Food ideas for vegetable haters

Find ways to get more vegetables into your life, even if you hate them

November, 2017

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Do I really have to eat veg? Really?

The bad news is that yes, you really should. They’re packed full of essential vitamins and fibre, and can help keep your digestion regular as well as helping to lower your chances of heart disease, stroke and some cancers. [NHS_LIV]

The good news, though, is that it might be easier than you think to build more veggies into your daily diet. (And if you struggle with constipation, by the way, eating more veg might help that too.) [NHS_LIV]

Not sure where to start? Never had a vegetable you liked? Try our vegetable-haters guide to sneaking more healthy veg into your diet. You never know, you might even enjoy it!

Find an ‘entry level’ vegetable

Alright, so you don’t like vegetables. But have you tried ALL of them? Every single one? Or is there one you think you could cope with? This is your entry level vegetable. If you can’t stomach anything but think you can deal with, say, mushy peas, then mushy peas it shall be. For starters, anyway.

The idea is that in stage 1 you try to have your acceptable vegetable as often as you can. Maybe there are two or three that you could alternate between, for a bit of variety. Once you’ve got used to having that/those veg more regularly, you can progress to stage 2: widening your circle. The more variety you can pack in, the better. Nutritionists sometimes talk about “eating a rainbow” meaning that you should aim to eat foods of different colours to pack in the most nutrients, as different coloured vegetables provide different vitamins and minerals. Some veg taste quite similar to others, so if there’s one you quite like there’s a good chance you like something else in the same kind of family.

If you like…Why not try…
Tomatoes
  • Other varieties like sweet cherry tomatoes, heritage types in different colours, or the more gently flavoured beefsteak tomatoes
Cauliflower
  • Broccoli, including interesting types like romanesco broccoli (looks like green spiky cauliflower)
  • Tender stem broccoli (often found in stir-fries)
Cabbage
  • Spinach (eat raw or wilted)
  • Bok choi (often found in stir fries)
  • Other varieties, like savoy, white, red or sweetheart
  • Kale
Onions
  • Shallots
  • Spring onions
  • Red onions
Peppers
  • Courgettes
  • Other colours of pepper: yellow, green or orange
  • Cubanelle peppers (sometimes found in kebabs)
Okra
  • Courgettes
  • Aubergines
Carrots
  • Butternut squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Red and orange peppers
  • Parsnips
Green beans
  • Broad beans
  • Sugarsnap peas (often found in stir-fries)
  • Mangetout (often found in stir-fries)
  • Runner beans
Iceberg lettuce
  • Other varieties like Romaine or Cos (sweet), Chinese leaf or butterhead (mild), lollo rosso or escarole (peppery/bitter)
Chillies
  • Rocket (salad leaf with a peppery flavour)
  • Watercress (peppery flavour)
  • Pimento peppers
Cucumber
  • Mild radishes
  • Courgettes (can be eaten raw and chopped into salads)

Hide them

Some people don’t like the taste of certain vegetables, for some it’s the texture. One way round it is to chop them really finely, and hide them in other foods. This way you get all the benefits, with none of the yuck. Ideas for disguising your finely chopped veg might include:

  • Put them in a sauce
    • Mushroom, aubergine, courgettes and peppers all add a flavoursome touch to tomato-based pasta sauces
    • Pumpkin, butternut squash, cauliflower, lentils and chickpeas can all be added to curries and dahls to add taste and texture
  • Use them to add bulk
    • Mushrooms, lentils, chickpeas, carrots and peas can all be added to mince for old favourites like shepherd’s pie, cottage pie, spaghetti bolognese, chillies and lasagne
  • Use them as a base
    • Any vegetables can be put into a soup, and if they’re whizzed up with a blender afterwards you don’t have to worry about texture if that’s what bothers you
    • Winter veg like swede, parsnip, carrots and cabbage can be put into a casserole or stew for the ultimate comfort food

Combine veg with things you love

If it gets you on the road to a more veg-ful life, combining vegetables with some of your favourite foods can be a good way to start. People who don’t like brussel sprouts, for example, can suddenly find them nigh-on gorgeous when they’re cooked with chestnuts. And asparagus can be even more delicious with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

The trick is to not overdo it. There’s no point having bowlfuls of vegetables every day if you’re also having loads of fat and salt as well.

Explore the menu

Eating out is a great opportunity to try new dishes (including vegetables) that you might not have had before, or don’t eat much of. Again, you’ve got to be careful – don’t let your good work with the veg be undone with fat and salt. Making food at home is not only more satisfying and cheaper, it also tends to be healthier as you know exactly what’s going into it. But having Type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat out again – it’s about making better choices where you can.

If you like…Why not try…
Indian/Bangladeshi food
  • A side salad as a starter
  • A vegetable curry (the flavour comes from the sauce, so it’s doubtful you’ll notice much of a difference)
  • Vegetable side dishes like aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) or chana masala (chickpeas)
  • A dhal (lentil-based)
Chinese food
  • San choy bau (lettuce wraps)
  • Stir-fried mixed vegetables
Traditional British food
  • Heaping up the vegetable accompaniments with a roast (NOT the roast potatoes! They don’t count!)
  • Asking for a jacket potato instead of chips
Fast food
  • Adding grilled veg to burgers, and/or extra salad
  • A bean burger instead of meat
  • Switching up the ratio between meat and salad in kebabs, and go easy on the mayo, cheese and other additions
  • Getting beans and salad as side-orders, and get fewer or smaller pieces of deep-fried fish and chicken
Italian food
  • Tomato-based sauces on pasta rather than creamy or buttery ones, such as arrabiata instead of al fredo
  • Salads as starters and side-dishes, asking for dressing on the side so you can control how much is used
  • Stuffed tomatoes or vegetable bruschetta
  • Going for thin crust and load up the vegetable toppings on pizza

Add flavour to your vegetables

A bit like “combine vegetables with things you love”, this tactic is about being a bit clever in the kitchen, and using seasoning, herbs and spices to vegetables to enhance their flavour. A plain salad can be a bit boring. But make it more interesting by adding a low-fat vinaigrette, sprinkling in some seeds or adding a few chopped nuts – just check that the low-fat dressing you use isn’t full of sugar.

Want to make daily veggies your mission?

Try the Better-Living app, and take up the challenge to eat veg every day for 30, 60 or 90 days.

  • Roast vegetables with a spritz of low-cal cooking spray, garlic and herbs for a delicious alternative filling for a lasagne
  • Add a few chopped chillies to anything you find a bit bland, or chopped garlic, spring onions or paprika
  • A touch of ground cumin adds a warm note to soups and casseroles
  • A little squeeze of lemon juice can liven up salads, asparagus or green beans
  • Mushrooms love a bit of garlic and tarragon, and can be baked, sautéed or whizzed up into a soup
  • Chargrilled peppers have a lovely sweet smoky flavour, delicious on their own or on pizzas
  • Stuff peppers, tomatoes or giant mushrooms with brown rice, quinoa, feta, pumpkin seeds, garlic, spinach, black pepper and/or pine nuts for a tasty and filling main course or side dish
  • Make a zingy salsa as a dip instead of high-fat alternatives like mayo or sour cream: fresh tomatoes, red onions, fresh coriander and lime juice are all you need

This article has been reviewed by Nicola Scott, registered Dietician.