3 Reasons you might not like vegetables and 3 things that you can do about it [infographic]

3 Steps to prepping and loving your veggies

Vegetables are awesome! …Health-wise anyways.

  • They are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytonutrients that your body uses to function well.
  • They are voluminous, filling you up and keeping you fuller for longer while containing minimal calories. That’s win-win right there!
  • They are full of good fibre that feeds our good intestinal bacteria and improves our gut health.
  • They can provide a huge amount of variety to meals, making healthy eating more interesting and enjoyable.

But, they aren’t always awesome taste-wise, right?

For some people (like me), veggies are delicious, but for others (like the old me and most other people it seems) they don’t taste great at all!

If you follow me on Instagram or hang out in the Sleekgeek Facebook Group, you will likely be familiar with what a typical lunch looks like for me (packed to the brim with brightly coloured foods).

I never used to eat like this though.

I used to eat like a toddler. The more bland, simple, refined the food the better.

Precision Nutrition have just published a fantastic article + Infographic titled What to do when you don’t like vegetables, and I would like to share some of their key insights with you.

(P.S. Elan, Meg, and myself are all Certified Precision Nutrition Coaches as we are huge fans of their approach to nutrition and health in general.)

3 Reasons you might not like vegetables:

First, know that flavour is complicated and taste is very personal.

  • There are 4 main flavours: Salty, sweet, sour, and bitter.
  • There are also 4 lesser known / newer flavours: Fattiness, spicy, umami, and kokumi.

Out of these 8 flavours, bitterness is the predominant problem when it comes to disliking vegetables.

Bitterness typically comes from chemical compounds called alkaloids, which are used by plants, fungi, and bacteria to defend themselves from things like parasites, pathogens, and animals that might want to eat them. In extreme cases, bitterness strongly correlates with poisonous or at least potent effects of consumption, so we have evolved to quickly detect (and spit out if need be) their bitterness.

If you think about vegetables from this angle, it makes perfect sense to be at least somewhat wary of bitter tasting foods. It also explains why our taste preferences tend to develop over time, from very mild, bland, and intolerant as babies to more bold and adventurous as adults as we gain a better understanding of what will and won’t kill us.

Reason 1: The flavours you were exposed to in the womb:

Basic flavour preferences are passed on before birth.

This means that what your mother ate before and during pregnancy can have an impact on your taste preferences.

This is why a 6-year-old in Thailand can easily tolerate the ultra hot dishes that I absolutely cannot eat even as a grown man.

Likewise for the veggies.

Reason 2: Your genetic makeup:

Much of our tasting response comes from a substance in foods called 6-n-Propylthiouracil (or PROP for short).

Some people find this substance overwhelmingly bitter, while others literally cannot taste it at all.

The stronger your genetic ability to taste PROP in foods, the less tolerate you tend to be towards bitter or stronger tasting foods in general (including salty, sweet, sour, fatty, spicy, umami, and kokumi).

If you like things such as hoppy beer, grapefruit juice, kale, tonic water, espresso, and olives then you are probably on the lower end of PROP tasters. Likewise, if the thought of those foods and drinks make you shudder then you are likely on the higher end of PROP tasters.

Reason 3: What you have learned and practiced:

Before you throw your hands up in dispair or gleefully scratch veggies off your shopping list without any guilt whatsoever…

Of these three factors, what you have learned and practiced is probably the most important.

This is about conditioning and familiarity. Our palates can get used to flavors when we taste them over and over again.

Case in point: Most people don’t like the taste of coffee or beer the first time they taste it, but can quickly grow to absolutely love the taste – the enjoyable high or buzz we get from them helping to speed up the process. Likewise, with eating less sweet foods and more bitter (or at least seemingly bitter) tasting foods, we can make those tastes less or more familiar and condition our taste buds.

3 Steps to enjoy your veggies more:

The overarching takeaway (as with most things when it comes to health and fitness) is that you have a certain “natural” predisposition, but you can have a dramatic influence on that through “nurture” (i.e. your practice and exposure).

I used to have a very immature palate and be just about allergic to exercise. Through practice and exposure, I’ve come to really enjoy healthier tasting foods and relish physical activity. You can too.

Your taste preferences are not set in stone, if you hate bitter flavours (like veggies) you can change that… if you want.

Whether you’ve never eaten a green thing ever, or just want some new ways to eat veggies, Precision Nutrition has a simple formula plus a handy infographic that you can use to make bitterness less intense, more palatable, and much more enjoyable:

Step 1: Challenge.

Simply challenge yourself to eat a bitter food. Something that you wouldn’t normally eat or enjoy.

Just suck it up and eat. Beast mode!

Research suggests that we may need to try new foods many times before we’ll tolerate or like them. So, challenge yourself regularly. You might be surprised about what happens.

Step 2: Complement.

Tell that veggie how sexy it looks.

No, wait, complement, not compliment!

A key to making food taste good is to pair it with other flavours that create a sort of “flavour harmony”.

Generally, spicy, sour, or salty flavours make bitterness more palatable.

Examples include pepper, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, vinegar, wine, salt, mustard, cheese, etc.

Step 3: Cushion.

Pairing bitterness with certain flavors can soften bitterness dramatically.

On your tongue, you have a variety of receptors that send information to your brain about what you are tasting.

However, you can usually only send a certain number of signals at a time.

Sweet and fatty flavours in particular really overwhelm and interfere with those bitterness signals, cushioning the harshness.

Examples include honey, syrup, berries, nuts, oils, etc.

P.S. You may be shuddering in horror at all those sugary or calorie-dense foods, but you only need a tiny bit, not a cup.

What now?

Full Infographic:

Source: Precision Nutrition

If you are like us and absolutely love infographics too, check out what else we have featured here.


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  • Shana Grobler

    I love the tip about telling that veggie that it’s damn sexy hehe complement the hell out of that veggie haha love love love! Thanks for the awesome post

  • Micaela Vilarinho

    Pair different flavours together to create a flavour harmony! Like adding spices to make a veggie or dish more palatable

  • Annalisa Berry

    A key to making food taste good is to pair it with other flavours that create a sort of “flavour harmony”.

  • Candice Jane Haughton

    Simply challenge yourself to eat a bitter food…just suck it up and eat!! BEAST MODE 😄😁

  • Hannes En Vivien Erasmus

    Best tip i read was to add complementary and cushion flavours to veggies to make them more palatable

  • Nicole Jacob

    An easy way to incorporate flavours and
    veggies is to include it in your meat dish like bolognese with carrots, tomato and celery

  • Abigail Miles

    A tip to enjoy your vegetables more is to create a flavour harmony. So one must try pair flavours that compliment each other to make the experience more enjoyable.

  • Hermien Elago

    Complement… Pair veggies with other flavors to create a sort of “flavor harmony.”
    Nom nom nom!

  • Tracey Obery

    Challenge yourself – go at it beast mode, you may not like it to begin with but a challenge can be fun

  • Jessica Jane Nel

    “Cushion” is a good one – Pairing bitterness with certain flavors can soften bitterness dramatically.
    A delicious side dish I like to make is brussel sprouts with crispy bacon and sauteed onions. You can do this to broccoli, to spinach, to lots of veg – good ol bacon and onion will save the day!

  • Ronel du Plessis

    Challenge yourself to eat veggies. Even if you think or know you don’t like it.

  • Kate Mary Pearce

    Challenge – challenge yourself to go for it…. i hated veg, now i cannot imagine not eating veg!! All about taking it one day at a time, one veg at a time…

  • Ilana Kretzmann Chirombo

    Thanks for the great post! I think it’s so important to challenge oneself to try new foods and finding a way to make something more palatable by pairing it with the right flavour complements would be the best way for me to go about it. I have tried radicchio and found it so bitter! But I’ll give it a try with goats cheese, peppers and honey as recommended!

  • Amelia

    STEP 3: Cushion

    Definitely! I have been doing this for years and it makes such a difference

  • Barbara Northmore

    Step 3 definitely. A small amount of something like honey can make all the difference.

  • Faheeza Rangunwala

    Thanks for a the awesome tips. We have all struggled with vegetables at some point in our lives, for me I could never eat brocolli without a cheese sauce of some kind…I am on a mission to include veggies in every meal as a staple. I am a strong believer thatbwe should enjoy every meal, so my challenge is to make them yummy. Firstly, Pinterest and google are my go to guides to create or recreate recipes. The most important thing is to know your spices and oils. This will make or break your dish. Make sure they compliment each other, I am going to use your guides to assist me.

  • Adriana Prins

    Step 2: Complement. I am going to tell those veggies just how damn sexy they are 🙂

  • Maronice Prins

    Step 1 CHALLENGE👧💇👦
    Simply challenge yourself to eat a bitter food. Something that you wouldn’t normally eat or enjoy. Suck it up and eat. 💪BEAST MODE💪
    #ChallengeBringsChange.
    If you not gonna try it you’ll always wonder🤔
    I couldn’t stand the taste or smell of Kale I’m now a bit used to it😄

  • Crystal McLeod

    STEP 2: COMPLEMENT. I love pairing great flavours with my veggies to give them variety. (Esp when I prep for the week, it is nice to have a variety of flavours). I love using chilli flakes or lemon in addition to freshly ground black pepper.

  • Jacobus

    My steamer is my hero. I pop my meat/chicken or fish in the steamer with whatever veg is around and 20-25min later dinner is served…add spices to flavour the food during cooking.

  • Tracey Prigge

    Complement is the way to go! Veggies are so yummy if you add a bit of extra flavour!

  • Candace Orme

    Complement! Add a little love!!

  • Natalie Lazarus

    step 3 cushioning – Pairing bitterness with certain flavors can soften bitterness dramatically. works for me – I like to add dash of honey to my baked mix veg – yummy

  • sarah

    “Tell those veggies how sexy they are” 😉 anything tastes better when adding a little bit of flavour! Complement is definitely key and helps me overcome the veggie demons everyday!

  • Janet Watson Perry

    Excellent advice thanks, although I love most veggies (we are vegetarian hahahah) but the flavour harmony will work well with some of the more bitter ones I tend to avoid!

  • Nicolette Nunes

    Cushion.

    Pairing bitterness with certain flavors can soften bitterness dramatically.

  • Melissa Pamela Ticconi

    STEP 1: CHALLENGE! I used to hate trying new foods but now after making myself try new foods I love it! You never know unless you try it. There is a whole new world of yummyness out there to discover 😉

  • Rochelle Kay

    As a Food Scientist, I found this article very interesting and informative. 🙂 My fav tip:
    Pairing bitterness with certain flavors can soften bitterness dramatically.

  • Lizaan du Toit

    Step 2: I found that adding spices really helps when i have to eat something i dont like. Garlic and chilli do wonders. Now, having gotta used to most veg there isnt much i dont eat

  • Marina Sassman

    I love the article and how it discusses the specific flavors that can be problematic for many. I also enjoyed the personal input of the author which is valuable too. I I personally don’t have problems eating any veggies, I really enjoy all and try to mix them up. I certainly will try more combinations with some healthy fats and other flavors to pair my greens with.

  • Roxanne Strydom

    #Complement – A key to making food taste good is to pair it with other flavours that create a sort of “flavour harmony”. I agree with this 100% Choosing the right palatable flavours has helped make food veggie consumption easier for me in my current weight loss #41kgslost #credenaturaloils

  • Shaun Matthews

    STEP 1: CHALLENGE. – as you get older your taste buds definelty change, and trying new veggies broadens your choice, also if you have kids and they see you trying all new stuff they will folllow

  • Nina Du Plessis

    Buy as fresh & organic as possible or grow your own. They just taste better. Also mix and match the veggies you do like & do not like so you don’t end up with a plate of food you do not want to eat.

  • Nadia

    My fav tip and the one I apply to myself when it comes to a couple of bitter veggies is

    STEP ONE : Challenge yourself

    Just suck it up and eat. Beast mode!

    Love it ! Also , most if the time it isn’t as bad as you expect it to be

  • Johnno

    Simply challenge yourself to eat a bitter food. Something that you wouldn’t normally eat or enjoy.

  • Nolene Khritkin Grobler

    Challenge, Complement and Cushion. Mix and match that way you can find your favorite

  • Tasquane Hufkie

    Simply challenge yourself to eat a bitter food. Something that you wouldn’t normally eat or enjoy.

    Just suck it up and eat. Beast mode!

    Research suggests that we may need to try new foods many times before we’ll tolerate or like them. So, challenge yourself regularly. You might be surprised about what happens.

  • Ferne Kalamer

    Be creative with veggies. They don’t have to be bland and boring. Make some healthy butternut fritters. Have some cauli rice/mash. How about some zucchini noodles. There is so much you can do and it makes eating healthy much more fun!

  • Sarah Jane Mollers

    Complement – A key to making food taste good is to pair it with other flavours that create a sort of “flavour harmony”.

    Generally, spicy, sour, or salty flavours make bitterness more palatable.

    Examples include pepper, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, vinegar, wine, salt, mustard, cheese, etc.

  • Mignon Bekker

    Wow! What an informative article. I would try and apply all 3 steps as a combination to see which works best. Very interesting blogpost!!

  • Shaakira Mohamed Allie

    I actually pictured myself talking to the carrot 2nite about its nice figure and talking to my brocolli until I read Complement!! NOT COMPLIMENT. HAHAHA STEP 2: COMPLEMENT. hahha Tell that veggie how sexy it looks. I actually pictured myself ..but yeah I love the method of complement as this is how I get hubby and kids 2 eat their veggies up, just yesterday I had grilled sweet potato and roasted carrot with mixed herbs:

    A key to making food taste good is to pair it with other flavours that create a sort of “flavour harmony”.

    Generally, spicy, sour, or salty flavours make bitterness more palatable.

    Examples include pepper, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, vinegar, wine, salt, mustard, cheese, etc.

  • Natasha Nosworthy

    Get colourful, be bold and complement yourself and your food 😉

  • Talisa du Preez

    Well – my take on this is play with veggies – Trial and error – Try out different cooking methods, flavour pairings and different types of veg till you find your favorite match, come on who doesn’t like adding Garlic? And the best thing about veggies you can eat a LOT – full tummy = Happy me 😀 ! and this full tummy full of veg is going to make you feel good and give you abs like slabs. AAAAAND when you get use to different styles of cooking, adding flavours ect to your veggie bowls you can impress your friends with your Jamie Oliver skills. Who is the real winner here?

  • ANUSHA NAIDOO

    An absolute interesting and informative article.
    Loved this:
    Complement, not compliment!
    A key to making food taste good is to pair it with other flavours that create a sort of “flavour harmony”.
    Generally, spicy, sour, or salty flavours make bitterness more palatable.
    Examples include pepper, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, vinegar, wine, salt, mustard, cheese, etc.

  • Pavitra Naidoo

    I totally agree with pairing veggies with complementary flavours/spices. It makes it way more enjoyable.

  • Roxanne Clifton

    I definitely will give this a try.

    My own sample combo will be a new take on Creamed Spinach

    STEP 1: Pick a vegetable to try – Spinach
    STEP 2: Complement with Salty (Feta Cheese)
    STEP 3: Cushion with onions
    Method of cooking sauté

    Thanks for this article.

  • Patrick Alexander Dudgeon

    I’ve been doing this for a while now, properly seasoned veggies are a must with every meal! I’ve found oven-roasting the absolute best for root veg, and a simple steam or panfry for leafy greens, especially with a bit of healthy fat like green beans with almonds, spinach and Olive oil… delicious!

  • Amber Jasmin Wiggill

    I love the idea of chall
    enging yourself to new things. Its how I learned to like onions and avocado 😬😬🍅🍎🍏

  • Melissa Naude Matthee

    My take on enjoying veggies the same as Sugar becomes addictive the more you consume it. Surely the more you eat veggies the more you will enjoy it and definitely the combinations together make a difference.

  • Lynnith Andreou

    Great article! I have a prob with most veggies, pugh, so I think i will definitely try these tips, best one being that it takes a few tries of something to get used to it. I can’t give up to quickly, and with 3 youngsters, I would love to set a good example….phew

  • Haley Abrahams

    Good tips. I love pretty much all veggies cooked – still struggling with my raw veg smoothies though. So cushioning is probably the best tip for me.

  • Jacqueline Katzen

    Step one: challenge. It’s important to try new things, you might just enjoy them

  • Frieda Paton

    Complement and cushion! My mamma was a great cook and veggies, raw or cooked, were never served without something added. I have always loved my veggies and a meal without them is not a meal.

  • Celeste Smit

    I love veggies, I love how the compliment a dish and isnt just a side. Veggies are truly versatile and with the right seasoning it can be amazing.

  • Kelly Adams

    Complement (and compliment 😉) – pair your ‘sexy’ veggie with a complementary flavour to balance out the bitterness. Salty 🌊 sour 🍋 or spicy 🌶 work best 👌🏻

  • Chanel Stephanie Pillay

    My favourite tip is complement. I love to cook and I love adding in herbs, spices and other healthy condiments. You can make just about anything taste amazing this way.

  • Tumi Nqoko

    I love complementing most of my veggies with some lemon and pepper to add a simple yet fresh lightness to them 👌🏾🙌🏾

  • Candi Leppan Bracken

    Kale is awful, but tahini is wonferful, so I guess I will give the raw kale, tahini and lemon juice combination a try.

  • Nimisha Sharawon Dya

    Complement is the way to go. I find that if you do this there is a higher chance of the veges getting eaten. Lol.

  • Cheran Batohi

    Very interesting article. I like the cushioning method. Not so much of the sweet and sugary stuff though. In moderation, it sounds like a good way to get kids to as enjoy different types of veggies.

  • Charlene

    Hi. I love this article. It really is so true if you compliment and cushion veggies become an essential part of your daily diet. I’m indian and most older folk love eating a herb called Meti am not sure what the English name is and we usually pair it with eggs to help with the extreme bitterness. I tried cooking it for a few minutes in mince and spices then i put it onto an oven tray put abit of egg salt cream over it a thin layer of cheese and baked it was too die for and totally lchf which is the lifestyle I follow. I never cooked it b4 but was surprised at how yum although very slighly bitter most of the bitterness was masked in flavors

  • Chantelle Heydenrych

    I definitely like the tip of cushioning the vegetable with a sweet or fatty flavour.

  • Brenda Fernandes

    A key to making food taste good is to pair it with other flavours that create a sort of “flavour harmony”. This resonates with me it’s so true …mustard power paprika rosemary my best veggie pals

  • Tanya Erasmus

    I love veggies THANK GOODNESD!! but I must agree with paring veggies makes to more enjoyable

  • Anchané Botha

    I love the second tip, complement! I’ve tried it before and realised that by just adding a few great spices to something that you won’t normally eat, makes that veggie taste amazing!

  • Wardah Mohamed

    Pairing a veg with a complimentary flavour which you enjoy; stir fried broccoli tossed in garlic is one of my favourite ways to do this.

  • Lindsay Ann Versfeld

    I loved reading this article, especially about the genetic make up of each person and the reasons that some people love veggies while others hate them. Thanks so much for giving us sample combos as well. I am sure that this will prove extremely helpful. I will definitely keep trying the tastes I don’t like and pair them with other flavour combos and see what happens! My resolution for this year has been “consistency. – Thanks SG

  • Sandra D

    Ha, ha, love it – Suck it up, beast mode! gonna put the family on training camp – suck it up, it’s better than gruel! 🙂

  • Melantheran Samuel Naidoo

    Pairing bitterness with certain flavours can soften bitterness dramatically.

  • Fairuz Marcus Ebrahim

    STEP 2: COMPLEMENT.

    Tell that veggie how sexy it looks.

    No, wait, complement, not compliment!

    A key to making food taste good is to pair it with other flavours that create a sort of “flavour harmony”.

    Generally, spicy, sour, or salty flavours make bitterness more palatable.

    Examples include pepper, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, mustard, cheese, etc.
    Will be trying this one first. And there’s nothing wrong with giving the carrot a compliment… as my mom always said.. ” it’s all in the mind my dear” lol.

  • Jayde Scorer

    STEP 2: COMPLEMENT. Id say this would be my favourite step. Spice your veggies up a bit, try new ingredients or spices every night and find out what you like best (Flavour harmony). Giving your veggies some new interesting flavours can be interesting. You never know, you might create something magical 😀

    And then tell your veggie how sexy it looks.

  • Elmarie Meyer

    adding flavours from nuts, oils, berries or honey to cushion the bitterness of veggies is a great idea

  • Fareedha Khan

    I totally loved this blog post, the best point has to be “A key to making food taste good is to pair it with other flavours that create a sort of “flavour harmony”.” I totally agree with this point. You need to look forward to this diet that you have made a commitment towards.

  • Laksh

    I lived in Italy for 4 years, and prior to that could barely tolerate bitter veg. (even though I’m vegetarian) But, while there I was exposed to so many bitter greens like chicory and radicchio and others even more bitter, that we don’t see in SA. In time I grew to love them- now I miss them in my SA diet. They often steam/boil, then lightly sautée with olive oil and lemon or chilli, embracing the bitterness. Now I’m trying to share my love with my friends here (I also learned to drink strong espresso and eat blue cheese there, which now makes sense…)

  • Candice Pietersen

    Love butter or coconut oil for all my leafy greens when I saute them then sprinkle with some salt and pepper. The saltier the better. But a blob of butter on top of steamed veg is always a winner

  • Nickie Sale

    I love how you have created combinations of veggies to make them more palatable. Its definitely a tip that’s worth trying. Also being creative with vegetables, for example “hiding”vegetables in dishes. You can put grated vegetables in mince, when I make soup I put all sorts of vegetables in, then blend it, make stock with vegetables which you can use in a number of ways.