Getting myself to eat vegetables

by jefftk1 min read7th Mar 201323 comments


Personal Blog

I have a strategy for getting myself to eat vegetables. I've been using it for about six months now, and it works well:

  • Put the food I want to eat on my plate.
  • Put raw vegetables on top.
  • Eat through vegetables to get to the food I want.

Side effect: people who see my plate think I'm a very healthy eater. But sometimes they ask my "why is your salad steaming?"

I also posted this on my blog

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I had a similar habit when I regularly ate at a cafeteria:

  • Fill half the plate with salad
  • Put other food on the other half of the plate

I usually ate the salad first (and at all), because I have a strong habit of leaving the best for last (and, perhaps unfortunately, of cleaning my plate). This had the secondary effect that there was only half a plate available for calorie-dense foods, and I probably ate fewer calories overall because of it.

It helps, though, that I actually enjoy eating vegetables as long as they're well prepared.

Some time after restricting my diet to paleo/keto, necessitating an increase in vegetables, I realized I had a sense that the act of eating a vegetable was somehow "virtuous". I noticed this and filed it as a rationalization, but an instrumentally useful one.

What if you felt like eating raw vegetables, you'll never know when you're through the vegetables and into the vegetables.

Your algorithm needs another if-clause.

It's approximating volumetrics, which I think is the smartest idea around.

"What if you felt like eating raw vegetables"

Funny, but that's never happened to me.

If we're pointing out important flaws: this strategy doesn't work for fruit!

Luckily I like fruit.

What, that they taste good is not reason enough?

To some people they don't taste good. Advice for how to self-modify in this respect would perhaps be useful, if you have any.

Sometimes, if you keep eating something regularly for a long time, it starts tasting better. I don't know if it is just a power of habit (familiarity feels pleasant) or whether your brain gradually redefines "food" to mean the things you eat most often (so your desire to eat becomes a desire to eat a set of specific things).

As an experiment, start adding one fresh tomato (cut to pieces) to every meal you eat. (OK, not literally every meal; I wouldn't eat a tomato with a sweet pancake. But if something contains meat, it can contain a tomato, too.) Do it for three months and observe what happens.

If tomato does not work for you, experiment with other vegetables, find one (or a small set) which works for you, and then use it consistently. And always have enough of them at home. Remember that every successful diet starts in a shop. (If you don't buy them, you cannot eat them.)

As shminux recommends, spices and dressings are your friends. The goal is to make yourself eat vegetables, not torture yourself with something you don't like. But if it works, you may gradually need less of these ingredients.

Data point: This one worked for me, some time back.

I think that the nutritional value of the food, or at least the perceived nutritional value of the food, also plays a role in how quickly you start liking it. I've started liking raw beef liver and fish oil after waaaay fewer tries than say, ceviche.

[-][anonymous]8y 0

Is the rawness of the liver motivated by nutritional or gustative reasons? How do you prepare it?

I agree with this. I've read somewhere (source needed) that it takes babies about 10-15 tastings to get to grips with a new, unfamiliar flavour, and I'd imagine the same principle applies for adults.

More anecdotally, both my father and my OH started off really strongly disliking the flavour of coriander in their teens, then grew to really like it after they've tasted it in a variety of contexts. My father also had this with yoghurt, and I myself with goats' cheese.

In fact, I'd suggest you start with more variety than just one vegetable, since if you attack on all bases simultaneously, statistically speaking you're going to start liking one of them faster!#

Edit: only source for my claim that I could find which cites a study is here. The study also suggests that babies learn to like a food faster if it comes paired with something they already like, which gives evidence to some the other suggestions mentioned.

There are so many different kinds of veggies, surely something is bound to be palatable, at least when matched with appropriate dressing. Say, baby spinach salad with crumbly feta and sun dried tomato and oregano sauce...

Speaking of dressing, fat/oil doesn't cut down on the nutrients in vegetables, and may make some of the nutrients more available.

I'd like to add: find a source of cheap, tasty salads that are "composed" by people who are better at matching tasty leaves to tasty salad toppings than you are! Salad composition is pretty noticeable; meaning, the range of tastiness between well-put-together, harmonious salads and thrown-together, random salads is pretty big. If you already don't like veggies, then finding salad components and putting them together is too hard anyway, so pay someone else to do it thoughtfully!

Why can't I describe this without using pretentious art words?

[-][anonymous]8y 0

Because they're not actually inherently pretentious, and effectively serve your purposes in the right context?

I hope they're effective in this context! I think the concepts are similar, but I feel weird because I don't want to connote the same importance about salads that artists do about artistic things.

[-][anonymous]8y 2

Mm. Yeah, there's a line, but it's very fuzzy and hard to pin down, and your mileage will vary for any given example. I tend to find reading chain restaurant menus an exercise in pretension (fancy language dressing up far-less amazing food items), but just describing the sensory qualities of food in artsy language is often the best way to say what you actually mean -- aesthetics can totally cross disciplines like that.

Food is at least as important as art. Art only nourishes your mind, but food nourishes both mind and body.

They don't taste good to me. I can find ones I'm indifferent to, as opposed to actively disliking, but if they had no health benefits I would be happy to stop eating them.

[-][anonymous]8y 2

Are you a super-taster by any chance?

i like green leafy vegetables specially those that are really intended for salads. and with the addition of dressing sauce, i'm sure it will taste yummy, as well, good for the health and makes our body more lighter.