Why You Hate Vegetables and What to Do About It

Many kids will turn up their nose at the veggies on their plate. They may try to get out of eating their greens in a myriad of ways. They will attempt to feed it to a pet, hide it in a napkin, push it around the plate or just argue that they aren’t hungry, hoping that complaining might get them off the hook. Begging to bribery, parents try everything to get their kids to just eat what’s on their plate — or even a forkful. But, a study from the Univ. of Michigan says that we shouldn’t have the fight. The team behind the research says the arguments do more harm than good and the impact of those unwanted foods did little to impact the health of the children in the study.

What we frequently don’t talk about is that many adults don’t want veggies either. There is a stigma attached to not liking all foods as an adult. For instance, when ordering pizza with friends, saying, “I don’t like mushrooms,” can garner a look of disbelief. It as though having a negative feeling about a food is unacceptable. 

Last week, we offered recipes for hiding vegetables in desserts. But today, we wanted to take a look at why some people don’t like vegetables in the first place: alkaloids.

The bitter flavor found in many vegetables is what most frequently turns people off. Alkaloids are nitrogen-based compounds found in many vegetables. These bitter-tasting compounds are a plant’s self-defense mechanism to stop animals from eating them. Researcher believe we may be biologically programmed not to like the flavors as a self-preservation method as plants containing alkaloids may be poisonous. In studies, rats also reject bitter foods. Additionally, research shows that a mother’s diet during pregnancy, our genetic makeup and the food we experienced growing up all impact our tastes.

Moreover, our beliefs around vegetables impact whether we make an effort to eat our five a day. On average, men don’t believe fruit and vegetables impact health as much as women do and men view them as more of a hassle to prepare. Peer pressure or nagging do little to change people’s veggie intake. Educating people on just how beneficial they are and easy ways to eat them can make a significant impact.  

It is possible to work vegetables into your diet, even if you don’t like them. But one thing you should ask yourself first: when was the last time you tried? Our tastes change as we age. Kids and young people taste bitterness more than adults. It might be nature’s way of protecting their more delicate systems from swallowing poison. If you have known for years that you dislike bell peppers, and have avoided them successfully, it might be worth trying them again.

There are many ways to help get vegetables into your diet. Simply trying a different cooking method might be key: boiled isn’t best. Roasting can bring out sweet and umami flavors and lightly cooking vegetables can keep their flavor light as well. If you have one vegetable you like, try cooking it in different ways and see which ones are best, these cooking styles might help you add more verity into your diet. Check out this fantastic step-by-step guide to making vegetables perfect for your palate.

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