I'm not sure at which point of my life I became a person that loves eating vegetables. I do know for sure that wasn't always the case. Quite the contrary, if I'm honest.
When I was younger, I just assumed that enjoying vegetables was some rite of passage into adult life. I had the very unscientific idea that somehow the end of puberty would change my taste buds and I'd become one of those people who just love beets.
For the record, I still don't like beets. But during the first years of my adult life, there was a lot more than just beets on my vegetable blacklist. My myth of the changing taste buds was busted. Even though I do love eating vegetables now, I can tell it's not really because I changed. I just learned to cook them in a way I enjoy. And by "enjoy" I mean: it tastes good and doesn't require me to become a MasterChef winner to do it.
Today I'm sharing with you my favorite tips for cooking vegetables in a way you'll want to go for seconds.
1. Don't force yourself to eat stuff you don't like
I'm sure you know which flavors don't work for you at all. For example, I can't stand beets, have I mentioned it already? But I felt pretty ambivalent towards broccoli or carrots, so that was a good starting point for me.
There are so many different vegetables out there that there's no reason for you to eat stuff you hate. It's okay to have a vegetable blacklist still. Just separate those flavors that make you cringe from those that you just don't care about much. Also, don't be afraid to try new things. If you don't like them, it's more than fine but keep an open mind to make room for serendipity!
2. Cook for satisfaction
This tip isn't only about vegetables, by the way. Cooking bland food that doesn't satisfy you is a sure way to continue disliking veggies and prevent yourself from enjoying more nourishing meals.
Now, cooking for satisfaction isn't about making enough food, so you're not hungry after lunch. Satisfying meals taste good. From a more technical perspective, they also contain all three macronutrients: carbs, fat, and protein.
Related: The Difference Between Satisfaction And Fullness (Intuitive Eating Fundamentals Part 2 - Principle #6)
Now, I'm not telling you this so you start calculating and tracking your macros. Please don't. What I want is that you stop shying away from cooking your vegetables in butter or adding bacon crumbs to your salads.
More often than not, diet plans encourage us to eat bland, tasteless food that doesn't satisfy you. They're also usually short on fats (such as those bacon bits and butter) which are essential for "chemically" triggering that feeling of satisfaction.
Here are some of my favorite ways to pump the satisfaction factor of your vegetables:
- Roast potatoes with melted butter and herbs.
- Brush carrots with a little honey.
- Add some avocados, cheese, and/or bacon bits to your salad.
- Pan fry vegetables in olive oil or coconut oil. Add in some beef and tofu, and you got yourself a sweet stirfry. Bonus point for topping it with some cashew nuts! Mixing different textures is a great way to boost satisfaction.
3. Choose simple recipes
Simple is not the same as bland. The internet is packed full with uncomplicated, yet delicious recipes that you can use. The secret to finding them is to have a strategy beyond typing "easy recipes" on Google.
Here is what has worked for me over the years:
- Pick recipes with less than ten ingredients, ideally less. If something takes ten ingredients, make sure a handful of them are spices. Most of the time, you already have them home, and there's no prepping involved.
- Choose recipes that take 30 minutes or less. If they take more than that, make sure that's oven or slow cooker time. This way you can walk away from the kitchen and go on about your life, or start cooking another recipe in parallel.
- Don't be afraid to substitute. More often than not, you'll be short of one or two ingredients (usually spices). Unless a grocery run is already in your plans, don't let that stop you from cooking. Google possible substitutions. Chances are you have something else home that you can use instead.
- If you can't find a good substitute for a particular spice and the recipe doesn't ask for much (say a teaspoon perhaps), go ahead and skip it. Most of the time, you'll end up with as tasty of a meal.
- Some vegetables are not that convenient to cook on a regular basis. I love roasted butternut squash, but I honestly find it a pain to chop. I also find that artichokes require too much of an operation to eat. I still prepare those now and then, but they're not part of my regular repertoire.
4. Bookmark your favorite food blogs or sites
As you start trying recipes, you'll notice that some bloggers and sites focus more on easy recipes than others. That's perfectly fine. I do know a couple of folks that love taking their time in the kitchen with more involved recipes.
That's not me, and likely not you either. Pay attention to sites you keep going back to and bookmark them. These days, I access my shortlist of blogs directly instead of resorting to Google to find recipes. I know for sure those will please my taste buds and my inner lazy girl.
Some of my favorites:
5. Cook with what you have at home
I do envy people that get super specific with their meal prep, but that doesn't work for me. We visit our market once a week and just pick whatever looks good on that day. This helps us avoid the frustration of coming up with a very involved meal plan, only to find out the market is out of one or two key ingredients.
Now, when you don't have a very detailed plan, you need to make improvising less of an art. Trying to come up with meals that use what you have at home can be overwhelming, so with time I came up with a few guidelines to make that work:
- Let one vegetable run the show. If I have a bunch of zucchinis home, I'll do a quick search for "zucchini recipes."
- Steer away from roundup posts. Often Google will return you a bunch of roundup posts, like: "25 Yummy Zucchini Recipes". I find those a bit overwhelming. There are just too many options, and it's hard to separate the easy recipes from the hard recipes without ending up with a bunch of tabs open.
- The Search box is your friend. Remember the sites you bookmarked on the last tip? Most of them have search boxes you can use, or maybe even an index of recipes per ingredient (Gimme Some Oven does that). Just search for "zucchini" in there, and I bet you'll find something to cook.
- Get roastin'. Roasting is my favorite way of cooking most vegetables. It's not both super simple (chop-chop-chop, season, forget it in the oven) and super tasty. Remember: roasting is for more than just potatoes. Check this guide from The Kitchnn to learn how to roast anything.
Like most meal preppers, I do save one day of the week to get my cooking done (usually Sundays). I'll pick three or four following the steps above, and then I have a lot of options to mix and match a bit. I usually have a choice of meat + two choices of vegetables for every meal.
Over to you!
If you already joined Team Veggies, what are your favorite tips for cooking them? If you haven't already, why not pick an easy recipe and give it a shot today or tomorrow? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Let me know how it goes in the comments! And make sure to join the 48-Hour Green Smoothie Challenge for a quick and easy (and delicious!) way to up your fruits + veggies game:
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