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(Not) Vegging Out

I hear it all of the time, “Joe won’t eat his broccoli, how can I get him to at least try it?” Just so you know, Joe (who can also be Sue) is either a full-grown adult, a teenager or a child. Many people (of all ages!) are averse to vegetables and balk as soon as they hear even a hint that they’ll be making an appearance at the dinner table. Is all hope lost? Is it possible to turn your veggie-hater into a veggie-lover? My answer – yes! And I’ve got some helpful hints and tips to make it possible.


1. Start with What They Like

So carrots are the one food your veggie-averse family member likes? Great! Support that love by keeping carrots in the mix while also adding in new veggies. For example, when you make your favorite roasted carrots, add complimentary vegetables that taste great roasted. How about parsnips, onions, and even potatoes!

2 . Keep it Interesting

Perhaps they aren’t so “into” your steamed veggies, because, well, while they’re made with tons of love, they totally lack flavor. Have no fear! There are other great ways to prepare veggies – and creativity is key. Consider stir-frying vegetables with flavorful ingredients such as ginger and low-sodium soy sauce. Or try grilling them – slice squash into planks and marinate in balsamic vinegar and grapeseed oil, then grill. See? It’s easier than you thought!

3. Spice it Up

Spices are under-utilized, especially when it comes to preparing vegetables. Roasted broccoli is good, but roasted broccoli with Chinese Five Spice sounds way better, right? Don’t be afraid to try spices as they add another layer of flavor and interest. And spices don’t have to mean heat, they can be mild in flavor too. So if you’re not into heat, try spices like cumin, ginger, cinnamon or allspice. My advice? Keep it simple. Unless you have an awesome recipe for a “blend” of spices, stick with just a couple to prevent your creation from turning into an inedible dish.

4. Add some Herbs

Just like spices, herbs add a special touch of flavor to vegetables. Dried herbs can be added during cooking, but save delicate, fresh spices for finishing dishes. Need some ideas? How about tossing diced sweet potatoes with olive oil and dried thyme then baking them until fork-tender and lightly browned? Or what about grilling some halved Roma tomatoes and finishing with some sea salt and black pepper along with freshly sliced basil. Drooling yet?

5. Focus on Familiar

Let’s go back to the idea that people don’t like to stray too much from what’s familiar. Knowing that, consider building veggie-full dishes in ways that celebrate familiar favorites. For example, make fries, but use both Russet and sweet potatoes. Or when you make spaghetti, toss in a can of no-salt-added diced tomatoes or tomato puree. Introducing more veggies this way is definitely less intimidating!

Now that you have my 5 tips and hints, it’s time to put them into practice. To help, I’ve sourced some great recipes to get you started. But by all means, feel free to experiment, as you know your family best! And good luck!

Recipes For the Veggie Averse:



Sara Haas is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) based in Chicago, Illinois. She works primarily as a freelance consultant dietitian and chef, and writes on her own blog at She’s been helping people for almost 15 years to understand the importance of nutrition on health and well-being. She can be seen on television doing cooking segments, or on the radio lending her voice for nutrition-related PSA’s, or even in some of your favorite publications giving tips on nutrition.

We’re thankful to have Sara answering nutrition questions here on the Plan to Eat blog. Send your questions to Sara by filling out this short form.

  Leave a Reply

  • Dicing veggies up into small bites and adding them to something you normally make is great for individuals with string aversions to vegetables. (Eg Spaghetti, scrambled eggs, rice, etc- add bell pepper or spinach diced small). The smaller texture usually helps it be more palatable.

    Kayla September 14, 2016 AT 4:19 pm
  • Definitely keep it interesting.

    I remember the first time I had fresh Brussels sprouts roasted in the oven. They were a completely different veggie than the soggy, frozen ones from the microwave!

    Thanks for the information!

    jolene September 14, 2016 AT 1:55 pm
  • At some point in my childhood, I hated either broccoli or cauliflower. It’s been so long I don’t remember which it was. But a beloved aunt pointed out the similarity between the two veggies, which inspired me to be more willing to try it.

    Debi September 14, 2016 AT 1:08 pm
  • My BIL hates most veggies. Recently we all went camping together and I made a lemon zucchini loaf and a chocolate zucchini loaf. I cut up both loaves and put them out on the table for people to grab to have with coffee or as a snack and he had a few slices of the chocolate one and seemed to like it. He never asked what it was so I never said anything. Sometimes it’s about being creative and hiding veggies in food they will eat until you can get them to the point of being willing to try it,

    Anna Fike September 14, 2016 AT 12:36 pm

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