I know I’m part of the lucky crowd that genuinely loves fresh veggies.  I can’t say I’m always in the mood to cook them up (because I prefer them cooked over raw), but at least I have several options.  But what about all the folks out there who are facing a serious health or fitness goal and just can’t bring themselves to eat the vegetables? Some folks just can’t get past the bitter taste of some green vegetables.  Sometimes our genetics can legitimately cause us to dislike certain foods and let’s face it – we all have different taste preferences.

It’s tough, but you know you should eat them and God gave them to us for a reason.  There are so many healthy macro and micro nutrients found in veggies (not to mention fiber and phytonutrients and antioxidants) that just can’t be duplicated elsewhere in the human diet. And to live without them, well, it’s a little like trying to win a fight with one hand tied behind your back.

Don’t despair – if you are serious about making changes,  you can incorporate some of these valuable little gems into your diet fairly easily – and here are few ideas to get you thinking:

*Value – Keep in mind that you get a big bang for your buck when it comes to veggies.  They take up a lot of space in the stomach without a lot of calories.  If you can find one or two that you like, add them to dinner and lunch consistently to fill up with good stuff instead of the extra bread or dessert.  You also get the fiber to help push things through the digestive track and get rid of waste.  Veggies are also high in water volume to help keep you hydrated.

*Try, Try Again – Even though some of our taste preferences and dislikes are related to our DNA – some are clearly learned over time and even come from practice.  Use this same logic to “unlearn” and set some new habits.  Set out to deliberately try new veggies.  Think about the kinds of complex flavors you might like or have never even tried.  Veggies can be sweet, bitter, spicy, meaty or fatty, sour, watery, salty and even sour.  Did you know that our palates can get used to new flavors if we taste them over and over?  Think about the things you didn’t like as a kid and now you really love?  Beer is a big one.  Many people hate beer when they first taste it, then before long, they decide they just love the taste!  Hold on now  … stay with me… it’s not time for a beer break!  Also, think about how you have good memories of certain foods cooked at home as a kid.  Chances are you still love them.  These are all examples of learned preferences.

*Make it a Challenge – Psych yourself up for a challenge to add some new veggies to your plate.  Pick a vegetable that requires real intent, make it something that you just would not normally ever eat.  The research suggests that it may take several times before we ever like them or tolerate them, but you never know, you may meet your next favorite vegetable.  This happened to me with brussel sprouts!  I hated them for 50 years, then one day at a dinner party, rather than being rude, I decided to try them.  Oh my!  What a pleasant surprise!  I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed them!  Now, I had not tried them in many years and I was convinced beyond all belief that I would never like them, but something had changed in all those years since I last gave them a shot.

*Be Creative – Think about how to cook veggies in different ways to modify the flavors.  I don’t like raw broccoli but I really like cooked broccoli.  Think about how you can complement the veggie with other foods.  Flavors are complex and sometimes unique pairings can make all the difference in taste.  If you have a chef or a good country cook in the family, ask for help in complements for your veggie challenge.  Last – think about a buffer for the veggie.  Sometimes a totally different taste used as a light sauce or topping can trick the taste buds and mask the bolder taste of the vegetable.  Think about things like, crushed red pepper, maple syrup, lemon infused olive oil, nuts, honey, or even butter.  You can have fun with this challenge.

It’s ok if you don’t like everything you try – its about trying something new that your body might welcome and enjoy! Remember, if it has been a few years since you thought about kale – take another look at it.  Your health is definitely worth the challenge!