“I don’t like vegetables” is a common refrain heard in my office. Based on my experience, it seems like there is some sort produce-boycott happening, which is a concerning trend. My follow up question is something along the lines of “are there any vegetables that you do like?”, to which the patient will generally reply with 2-10 or more varieties that they enjoy (or at least will accept). We will also identify some important themes to their disdain for green foods, often relating to their food rules or negative experiences surrounding vegetables, or meal times in general. A lot of my time is spent convincing people to start eating vegetables again; I simply refuse to encourage a diet completely devoid of all the most interesting tastes, colours, and textures.
My concern for vegetable-haters is multi-faceted. First, their assertion is false nearly 100% of the time, so going through life avoiding non-starchy plants is a disservice to themselves. Second, the benefits of a diet rich in vegetables (and fruit) can’t be beat: people live healthier lives when we eat produce. Third, we dietitians are all about balance. A little bit of everything can fit, but the key is including a lot of different things, as able. The preference for fruits is not uncommon, and I have nothing against the garden’s sweetest bounty, but we do have to be mindful of over-consuming sugars and carbohydrates; fruits also tend to be lower in minerals (like iron, calcium, magnesium) than vegetables. A diet pattern lacking in vegetables is inherently unbalanced as the individual is effectively eliminating an entire category of foods from their diet. What sets vegetables apart from other food groups is that, unlike dairy and alternatives for example, the vegetable group represents literally thousands of different plants and foods, all with their unique nutrition profiles and culinary qualities.
While I can understand why a person may believe and act as though they do not like any vegetables, I do not accept this as a reasonable way of eating (outside of documented multi-vegetable allergies, of course; I’m not a monster). The beauty of having hundreds of vegetables to choose from (available year round for most of us in North America) is that if you don’t like one type, you can move on to the next. You don’t ever have to eat brussels sprouts if you don’t want to. Is jicama your jam? More power to you. You’d rather eat parsley as your salad than the garnish, enjoy the fresh herbacious taste my friend. Be adventurous with tastes as well. Perhaps parsnip tasted bad the first time, but trying it again, or maybe prepared differently, it will probably taste a little better. Our taste preferences are often based on what we eat most, so we may not have fully developed our tastes for the less-sweet, more-bitter garden-fare. Thus, if we start eating vegetables more often (with an open mind), we’ll likely find that we like them more than they thought.
I don’t care which vegetables you eat, just eat them.