“Finish your broccoli,” my mother would say at the dinner table when I was a kid. Noticing that my mother’s plate did not contain broccoli, I would ask, “But, where is your broccoli, Mommy?” Without hesitation, Mommy replied, “I ate mine in the kitchen while I was cooking.” Years later, I found out that was a lie. Mom actually hated broccoli and refused to eat it. She wanted me to grow up healthy, though, so she made me consume spoonfuls of broccoli despite my disapproval.
I am very grateful to my parents for insisting that I eat my broccoli. However, fast forward to the present day, and I can honestly say that broccoli is my least favorite vegetable. I despise it almost as much as my mother does. Perhaps this is genetics, or perhaps it is because I developed a negative connotation with the act of eating broccoli. Perhaps I found my broccoli as a form of torture – something I knew I had to do, but seriously did not want to. Maybe the act of “finishing my veggies” was almost like being punished simply for being a kid. I remember vowing to myself, “When I grow up, I’m not eating anymore broccoli!” Well, consider that vow upheld.
As I grew up, I learned that eating broccoli is not a form a punishment. I also learned that there is a wide variety of vegetables that can satisfy my health needs without torturing me. I tend to gravitate toward vegetables with high-water content, such as romaine lettuce, bell peppers, onions, cucumbers, and peas. Occasionally, I like bitter vegetables like asparagus, brussel sprouts, and kale. I definitely gravitate toward root veggies like carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, parsnips, and taro (you have to love taro if you are going to live in Hawaii).
I do not have a natural tendency to choose or crave vegetables; but when I listen carefully to what my body wants, I can usually identify a vegetable that will fulfill my body’s needs.
For example, when the weather is hot and humid (sorry for rubbing it in, my dear Ohio friends), I almost automatically head to the fridge for a bell pepper or cucumber. I will just snack on one raw or I might grab some choppings, add a little oil, apple cider vinegar, and fresh ground pepper, and make a salad. When I am feeling sick or mentally out of sorts, I tend to throw a bunch of carrots, mushrooms, celery, and whatever else in a pot with some vegetable stock and seasoning to make a soup. I also munch on sweet potatoes and other root vegetables that physiologically and cosmologically make me feel more grounded.
Sometimes I still hate vegetables. Sometimes even the thought of vegetables makes me want to vomit in my mouth and throw a temper tantrum like a child. Of course, I do neither of those things because I am an adult (sort of). Instead, I grab whatever my body tells me it wants and know that the time will come when I will have once again deprived myself of veggies far too long, and my organs and tissues are in desperate need of nutrients. At such time, I will happily and gratefully consume whatever vegetables my body needs, and all resentment toward veggies that may be rooted in my desperate attempts to avoid eating broccoli as a child will dissipate.
My goal is to eat a serving of veggies at every meal. I do not always succeed, for this is still a goal in progress. I also have some stipulations about my veggies that make it challenging to stuff them down when I am uninterested:
- No butter
- No to minimal, and only occasional, salt
- No smothering with cheese
- No dipping in non-food items (super processed dressings and dips)
Wow, when I write it all down it sounds like I am trying to torture myself! I certainly am not; rather, I am trying to keep my veggies pure and unadulterated in order to preserve their purity and goodness. In order to make veggies fun and appealing, here are some of the things I do to make them delicious:
- Add fresh ground pepper and other non-salt spices
- Add a bit of extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar
- Assemble sans lettuce occasionally so that I do not feel like I am eating a salad-salad (and to avoid the gas and bloating it accompanies)
- Add a colorful variety to cooked rice or quinoa
- Use them in tacos, breakfast hash, omelettes, and pastas
- Roast them in the oven or grill them with some olive oil, fresh ground pepper, and a pinch of salt (yummiest)
- Dip them in hummus, baba ganoush, or whatever veggie-based dip I have
There are countless ways to add vegetables to your day. You just have to find the ways that suit your style and taste.
I highly recommend reading the book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. This is no ordinary cookbook – it is more like an encyclopedia for all edible things grown from the earth. The book is not geared toward vegetarians alone, but it is meant to educate and inspire all eaters to incorporate vegetables in their lives in simple and delicious ways.
Have any tricks for adding veggies to a meal? Please share with us! Personally, I still need some help, so any contributions are greatly appreciated! Also, if you have any books you would like to recommend, feel free to list them along with your ideas. Happy vegging!