Learning to Love Vegetables

How to get even the fussiest eaters to enjoy their veggies
Published April 18, 2016

Everyone has foods they don’t like, whether it’s the taste, texture or smell, there are a lot of contributing factors to food preferences. It should be noted that it’s completely OK to have foods you don’t enjoy and there’s nothing at all wrong with wanting to stick with foods you like to eat. 

Unfortunately for a portion of the population the foods they revile are vegetables. Despite their abundance of nutrients, a lot of folks from children to grandparents will turn up their nose at a Brussels sprout or a a bowl of steamed broccoli. A big part of a healthy eating is consuming fruits and vegetables every day as they are packed with vitamins and all the building blocks your body needs to perform at its peak. So, if you're one of those people that is grossed out by greens, or perhaps live with a few of them, you may wish to try these tips to make your most dreaded veggies palatable. 

It can be fun to experiment with foods you’re convinced you don’t like – it’s like a tasting adventure! By altering the way these foods are prepared it can be pleasantly surprising to witness how much they can change in a very desirable way. Roasting can bring out natural sugars that lay dormant and simple preparation techniques can alter textures that are deemed less than desirable. Above all, these forays should be about having fun and challenging your taste buds, you never know if a new favourite food will be discovered along the way.

Brussels sprouts: the vegetable nemesis
Brussels sprouts are so reviled that they’ve become a running gag in terms of most loathed vegetables, their taste and smell are unmistakable and conjure up memories of being forced to stuff them down at family dinners. This stigma is unfortunate, as Brussels sprouts are high in vitamins A, K and C as well as fibre, manganese and potassium. In order to offset the bitterness of Brussels sprouts, the most complained about characteristic of the vegetable, it’s important to bring out the natural sugars inherent in these tiny green cabbages which can be easily achieved through roasting or pan searing. Trim the ends of the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half. Toss with a few teaspoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper (this is the recipe at its most basic, try adding a small amount of pancetta, lemon slices or whole cloves of garlic to boost the flavour). Either roast the sprouts at 375 for 30 minutes or sauté them in a cast iron skillet until browned, the browning is the most important factor as it indicates the natural sugars have caramelized. Finish the cooked Brussels sprouts with a fine grating of fresh parmesan, toasted breadcrumbs or grated lemon zest and enjoy the deep nuttiness and sweetness of this newfound cooking method.

Make kale all it’s cracked up to be
Kale has received resounding praise over the last couple of years for its impressive nutritional profile. Kale's celebrity status is well deserved, a single cup of shredded kale contains well over 100 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamins K, A and C in addition to being a good source of fibre, folate and magnesium. Despite its popularity, kale can still be a tough vegetable to love for people trying to include it in their healthy eating plan. Like Brussels sprouts, kale is a member of the Brassica oleracea family and has the same strong flavours of sulphur and cabbage, making it difficult to mask if you don’t enjoy these flavours. For others, kale is enjoyable as far as its taste goes, but its stringy texture and tough leaves can leave people perplexed as to how best prepare this superfood. As bizarre as it sounds, you can solve this problem by offering your salad a good massage! Remove the tough stems from the leaves and shred the kale into fine ribbons with a sharp knife, transfer to a large bowl. Add a few drops of your favourite oil (sesame oil and coconut oil are particularly tasty) and gently massage the kale until it begins to break down and soften, it can then be used in salads, stir-fries or pasta dishes and you’ll be amazed at the difference this trick can make.

Discover the magic in mushrooms
Mushrooms are naturally high in selenium, a cancer fighting and immune boosting trace element, and contain B vitamins, vitamin D2 and riboflavin. The taste of mushrooms varies according to type, but all mushrooms possess a similar texture that can be described by some as slimy or unpleasantly chewy (those who love mushrooms fondly refer to this texture as "meaty" or "densely toothsome"). If the idea of eating mushrooms on their own doesn't appeal to you but you'd still like to reap their nutritional rewards, try combining them with a complementary ingredient such as ground turkey in either a thick sauce or homemade burgers. Sauté thinly sliced mushrooms in a teaspoon of olive oil, sprinkling on some salt as they cook in order to draw out some of their moisture. Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Allow to cool and wring out the mushrooms in the paper towel before chopping to a fine mince. The mushroom mince can then be added in any amount you'd like to the ground turkey or other ground meat of your choice. Once the mushrooms have been cooked with the meat and other flavourings they will be virtually undetectable to even the most seasoned of mushroom haters.

Bake that tofu
Tofu is an excellent source of protein, iron and calcium, as well as phosphorous, selenium and manganese. To those that eat a plant-based diet tofu offers a wealth of nutritional value that can sometimes be difficult to attain in the absence of meat or dairy. Unfortunately, unlike other animal sources of protein, tofu can have a very bland taste that can be described as chalky and unappealing. Instead of resisting this soy bean curd’s inherent blandness use it to your advantage and think of it as a blank canvas for a host of intense flavours. Baked tofu is an excellent foray into cooking with tofu, its flavour depends on your choice of marinade and it comes out of the oven very chewy and ready to be used in stir fries, salads or even tucked into sandwiches. If using firm or extra firm tofu make sure to drain it of excess moisture first, this will allow it to fully soak up its marinade. Slice or cube the pressed tofu and allow to marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes and up to several hours. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 30 minutes, turning once or twice to ensure even flavour. Marinades can range from hoisin and soy sauce, lemon juice and olive oil or even your favourite BBQ sauce.

Just beet it!
Full of vitamin C, potassium and folate, beets are dense with nutritional value; recent studies have shown drinking beet juice can help boost performance when exercising. Vibrant in colour, whether red, golden yellow or purple, beets come with the unfortunate caveat of tasting distinctly dirt-like due to geosmin, a compound produced in soil by microbes that give off an earthy aroma. While some people enjoy the taste of beets for this very reason there are many who find the sensation off-putting. Bringing out the natural sweetness found in beets is an ideal way to make this controversial vegetable taste incredible and roasting them is a simple way to make them shine. Beets can be roasted on their own or with a medley of other root vegetables as long as everything is uniform in size (also keeping in mind that beets tend to redden everything they touch, including your fingers). Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and remove the tips and tails of the beets. Slice them into uniform wedges or cubes and toss with olive oil, salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the beets. Serve either hot or at room temperature, as is or adorned with baby arugula and a small amount of fresh goat cheese or creamy feta cheese.