Buy the Babies
In some vegetables, flavors intensify as the plant matures, which is why the so-called baby versions have wider taste appeal with just as many health benefits. Experiment with baby artichokes, turnips, squashes, and carrots (the ones sold in bunches, with greens still attached—not those sold in plastic bags, which are simply regular carrots, trimmed down).
You can find the babies at larger supermarkets, specialty grocers, and farmers’ markets; some, such as younger brussels sprouts, can even be bought frozen. Not only do many people find baby vegetables more flavorful and less bitter, but they prefer the texture too: Younger vegetables are more tender and require less cooking, says Barbara Klein, PhD, professor emerita of foods and nutrition at the University of Illinois. “And they’re sort of fun.”
Oil 'Em Up
Years of fat phobia have conditioned us to shun oils whenever possible. But judiciously using fats—especially heart-healthy ones like olive oil—can go far in helping you love your veggies. When fat binds with seasonings and spices, it can transform vegetables from a duty-diet item to something downright yummy, Klein says. And the link between vegetable avoidance and certain cancers is strong enough to justify the extra calories if it gets you closer to your recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Try it: Drizzle olive oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet of broccoli and bake in the oven at around 375 F about 40 minutes—it’s delicious!
Raw veggies probably aren’t the first thing you crave when a snack attack strikes, but you’ll be much more tempted to eat them when they’re dunked in hummus, low-fat dip, or your favorite salad dressing. Try munching at work or even in front of the TV—sometimes, taking veggies away from the dinner table makes eating them feel like less of a health chore.
Ever wonder why the Chinese tend to consume so many more vegetables than Americans, including the strong-tasting crucifers such as broccoli? While it’s true that Asians are less likely than Caucasians to have an extreme sensitivity to bitterness, the real secret is blanching, a technique common among Asian cooks, says Klein.
Steam vegetables for 30 to 60 seconds, then remove them from the heat and drop them in cold water. “That stops the strong flavors from developing,” Klein says. Stir-frying also preserves flavor by cooking quickly.
Cook Brussels Sprouts Faster…
If you normally find that sprouts taste too strong, turn them into a delicacy: Slice diagonally, and separate into rings. Microwave with a little water, butter, and plenty of caraway seeds just until done, suggests cookbook writer Lori Longbotham, author of Better by Microwave.