Vegetables are usually part of a healthy diet. But what if you don’t like vegetables, can you still eat healthy and if so, how?
There are many reasons why vegetables are generally considered crucial in a healthy diet. Making a healthy diet plan is one thing, actually sticking to it is another. Liking the foods that are in the diet plan is helpful for staying consistent.
One challenge people encounter when trying to eat healthier is realizing that they do not like the taste of vegetables. Luckily there are 2 main ways to overcome this challenge.
The first way to eat healthy if you don’t like the taste of vegetables is eating those vegetables anyway but making sure you taste the vegetables less or make other tastes stronger.
The second main way to eat healthy if you don’t like the taste of vegetables is implementing more foods of other food groups that can help compensate for the lack of vegetables.
You generally want to focus on the first way for reasons discussed in this article but a combination is certainly a good thing. These other food groups are usually part of a healthy diet plan anyway.
What makes vegetables healthy
There are a lot of reasons vegetables are considered healthy. By knowing these it becomes easier to find foods that can offer similar effects to vegetables and it becomes easier to motivate yourself to eat vegetables anyway. Even though it is helpful to like vegetables it is not required to make yourself eat them.
Some of the nutrients that make vegetables healthy include:
- Fiber: A type of carbohydrate that your body processes in a different way than most carbohydrates. Some benefits of fiber include improving the health of your microbiome, helping you reduce hunger and cravings without adding a lot of calories to your diet, aiding digestion, etc.
- Vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients: Substances that play a role in the chemical reactions going on in your body. Some of these are considered essential because you can’t live without them in the short term. Others may not be as “essential” but still benefit your health. There is a difference between surviving and thriving.
- Water intake: The human body needs water to survive. Vegetables are often made up of a lot of water. By eating them you get closer to your daily water intake goals.
- Unknown factors: Some nutrients in and properties of vegetables improve your health in ways science does not yet understand. As an example, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats you consume seems to have an impact on your health (1, 2). This was not always known. It is not because science does not know about certain benefits of vegetables that they are not present. The natural environment, which for most people means eating vegetables, gets these things right more often than people.
Specific nutrients have different effects but from a general view, the nutrients in vegetables can reduce your risk of cancer, slow down aging, control blood sugar, control blood pressure, improve bone density, and a wide variety of other benefits (3).
In general you want to eat a wide variety of different vegetables to get different types of nutrients. Taking multivitamins and other supplements instead of eating vegetables does not have the same benefits.
Keep in mind that some people are intolerant to certain types of vegetables and that some vegetables interfere with certain medications. It may be smart to talk to your doctor before implementing more vegetables into your diet.
Ways to make vegetables more edible
As mentioned before eating vegetables anyway is highly recommended. So the first way to eat healthier if you do not like the taste of vegetables is making sure you taste the vegetables less or make other tastes stronger. Some ways to make vegetables more edible to you include:
- Salt, herbs, butter, and cooking oils: These are some of the most basic but powerful ways to alter the taste of your food. A collection of spices and herbs like curry can completely transform the taste of food.
- Add the vegetables to dishes where you do not taste them: This can mean combining with other foods that taste stronger and that the taste of two foods combined can be a lot different than the taste of each one.
- Ease into vegetables: Not liking the taste of certain vegetables right now does not mean that you can never like the taste of them. You do not have to make up for all the vegetables you did not eat in one day. At the start, you can begin with one bite of vegetables and slowly but surely build up from there.
- Distract yourself while eating vegetables: Just like how listening to music while running can distract your attention from the workout, you can distract yourself while eating vegetables. Some ways to do this include watching tv, listening to music, or having an engaging conversation with your meal companions.
- Reduce or replace smell: As a human, you do not just taste with your mouth. The smell of food plays a big role in your experience of the things you eat. You can reduce the smell by closing your nose or replace the smell with a more pleasant and stronger one.
Another thing to note is that not all vegetables taste the same. Chances are that some vegetables taste better to you than others.
Eating something you do not like is also not the end of the world. It is only a few minutes of suboptimal taste in exchange for better short and long-term health and more happiness for the rest of your life.
Healthy alternatives to vegetables
The next way to eat healthier if you do not like the taste of vegetables is by consuming more healthy foods that are not vegetables. Some examples of food groups that are not vegetables but contain valuable nutrients include:
- Nuts & seeds: Nuts and seeds are some of the most nutrient-dense food groups there are. They contain relatively high amounts of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, other micronutrients but also calories. So a small amount of nuts can be a great addition to your diet but overdoing it may lead to weight gain.
- Legumes: Legumes are the seeds and fruits of specific types of plants. Beans are included in the legume group. This food group also contains large amounts of nutrients but besides fiber not quite at the level of nuts and seeds except for peanuts which are actually a legume.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms are similar to vegetables in terms of nutrient content but since they are a fungus they do not count as vegetables. Their taste is also not quite the same as something like broccoli.
- Whole grains: Whole grains can contain a nice amount of some of the nutrients found in vegetables. One thing to keep in mind is that whole grains generally contain fewer nutrients per amount of calories than vegetables. So to reach your nutrient goals with whole grains you may have to consume a lot of calories which can result in unhealthy weight gain.
- Meats and seafood: Even though many people do not always realize it, animal meats, fish, and other seafood are very nutrient-dense foods, especially organ meats. One thing to keep in mind is that vegetables are often higher in different nutrients, so meats and seafood may not be the best replacement for vegetables.
- Cheese, yogurt, and eggs: These foods are similar to meats and seafood in the way that they contain a lot of nutrients but not in very similar ratios to vegetables. This makes them not the best replacement but still a great way to consume extra nutrients. One thing to keep in mind is that some cheeses contain a high number of calories.
- Fruits: Most people overestimate the number of vitamins and minerals in fruits. Fruits alone will not be enough to hit your daily vitamin and mineral goals. That being said, fruits are still a relatively low-calorie source of fiber and other helpful micronutrients.
As mentioned before on the surface it may look like you can get all nutrients in vegetables from other foods but it is still very likely important for your health to eat vegetables.
There are all these hidden nutrients and nutrient interactions that are hard to predict but nature often gets these right. This is one of the reasons why supplements are generally not as great as whole foods.