetables (those from the cabbage family, including broccoli and cauliflower), some of the leafy greens, and eggplant.

But there are ways to tame the bitter taste in these nutrition-packed vegetables. Check out the tips below for help on this, and for more ways to get vegetables past the lips of even confirmed veggie haters.

Eat More Vegetables Tip No. 1: Add veggies you almost like to dishes you already love.

Layer zucchini slices, chopped spinach, or cooked carrots into lasagna. Stir broccoli florets into macaroni and cheese. Toss whatever veggies you like (tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus) into an omelet or quesadilla.

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