I’ve been wanting to write about this subject for a while. I know quite a few people who tell me they don’t eat vegetables. I will admit, I don’t understand why someone would outright say they will not eat vegetables. Without vegetables, it’s tough to eat healthy. You’re left with a lot of unhealthy foods. But, I digress. This post is not about bashing people who hate vegetables. It’s about understanding what’s behind the issue and working on ways to overcome those issues. I believe most people who say they hate vegetables can come around to eating them. Maybe not every single one, but some. There are vegetables I don’t like, for example, rutabaga and bitter melon. But preference for some over others is one thing, but avoiding them all together is different and not healthy. From observing many different people over time, here are the four reasons I see as why someone will not eat vegetables:
- Control issues
- Their parents did a terrible job cooking vegetables when they were kids.
- Phobias and other mental illness
- Super tasters
The first two I believe someone can overcome. The last two are physical or mental illness that is not that is easy or can be overcome. These factors are listed in the literature as well. Ellis, et al. (2018) and Sollai et al. (2017) talk about the majority of these issues. There are a multitude of issue with eating vegetables. Here are my thoughts:
One thing I have observed in many people who don’t eat vegetables is they don’t have control over their lives, but the one thing they can control is how they eat. I’ve seen this in people who are very shy or don’t have very strong personalities all the way to people in unhealthy relationships and control freaks. They feel they can’t control their own lives, but they will at least enjoy what they eat. I think eating vegetables broadens your mind and allows a person to live a fuller life through trying new things. I the case of this type of person, it might be time to get some help with the underlying issue on why you need that kind of control. That way one can release their unhealthy relationships around them and develop healthy patterns including healthy eating.
Parents cooked lousy vegetables
This one I think is the easiest to overcome. We all know the parent who couldn’t cook a good meal to save their lives. Poorly cooked vegetables can create an aversion. Take for example the Brussels sprout. If you boil them, they turn into a smelly, slimy and bitter mess. Not very appetizing. Now cut them in half and roast them in olive oil and garlic and they are divine. I’ve seen people go from hating them to loving them purely by changing the cooking method. If this is the case for you, change the cooking method and maybe you will turn out to love more vegetables than you think.
Phobias, mental illness, and supertasters
These require a lot more help. The supertaster cannot change. But that is a whole different ballgame than picky eating. Everything tastes strong and very bitter. A supertaster likes food, but only eats very bland or weakly flavored things. There is nothing you can do if you are a supertaster.
Phobias and other mental illnesses should be handled with care and work with a professional. A food phobia can have serious consequences. Recently a boy in the United Kingdom went blind from eating nothing but Pringles, white bread and french fries. If you have a phobia of vegetables, make sure to get some help. While the boy in the UK is an extreme example, but the consequences to your health from not eating any vegetables could be great.
Ellis, J. M., Schenk, R. R., Galloway, A. T., Zickgraf, H. F., Webb, R. M., & Martz, D. M. (2018). A multidimensional approach to understanding the potential risk factors and covariates of adult picky eating. Appetite, 125, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.01.016
Sollai, G., Melis, M., Pani, D., Cosseddu, P., Usai, I., Crnjar, R., Bonfiglio, A., & Tomassini Barbarossa, I. (2017). First objective evaluation of taste sensitivity to 6- n -propylthiouracil (Prop), a paradigm gustatory stimulus in humans. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep40353