Vegetables…nope. Few of us eat enough of them. Neither do our kids. It’s that nagging thought hanging over every grocery store trip and meal prep. Why is this so hard? And why is there such a disconnect between what we think we should eat and what we actually cook up for ourselves and our family?
I think there are at least four reasons (excuses?) that we offer up to ourselves to justify ignoring the most universally agreed upon nutritional proposition of this generation. And I think there is one more that I suspect we believe but don’t want to say out loud. These reasons have varying degrees of legitimacy, and the solutions have varying degrees of difficulty. But let’s walk through them and see if we can find some places we can grow and some baggage we can leave behind...
1. Vegetables are kinda gross. Now, personally, I don’t feel this way, but I understand why a lot of people do. And the reason begins with genetics. Scientists have discovered that while 25% of tasters, like me, have very little resistance to bitter tastes (which are especially high in green veggies), 25% of the population are considered “super-tasters” and are extremely sensitive to these bitter compounds. The second reason is often texture. Everyone knows the feeling in your mouth of overcooked brussels sprouts or broccoli. That slimy, mushy mouthfeel with those bitter flavors can make you think you are eating a bowl of pond scum. Mmmm…delicious.
2. Vegetables are hard to cook. It is true that for some veggies, there is a narrow window between “raw” and “mush.” And it seems like other veggies take FOREVERRRR to cook, and if you are starting dinner at 5:30 or 6 pm, you don’t really want to be sitting down to eat at 7 or 7:30 with kids to get to bed, dishes to do, and the rest of life to live before collapsing in a heap.
3. Vegetables are boring. This normally comes down to us not being exposed to a variety of vegetables, and being hesitant to buy things we haven’t eaten or cooked before. While there are plenty of adventurers among us that will try new things without much provocation, most of us feel some barrier of entry to trying new things, whether that is food or activities or learning new skills. So instead of venturing out, we stick to what we know. If I had to guess, I’d say most of us serve broccoli (probably frozen), corn (canned or frozen), canned green beans, maybe a salad, the occasional mixed vegetables, or begrudgingly, frozen peas. Some of us have ventured out to asparagus in the Spring, brussels sprouts in the Fall or cauliflower in the Winter…with varying degrees of success.
Am I close? The problem is, of course, if we are trying to eat vegetable at most dinners, we pretty much are repeating the same dishes every week. And that is boring.
4. Vegetables are expensive. So here is the real rub, right? Produce is not cheap, it spoils pretty fast, and it just doesn’t seem to be worth it. Are there ways to save some money by shopping around, buying seasonally, and getting creative with CSA’s and other local farmers? Yes, of course. However, we may need to address something else here that is more foundational than hacking the veggie economy. Maybe we are asking for too much. Maybe expecting excellent, healthy, fresh food to be cheap isn’t reasonable. If that is the case, are we stuck?
5. Vegetables aren’t really that important. Come on, you can admit it. We’ve all thought it at times. Despite the research and news reports, I’ve gone through seasons of my life where I was lucky to get one helping of veggies every day, never-mind five! We live long stretches of life eating and feeding our families “meat & potatoes,” easy meals that are heavily processed, carry out, pizza, or fast food. And we are surviving just fine…right?
Over the next few blog posts, I want to expand on these five arguments and look for solutions that fit busy schedules and tight budgets. I think all five of these are valid explanations to our vegetable aversion, but they might not be the end of the story.
In the meantime, I want to hear your vegetable horror stories. What was (or still is) the vegetable you cannot stand? And if you have one, a funny story about trying to choke it down. We are not alone, people! We can conquer our vegetable fears together!