Vegetables are undoubtedly declared the healthiest foods around. When you throw in the fact that many of us didn’t grow up eating them, they take some preparation to taste good, and that kids are slow to warm up to them, you got yourself some barriers.
We are starting with you, the parent, because how you feel about vegetables sets the foundation in the home. Here are three barriers that may be holding you back — and what to do about them.
The Should Syndrome
In a 2001 study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education, researchers examined the meaning of fruits and vegetables in the lives of 10 couples (aged 20-60). One theme that came up was something they called the “should syndrome.” This was the tension created by the low status of such foods growing up coupled with their idealization in society.
What happens is people know they “should” eat their veggies, but these foods never became habits or preferred foods. In essence, they are associated with guilt and the enjoyment factor is low. One reader wrote in with this very dilemma: “My biggest challenge is vegetables. I know they are so good for us but honestly, I have never really enjoyed veggies, so I never prepare them.”
What to do? If this is a problem for you, then you need to do for yourself that was never done for you: expose yourself to different vegetables. There are so many ways to enjoy them. Take it slow, and allow yourself to drop what doesn’t taste good and favor what does. Research shows that people who eat fruits and vegetables consistently, do so for taste as much as nutrition.
Vegetables as a Negative
Stephanie was put on her first diet when she was just 7 years old. She remembers having to eat vegetables while her friends and siblings enjoyed cake and ice cream. Now that she is an adult and has dieted on and off for years, she realizes she has come to view vegetables as punishment for being overweight.
Another negative could be being forced to eat foods like veggies as a child, something discussed in this post.
What to do? It’s important to remember that certain circumstances helped create this view of vegetables, not you. Changing negative perceptions takes time but acknowledging the root cause and letting go is key. For example, Stephanie dropped dieting and learned a new way of viewing veggies — and felt no guilt for adding fat to make them extra tasty.
The Cooking Factor
Cooking has been my biggest veggie barrier. I became interested in vegetables after high school. This was around the same time I got a job waiting tables at a place called “Skinny Haven.” As the (bad) name implies, they made food light and healthy and I enjoyed their vegetable dishes and salad bar. I have always had access to vegetables through my jobs waiting tables and as a health professional (often for free!) or through take out like at Whole Foods. But cooking vegetables was never my specialty!
I know it can be frustrating to buy vegetables, only to find they have gone bad by the time Friday rolls around. Preparation may be the toughest barrier yet — but it can be overcome.
What to do? What has worked for me is experimentation and planning. I have rolled my sleeves up and tried many different dishes. Roasting, salads and raw veggies with dips are my personal favorites. To keep the food waste down, each week I plan which veggies will be used for meals including raw and cooked.
So tell me, what’s your veggie story? If you enjoy veggies what has helped shape that? What barriers have you overcome? And if you still struggle, what do you think is holding you back?
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