Gag me with a... green bean.
April 17, 2010 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Why do vegetables make me gag, and how can I stop it?

When I was a kid, I hated cooked vegetables and they always made me gag. This was back when I had to eat canned, cooked-to-death veggies. Now, many years later, I learned that cooked veggies can be yummy when they are fresh, steamed, and such.

But even though I enjoy eating cooked vegetables now, they still make me gag by about halfway through a serving. It happens with just about any type of cooked vegetable, with or without sauces/seasonings. Why does this still happen? How can I make it stop?
posted by dayintoday to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Here are some suggestions from our competitor.

It might be helpful if you specified exactly how you've tried eating them aside from just with/without sauces/seasonings. Have you tried them in pasta? On pizza? In soup?

I don't know if I'm qualified to answer your question since I haven't had the gagging experience, but one way I like to prepare vegetables to be very smooth and mild is to use potato leek soup as a foundation. There are a million recipes for plain potato leek soup that you can Google. (You can use stock or just water as the liquid.) But in addition to potatoes and leeks, think of other vegetables you can add. For instances, zucchini or asparagus or fennel or parsnips all work well. Once you've cooked it, let it cool for a couple minutes, the blend it in a blender (in a couple batches), return it to the pot, add some fresh parsley if you have it, and reheat a bit (adding milk/cream if you want).

Another idea would be, as I mentioned, pizza. It's pretty easy to make if you get a Boboli crust. Add tomato sauce, then any seasonings (oregano, pepper, etc.), then cheese, then vegetables that have already been sauteed/grilled/roasted, then heat in the oven. Although pizza obviously isn't the most nutritious meal, this could be a way to get used to a wide variety of vegetables, since you can put anything on a pizza.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:21 PM on April 17, 2010


Sounds like a holdover aversion from your childhood that, for some reason, hasn't gone away by itself yet. Maybe try a little DIY desensitization? In other words, start with only 3 green beans, or whatever you can get through while it's still pleasant. Don't try to eat a normal portion just yet. After you can confidently look at 3 green beans without anticipating gagging, increase to 4. Give yourself lots of time - the goal is to break the automatic association of vegetables with gagging, nausea, or other unpleasantness.

Also, maybe vegetables in other formats might be more appealing: raw plain, raw in salads, presented in "exotic" cuisines you never ate as a kid. Eat and enjoy, watch yourself eat and enjoy, say to self "Self, I just enjoyed eating that vegetable. How 'bout that?"
posted by Quietgal at 4:22 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel you and goodness knows I'm not the one who should be encouraging you as my own diet is pathetic but...roasted vegetables are so much better than vegetables cooked any other way. Asparagus, cauliflower, etc. Don' t push it if a full serving disgusts you; try half a serving. Does fruit disgust you? Maybe you can make up the fresh food difference there.
posted by Morrigan at 4:23 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


My boyfriend had a similar reflex to cooked tomatoes, mushrooms and greens. It doesn't happen very often anymore, possibly because he only eats them in small quantities. Good luck!
posted by OLechat at 4:38 PM on April 17, 2010


Left-field suggestion: if we're talking about a psychological aversion, try growing your own vegetables. When you've watched them grow, cosseted them, built up a sense of antici...pation about eating them - your reaction might be different.

More practically, hide 'em - a good chilli or a blender can hide a multitude of sins.
posted by Leon at 4:39 PM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's no law that says you have to cook your vegetables. In fact, the more you cook them, the fewer vitamins you'll be getting (as a general rule of thumb, so I have been told). I assume it's the texture making you gag, in which case, the less you cook them the better.

I also wonder what you consider a "serving." If it's yummy when you start, but blecch halfway through, maybe you're just trying to eat three cups of steamed broccoli at once. Break that down into three servings of one cup each, and you'd be golden.
posted by ErikaB at 5:07 PM on April 17, 2010


Maybe Quietgal is on to something. You have a conditioned response of gagging when you eat vegetables. Start eating smaller servings that you can completely finish before reaching the gag point. Hopefully you will lose the association and then you can gradually increase the serving size again.
posted by jockc at 5:38 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


In fact, the more you cook them, the fewer vitamins you'll be getting (as a general rule of thumb, so I have been told).

I've seen this on AskMe before, but I don't think we should be making such broad statements that could unreasonably discourage people from doing something that's actually really healthy and important (namely, eating lots of cooked vegetables).

It's definitely true that boiling vegetables in water and then dumping out the water makes vegetables less nutritious -- the nutrients get leeched out by the water. Steaming has a similar but less drastic effect. But it's not so obvious that vitamins get lost if you save that veggie water by making soup.

Mark Bittman has a more nuanced discussion of this issue in his oft-recommended How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, pg. 236. He says:
most vegetables are actually more nutritious when cooked. For example, the starch in potatoes, and to some extent broccoli and cauliflower, will not be absorbed by the stomach (and can cause gastric distress) unless it's cooked until just about soft. And anything with even a moderate amount of fiber or protein requires at least some heat (or juicing, which also breaks down the fibers) for the body to absorb them during digestion. Generally, cooking increases the bioavailability of the nutrients in vegetables.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:00 PM on April 17, 2010


Thanks everyone so far! Great ideas and tips! I think there is especially something to the psychological aversion, because I like the way they taste. I really do! I don't want to have to hide them in things just to get the nutrients in me. I like veggies just fine (no gagging) in soups or pasta or pizza, but I want to be able to enjoy steamed (or roasted) veggies as a side dish to chicken, fish, etc. And I do enjoy them as such up until a point when the gag reflex decides that I don't anymore. I'll try the building-up-to-larger-portions idea first!
posted by dayintoday at 6:33 PM on April 17, 2010


I absolutely, positively hate most vegetables and they also make me gag. I physically cannot swallow them. Not even a bite - my throat closes. I have tired to force myself a few times, but the bite just comes back up (sorry if that's TMI). I too think it's a hold over from when my child hood -- because the only vegetables I was served as a child was canned crap. I can eat lettuce, but only if it's very fresh and crisp. If it's even slightly wilted, forget it. No way I eat any kind of cooked greens. I also eat tomato, carrot, potato and mushrooms, but that's about it.

My mother loved cooked spinach - but she used to serve us the canned crap too. Imagine being a kid having to sit there for 3 hours looking at a plate of congealed, canned spinach glop. My parents thought if they made me sit there I would eventually eat it. Ugh. Never did. Just the smell of it makes me practically puke. Also, no one is allowed to make broccoli or cauliflower in my house. Ever. The smell. Ack.

I just make due with eating lots of salads with the few vegetables I can eat and multi-vitamins.
posted by crayon at 6:37 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like veggies just fine (no gagging) in soups or pasta or pizza, but I want to be able to enjoy steamed (or roasted) veggies as a side dish to chicken, fish, etc.

Ah, well in that case, and considering you admit this is partly psychological, how about this method when you're cooking at home:

1. Cook one of those vegetable-centric dishes that you have no problem with -- pasta or pizza. But when you're cooking the vegetable part, use 1.5-2x as much as you'd normally use.

2. Right before combining the vegetables with the rest of the dish (mixing with pasta or topping on pizza), set aside the excess portion of vegetables in a small bowl (and cover it if the main dish will take a while more to make, e.g. cooking pizza in the oven). If you haven't used them already, you could add some minimal seasonings/toppings, e.g. salt/pepper, lemon juice, soy sauce, honey, or herbs.

3. When you serve yourself the pasta/pizza/whatever, serve the bowl of unaccompanied veggies on the side. Eat these together, randomly taking bites from the veggie bowl in the middle of eating the main dish.

The idea is that you'll have the physical experience of eating plain veggies, while associating this experience with the kind of veggie dish that you're totally fine with, since not only will you be eating them at the same time, but the veggies will be the same.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:51 PM on April 17, 2010


What happens if you drink a V-8 or "juiced" vegetables? If there's no problem there, then I'm wondering if it's a texture thing vs. an actual vegetable issue. But if you still have the problem then at least you can eliminate texture as an issue. :)
posted by thorny at 6:54 PM on April 17, 2010


Get yourself a wok! stir-frying is a great way to cook vegetables without overdoing it (you can steam in it, too), just add them later in cooking. Yakisoba's a lot of fun to make...carrots, onions, green peppers, pea pods, some cabbage, and the best vegetable of them all: Beef!
posted by sexyrobot at 7:10 PM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


you could be a supertaster!
posted by curiositykilledthelemur at 7:44 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was a vegetarian for 27 years and still eat a mostly vegetarian diet. I eat a lot of veggies in a lot of ways and I love most of them but roasted veggies make me gag. Ugh, I HATE them. The texture screams "not food!" to me.

My solution is to not eat roasted veggies. I know you're looking for ways to enjoy cooked veggies and I think there are lots of great suggestions for that upthread, but I also want to point out that sometimes, your body just really, really doesn't like something and one of the neat things about being an adult is that you don't have to force it.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:26 PM on April 17, 2010


I absolutely, positively hate most vegetables and they also make me gag. I physically cannot swallow them. Not even a bite - my throat closes. I have tired to force myself a few times, but the bite just comes back up (sorry if that's TMI). I too think it's a hold over from when my child hood -- because the only vegetables I was served as a child was canned crap.

I was just telling some friends over dinner that this is exactly my reaction to most vegetables. I also blamed it on childhood factors (a holdover aversion from being a picky eater and being shamed, having food forced on me, the old sit-at-the-table-till-you-eat-it trick). But one of my three children seems to have a similar aversion and we haven't done any of that shit to him. He's just always been that way. So I wonder if it's some kind of sensitivity to something in the vegetables (to me, the smell of green vegetables is revolting so maybe there's a hint there) that causes this revulsion. I no longer thing I have vegetable aversion because of childhood stuff, but from watching my son am more inclined to think it was somehow inborn.

I am 99.99% sure that none of the suggestions like changing how veggies are cooked or growing my own would make a difference. I actually really like the crisp texture of vegetables and enjoy chopping them for recipes and that kind of thing, but still can't eat them.
posted by not that girl at 9:54 PM on April 17, 2010


Are you or could you be on the autistic spectrum? This is common for people with Asperger's. For my ex I just used to blend the veges into sauces and soups whenever possible, ensure he ate a multivitamin every couple of days, and resign myself to the fact that we would never be able to eat the same meal (NOT why he is now ex, btw).
posted by goo at 5:37 AM on April 18, 2010


blend the veges into sauces and soups whenever possible, ensure he ate a multivitamin every couple of days

Well, there have been several AskMe threads (example) about the fact that taking lots of vitamins isn't a good substitute for a balanced diet.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:42 AM on April 18, 2010


Sure it's not a good substitute, but when eating vegetables is physically impossible it's a start.
posted by goo at 6:05 AM on April 18, 2010


If it's physically impossible to eat vegetables, then yes, by definition, you won't be able to eat vegetables. But that's not the OP's situation, so cutting out vegetables and replacing them with vitamin pills wouldn't be a good idea.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:49 AM on April 18, 2010


I have the same reaction to vegetables. Before college I ate pretty close to none.

Now that I have been cooking for myself I've been getting a bit better about them, but still wouldn't want to eat a full serving of vegetables on their own.

Instead what I do is I make a lot of curry/other saucy dishes that use a vegetable base and then add finely chopped vegetables in addition. E.g. I'll make Chana masala - starting with finely shopped onions and crushed tomatoes, add the chickpeas and spices, and then mix in finely chopped carrots, spinanch, peas etc.

Once you are making a good sauce, as long as the vegetables are not in very large pieces they don't detract from my enjoyment very much, and over time I have started to like some of them more and more. I add spinach to just about everything I cook since it cooks down so much that you don't really notice it too much.

Also I suggest doing things like Potato and leek soup - anything where you end up completely pureeing the vegetables, then you get the nutrition and taste without the texture (which for me is my biggest problem with most vegetables.)
posted by vegetableagony at 9:32 AM on April 22, 2010


Eponysterical!
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:43 PM on April 22, 2010


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