How can I overcome my visual distaste and eat more fruits and vegetables?
August 19, 2004 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I am a very visual eater and extraordinarily stubborn. After avoiding pretty much all fruit and veg my entire life I am trying to take the plunge and expand my dietary horizons (without expanding my waistband). How can I get over the mental block of eating green and orange stuff? Can anyone recommend an easy way to get on the fruit and veg wagon or recipes that conceal the deadly veg from mine eyes?
posted by longbaugh to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
cole-slaw? Seems to hide the veggies pretty well.

Also, falafel is all chick-peas which is healthy, but kind of like a burger.

Is that kind of what you mean ?
posted by milovoo at 11:03 AM on August 19, 2004

Head off into the desert with a bag of carrots and a jug of water. Walk until you can walk no more. Carrots will look pretty damn good after a few days....
posted by zeoslap at 11:11 AM on August 19, 2004

What do you normally eat? Give us some examples of what *is* palatable so we can help more.

Do you like curry or stir fry with brown sauce? Add some veggies to the chicken or beef. You'll still have the flavors you're used to, and the sauce will hopefully conceal the colors enough for your needs.

Some veggie burgers are crafted specifically to taste like meat. Check your freezer section.

Also, try adding meat-related sauces like Liquid Smoke, that fantastic new Chipotle Tabasco that I can't stop putting on everything, or even BBQ sauce, to veggie dishes. It'll make everything taste a little more like meat.
posted by boomchicka at 11:13 AM on August 19, 2004

if it's done well, eggplant parmesan is mighty tasty . . .
posted by petebest at 11:24 AM on August 19, 2004

I grew up not really liking many vegetables because not only were a lot of the veggies my Mom cooked ones that tasted bad to me [to some people, certain vegetables taste really bitter], they were also cooked to within an inch of their lives making them soggy and unfun to eat. I now eat a fair amount of vegetables, and a lot of fruit, and I think my diet is the better for it. Without knowing what your specific issues are, here are some suggestions of mine:

- have a friend or a restaurant that can cook really good vegetables make something for you, see if you still hate it. I never liked spinach until I started having baby spinach salads, and now I find ways of working it into a lot more of my meals. Same with greenbeans, having them grilled up with garlic and olive oil makes all the difference in their palatability. Preparation can really make the difference in a lot of foods
- for fruits, try some of them individually to see if you like them at all. My personal favorites are sliced apples, bananas and grapefruit for breakfast. don't feel like you need to prepare or cook them, just add one or two to your daily diet as sort of a grab-and-go snack
- cut veggies up small and add them to what you are already eating. chopped red peppers, onions, garlic, spinach, celery, will all disappear in a rice or gran dish if they are chopped fine enough and you'll still be getting veggie beenfits. Similarly, juicing veggies is a way to get some of the nutrients [though not as much of the fiber, and sometimes a healthy or unhealthy dose of veggie sugars as well] without the visuals. Alternatively, hide them under layers of cheese on pizza.
- butter, cheese, bacon, meat/chicken stock can make a lot of veggies taste more familiar to you. This is not necessarily a waistband-slimmer, but it can at least get you over the hurdle. Corn on the cob with a lot of butter is a lot more about the butter than it is about the corn. Onion rings are much more about batter than the onion.
- if you like grilling, grilled veggies like mushrooms [which I hate but people swear by them] eggplant, peppers, corn, green beans etc can be really tasty, and they taste [and look] more like char than like vegetables.

I agree with boomchicka that knowing what you DO like will make is easier to try to suss out how to get you to eat stuff you DON'T like.
posted by jessamyn at 11:28 AM on August 19, 2004

Response by poster: Well the missus is a great cook and she is so far the only person who has made greens look remotely palatable (fried green beans with bacon and lots of other stuff).
Otherwise I'm big on chicken and fish. I don't eat much in general (just once a day usually) and I don't eat a lot. It's more in fear for my health than anything. I am a big fan of hot spicy type stuff but I also don't really go for slathering on sauce until something is drowned. It's primarily texture and colour that I am trying to conceal from myself.
Zeoslap - I have tried starvation already thanks - lost 45lbs in about four and a half weeks - I still didn't touch the veg.
I have never eaten fruit. I also don't do soup. I like crispy/crunchy stuff. When I eat food it's generally cooked to death (I am really not a very good cook). I am not overly interested in cooking for pleasure or making the food look nice.
In summary - very overcooked meat would be the primary thing in my diet I'd guess.
posted by longbaugh at 11:35 AM on August 19, 2004

Ah, thanks. Your preferences tell me a good bit. You weren't kidding about the pickiness, were you? :)

Do you like Indian food? I mentioned curries earlier but there are many other Indian dishes that might work. Vegetable pakora are battered, deep-fried veggies. They might be crispy and fried enough to be palatable. Can you tolerate potatoes? You might like a vegetable samosa – it’s basically potatoes and veggies wrapped in dough and cooked until crispy. I know there are others who know far more about Indian food than I do; hopefully they can offer more suggestions.

You can sauce food without drowning it, but if you don’t want to go that route, then I recommend strategic use of spices. A proper spice combo can be distracting enough in color and flavor to let you get some veggies in. Again, try spices normally associated with meat – chili powder, cumin, etc. Onions and garlic always add good flavor, and garlic is terrific for your health.

How do you feel about eggs? Pasta? Would you eat a frittata with sausage and some veggies? Or pasta with chicken (and of course veggies)?
posted by boomchicka at 12:00 PM on August 19, 2004

Ok. Take a large zucchini. Cut it in 1/2" thick slices the long way, so you get a couple of long flat things.

Make a marinade as follows: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 tsp tobasco sauce. Add other spices you like. Add a dash of red or white whine if you want. Balsamic vinegar also helps.

Marinate the zucchini slices in this stuff for about 1/2 hour at room temperature, flipping it over every 10 minutes or so.

While the stuff is marinating, fire up the grill. Best is charcoal, second is propane grill, third would be countertop george forman kinda thing.

Put the slices on the medium-hot grill (no open flames if using charcoal; hot coals only). Flip after 2-3 minutes and coat the lightly charred side, now facing up, with some of the marinade. Repeat the flip and baste after another 2-3 minutes. Let sit on grill another 2-3 minutes. Remove and let stand for about 5 minutes.

Optional: serve on bed of fettucini alfredo.

Can also broil them in oven.

Also works with yellow squash (leave seeds intact, they're quite soft).
posted by yesster at 12:02 PM on August 19, 2004

Boca burgers
posted by kirkaracha at 12:20 PM on August 19, 2004

I recommend reading the introduction to Jeffrey Steingarten's "The Man Who Ate Everything." He talks about getting over his food phobias and he explains that distaste for a certain food isn't inate, it's learned. Interesting and potentially helpful stuff.
posted by adrober at 12:27 PM on August 19, 2004

Mrs. Dickman has a similar feeling about veggies & fruits. For here its flavor and texture. In the ten years we've been together, she's made great strides in eating more and more foods but has taken ten years of effort. So, I'd say first: Baby steps. Don't make meals centered around foods you don't like or feel leery about, instead make sides that involve the things you don't like, but aren't just green beans, or just peas. Don't feel bad if you can't eat it all, or can't even taste it because of the smell/texture/appearance. Pick something else and try again next time. Don't feel bad about mixing them up into something sugary and sweet. Better to have some sweet potato whipped and sweet than none at all. Through experimentation work up to 5 or six things you know you can eat, even if they just taste okay. This is a long haul effort, set timetables that are comfortable for you, but don't try and find all six in a week or two. Baby steps. Indian food was a real help for my wife. There are only 3 things on the menu at our favorite indian restaurant that she can eat, but, by god, they have veggies in them. I think chinese food can do the same thing. Look at meals where you're pretty sure you'll like the meat/sauce, and see if the veggies go down any better with the sauce.

She also puts stuff in a meal that she knows she's going to try to pick out, but will on occassion, not get every bit of it out and discover, upon accidentally tasting it that she likes it. This is even for things she would never voluntarily put in her mouth.

Supposedly your tastes change as you age, I think because you're sense of taste doesn't work as well, so it will get easier as you age.
Remember, if it's too spicy, you can't taste it at all.
posted by putzface_dickman at 12:32 PM on August 19, 2004

Also, It may be easier to drink your veggies. There a number of good drinks that aren't a thing like V-8. Try Bolthouse farms juices. Lots of veggies and fruits, high vitamins, excellent taste. There are other veggie&fruit juices or smoothies that are palatable. She also took a supplement made from veggies that went into water and tasted good. Excellent nutritional value, no angst or vomitting. Email me and I'll ask her the name.
posted by putzface_dickman at 12:42 PM on August 19, 2004

Wow, longbaugh, I think I used to be married to you! ;)

Some other easy possibilities: chop up or shred some veggies you think you might like into smallish bits (you mention crunchy ones, so I would suggest carrots or celery or sweet bell peppers, for example -- but there are plenty of possibilities, like asparagus or broccoli or zucchini) and then throw them into some plain marinara pasta sauce while heating it up on the stove. It gets the veggies in you, but the sight/taste is more disguised in all that tomato sauce. (And I agree with the previous advice to go slow -- add one veggie at a time. If you find you don't mind the shredded carrots in there, add a little sweet pepper the next time, etc.)

Also, I used to trick my ex into eating lettuce by folding it up and putting it under his hamburger patty. If he could see the green coming at him, he'd literally start shaking and gagging. If he couldn't see it, he just ate it. (I disguised the taste with a little barbecue sauce, too.) Eventually, he worked his way up to a tomato slice as well.

Also, there are very tasty cakes, breads, and scones to be made from carrots and zucchini as well. (By the way, is zucchini what it's called in the UK? I know there's some vegs that go by different names in the US and UK. I seem to recall something called a courgette?) And how about easing into fresh fruits via fruit pies? Yes, they've got far more sugar than fresh fruit, but at least they might get you used to the taste and color. Alternatively, take advantage of that gorgeous double-cream you've got over there (and for which I am deeply envious) and spoon it on very fresh, sweet berries or peach slices. You can sprinkle a bit of sugar on top, too, if they're a little tangy.

I will also suggest something that, in my experience living in the UK, may strike you as disgusting -- but was also really handy here in the states in getting my ex to eat a little more fruit and veg... and that is... peanut butter. Especially on apple slices and celery sticks. It was the archetypal after-school snack for me when I was a kid, but your mileage may vary.
posted by scody at 12:49 PM on August 19, 2004

I hate eating vegetables, so I finally got a juicer. I eat about 5-8 servings of fruit and vegetables a day as juice. I figure that its okay as long as I also get enough fiber.

I would suggest a really good juicer, like a champion juicer. Drink the juice immediately after juicing. As an example, yesterday I had 6 carrots, 1 apple, some cilantro, some raspberries, 2 celery, and 1/3 of a cucumber. It tasted predominantly like fruit, with only a slight bitter taste from the cilantro.

Works for me.
posted by free pie at 12:51 PM on August 19, 2004

Oh yeah: you can also make a nice sweet sandwich with peanut butter and slices of bananas, too. With or without a little honey or a sprinkling of raisins. Again, this is total comfort food to me, but it may make you run in horror -- if so, I apologize. Also, speaking of banana -- banana bread is good and easy to bake, too.

God, I'm hungry.

posted by scody at 12:55 PM on August 19, 2004

It's not exactly haute cuisine, but I'm fond of smooshing mashed potatoes and vegetables together. Mashed potatoes have great covering power, and the vegetable is like a tasty little hidden treat. Mmm.
posted by Hypharse at 1:01 PM on August 19, 2004

Oh, and spaghetti squash, properly prepared,
(so simple, but cook it lightly if you like crunchy / al dente)
it hardly seems like a vegetable.
posted by milovoo at 1:01 PM on August 19, 2004

I'd say start with tomato sauce. Take generous amounts (three or four tablespoons) of olive oil and fry three cloves of garlic in it. When they are golden, take them out and add two cans of peeled tomato (I don't suppose you conserve your own, right ;)?) - step back because it splashes!

Add salt and pepper, and leave it on a soft fire for about an hour (that's important! tomato sauce needs lots of time). It should be reduced in volume by about half. Now add another tablespoon of really good olive oil and serve with meatballs (or better: scallope Milanese) and pasta. Yum. Tomatoes are vegetables but are very umami.

Next time, add eggplants (feel free to mail me for recipes on fried eggplant, it's hard to get it right). Yum.
posted by NekulturnY at 1:08 PM on August 19, 2004

And, as suggested earlier, read Steingarten.
posted by NekulturnY at 1:10 PM on August 19, 2004

FRIED green beans??!?!?

Vegetables cooked properly are really a different thing than overcooked ones.
posted by agregoli at 1:12 PM on August 19, 2004

eat them RAW! i have a history of gagging on cooked veg. not only is the texture terrible, but the taste is bad. i got round this by eating all my veg raw - cauliflower, sprouts, carrots, cabbage, peas and broccoli are all sweet, delicious and healthy when raw. i'd steer clear of raw potatoes if i were you, but start off with the ones i've listed, then eventually with stuff like broccoli and peas you can introduce them to gentle steaming for short periods of time.
posted by nylon at 1:20 PM on August 19, 2004

Interesting challenge. Corgettes, mentioned earlier are very young zuchinni or yellow squash, picked with the (edible) flower still on them.

If it's really a color issue, you might try not looking to get over the initial hurdle. Personally, I try at least one thing I hate once a year just to see if somehow I have magically acquired a taste for it. This is definitely a "long run" thing.

Foods that have gone from hate to like using this technique:
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • black olives
  • leeks
This is over a span of years of trying and mostly keeping as open a mind as possible to the chance that I might like somehing.

As for fruit, there are a lot of open questions, like how you handle sweets in general. For example, some fruit go exceedingly well with cheeses. Ripe pears and good apples (red delicious apples aren't) taste wonderful with many cheeses, and this is an arguably much more healthy way to ingest cheese than on a cracker. Some fruits go well with meats (raisins, apples, grapes, oranges -- trivia point: raisins are an ingredient in A1 steak sauce). Some work really well with cooking as well as eating raw (peaches, apricots, bananas -- try this: halve a banana, set it flat side up on a foil covered baking pan and spoon on some sugar on the flat side to leave a thorough coating, point a blow torch at the sugar sweeping along the length of the banana until it bubbles and turns a light brown. Let cool. --courtesy of Alton Brown).
posted by plinth at 1:34 PM on August 19, 2004

This may be only tangentially helpful, but for taste, I find many people's veggies taste like crap because they overcook them. Broccoli, green beans, etc. go into the wok for about three minutes (till they're hot essentially) and that's it.

For hiding, lips makes an awesome egg & veggie breakfast sandwich, which will hide all sight of offending foods. If you email him, he will probably tell you how.
posted by dame at 1:47 PM on August 19, 2004

Many vegis will discolor mashed potatos. However, a good one to mash in is cauliflower. Good stuff without the odd green or orange color. Tomato sauce is also great for hiding red bell peppers.

Carrots, potatoes and onions tend to really absorb the flavor of meat if they're cooked together in stews or pot roasts.

Fresh green beans are amazing when cooked with lots of chopped garlic (about 8 cloves of garlic to one pound of green beans), soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. A good friend of mine is a super taster and says green beans are bitter normally. When I cook green beans this way, he eats them and not because he's polite, either. For this recipe, you want the beans to still be crunchy.

Also, try different varieties of fruits and vegis. For example, an apple is not just an apple. I dispise Red Delicious Apples. I love Braeburn and Gala apples. If you don't like fresh peaches due to the fuzz on the skin, try nectarines. Also, fresh fruit covered in icecream is tasty.
posted by onhazier at 2:00 PM on August 19, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I certainly have made more changes since meeting my lady so it is much better now than even 12 months ago. Would you believe I had never eaten a pizza in 27 years?
Financially and geographically it's tough for me to get hold of fresh food and I really have no time to spend on complex preperation and cooking. I like the idea of mixing in with mashed potato, I will give that a try for sure.
The best success I have had is with sex bribery (sue me) and with being drunk. When I have been incredibly drunk I can eat anything, but I'd prefer not to go back to alcohol if at all possible.
Once again, thanks for the response (AskMeFi rocks...) and it's also good to hear I am not the only picky person in the world.
posted by longbaugh at 2:06 PM on August 19, 2004

plinth - Pickapeppa sauce is made with mangoes. It's WONDERFUL and will definitely impact the flavor of what you're cooking. It's a bit spicey and has a unique flavor which I really enjoy. A simple way to use it is to take a brick of cream cheese and pour a layer of pickapeppa on it. Serve with crackers.

Maybe you'd like it with your vegis.
posted by onhazier at 2:07 PM on August 19, 2004

Jeffrey Steingarden's "The Man Who Ate Everything" has a marvellous opening essay om the author's distaste for certain foods, and how he overcame them (becoming the man who ate everything, a man who can order anything at any gourmet restaurant and be happy with the results).

his conclusion was pretty much: exposure. Just keep on eating those veggies, even if you don't like the way they taste. Every time you crunch down on a broccoli floret, imagine a colon polyp fading away, etc.

also, perhaps you should try going to an all-you-can eat salad bar, or a local farmer's market...
posted by LimePi at 4:23 PM on August 19, 2004

I can't say as thinking about colon polyps would be likely to make anything palatable. In fact, I think it would have precisely the opposite effect.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:00 PM on August 19, 2004

I'm sorry if this isn't that helpful, but in going through this thread, I'd read a comment, then feel compelled to scroll up to re-read the flabergasting sentence, "I have never eaten fruit."
Did you mean (1) you've never made a habit of eating fruit or (2) you've literally never bitten into the seed-bearing flesh of a tree or plant.
posted by hhc5 at 10:06 PM on August 25, 2004

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