In my career as a health consultant, one of the most common refrains I hear when people find out what I eat is, I could never give up meat. And I don’t really like vegetables. I’m sad to say that the only thing standing between them and their long-term health is a major misunderstanding about taste. I want to clear up this dangerous misapprehension, and hopefully after reading this blog post you’ll join me in my grassroots effort aimed at nationwide taste rehabilitation!
Is Taste Learned?
Dear Reader, this is your lucky day. You have the choice to decide whether you want to enjoy the taste of healthy, nourishing food or the taste of disease inducing meals. Indeed, taste is learned— your food preferences are conditioned by what you eat regularly.
Generally, the rule is you only need to eat a given food ten to fifteen times to develop a penchant for it. Over the years, I have experienced this effect multiple times. A few years ago, the CSA (community supported agriculture) I subscribed to was barraging me with an overabundance of eggplant. Every week, I’d open my fresh-picked box of produce, hoping that eggplant season was over, but continued to find a neverending supply of eggplants from short and deep purple to long, slender, and plumb-hued to striped to even plain white!
I had heard of the taste-preference rule before and was determined to put it to the test. So every night, I tossed cubed eggplant into whatever veggie dish I created—veggie sloppy Joes, veggie stir fry, roasted veggies.
Initially, I really didn’t notice much flavor in the eggplant—mostly, the texture was new to me—but I kept up the experiment. And lo and behold, about two weeks into this daily ordeal, I took my first mouthful of that night’s stir fry and thought, “Hmmmm. . .that’s pretty good. What is that?” Why, it was the eggplant, of course! Finally, my taste buds had adjusted, and they were admittedly happy to have done so. Nowadays, after several years of high-nutrient eating, there isn’t a vegetable I won’t eat.
I know what you’re thinking. You don’t believe it’s possible to enjoy those vegetables you’ve hated since you were a kid.. After all, YOU know what you like, and it ain’t arugula!
But I Really Hate Vegetables!
Wait, let me guess-- you don’t like vegetables. Well, neither did I.
I grew up in the American South, where battered and fried food is served as both centerpiece and main dish. My grandmother fried everything from chicken and steak to okra, squash, and potatoes. A FryDaddy served as the principal cooking appliance in my kitchen. And if it wasn’t deep fried, the occasional raw vegetable (iceberg lettuce) was smothered in Thousand Island dressing.
Yep, that diet style took me years to overcome. It wasn’t until my early to mid 20’s—when I started exploring the effect of diet on health—that fear for my life drove me to add some veggies to my bread, pasta, and milk chocolate regimen. And, yuck! I abhorred both taste and texture of fresh vegetables, and I really had to work at it to even tolerate leaf lettuce and broccoli.
So if you don’t like veggies, there’s still hope. By intentionally exposing your taste buds to foods you don’t like on a daily basis, you will learn to love them just as much as you now enjoy donuts, nachos, and hamburgers. In fact, no one who knows me would deny that I love food. As I frequently point out, nobody enjoys their food more than I enjoy mine. So don’t be surprised when you find yourself hosting a dinner party featuring fresh vegetables as the main dish!
Pick a vegetable you don’t particularly like and commit to eating a little of it every day for two weeks. It’s ok to disguise it by chopping it into minute particles and tossing it in with the rest of your meal. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the end of this trial to have added more variety to your diet and increased the healthy options available to you. Happy eating!