Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
16 Nov

How to Eat More Vegetables

It’s been my experience that people rarely have trouble eating more meat when going Primal. Sure, former vegetarians may struggle with the transition, but the average omnivore usually welcomes the opportunity to indulge more often. Vegetables, on the other hand, seem to present more of an issue. We don’t live in a very veggie friendly culture. Vegetables get a bad name from the overcooked, colorless portions served in schools to the tiresome model of bland “house salads” across America. (Can we all just agree that iceberg lettuce is just a handy wrapping agent – for real food?) I get emails and comment board questions from time to time asking how to incorporate more vegetables into a Primal Blueprint diet. Sometimes they’re from self-professed vegetable haters. Other times, folks are just looking for tips to expand their limited horizons in the produce section or in the cooking realm. Fall might not be the height of farmers’ market season, but it’s a good time to up your antioxidant intake. Why put off making a positive change? Let’s dig in.

Train Your Palate

I always tell people you *can* train your taste. Sure, chocolate will probably always taste better than broccoli, but as you distance yourself from a daily onslaught of sugar, salt, and processed additives, you’ll begin to appreciate the taste of freshness in all your food – vegetables included. Be patient with the process (and yourself). Take it as slow as you need to.

Start with the veggies you already like or sort of like. Work more of them into the meal rotation more often. Use them raw in one dish and cooked in another. Chop them finely in one meal and use large chunks for dipping at snack time. Start your own list or cookbook to record your favorites.

Add One Quality Vegetable At a Time

Go to the best farmers’ market or produce department you can. Buy the best quality you can afford. Start with just a little of each new thing. Get plenty of inspiration from your favorite cookbooks and online recipes (like here of course).

Have Fun With It

Host a potluck, have each family member make a dish, or go out to dinner with the weekly veggie theme in mind. That way you’ll get to try a vegetable prepared differently in several dishes. You’re bound to like at least one.

Learn to Cook Each Vegetable

Guess what – no one likes green beans when they’re cooked to an olive-colored mush. The same goes for limp asparagus or soggy eggplant. Here’s where I think cooking shows can come in handy – when they aren’t just carb orgies. (Anyone out there want to bring the Primal Blueprint to the “Next Food Network Star”? I take an oath to actually watch the show from start to finish and post updates on your progress here.) Good cooking magazines and cookbooks often give more detailed recipe instructions or ingredient guides, which can be handy. That said, many vegetables are better raw. Stay open-minded.

Don’t Underestimate Good Seasoning and Accompaniments

Cut yourself some slack early on, and use dips, sauces, and dressings as you need them. As your taste adjusts, you’ll depend on them less. If you’ve been Primal for a while now, use your favorite recipes to your advantage. Dip vegetable sticks into meat juices or mushroom sauces (works great with cauliflower, BTW). Whip up a jar of Primal ranch dressing or tzatziki for some some raw veggies.

Look beyond the typical dip ideas, however. Try the veggies at hand as a hot side dish with an Asian (stir fry!) or Mediterranean sauce. Add some umami with some good quality cheese if you do any dairy. (Gratins aren’t just for potatoes.) Or mix your veggies with some fruit while you get used to the new tastes.

Yes, You Can Eat Vegetables for Breakfast

Now for the nitty gritty of a day’s menu. Like eggs? Throw in diced bits of a single vegetable (or more) when making scrambled eggs or an omelet. Mince it if you’d rather not taste large chunks. Or blend some kale or spinach into a smoothie. Add a splash of fruit juice or a handful of fruit if you need to. As you get used to one, look at adding another.

Envision a Better Salad

First, experiment with better greens. If it’s your least favorite part of any salad, minimize the greens portion and try out alternatives. Baby spinach and romaine, for example have more flavor than iceberg but are still pretty tame. Butterhead varieties and endive are a few of the mildest leaves. For more flavor, try dandelion and other “weed” greens, radicchio, or a peppery arugula. Shred some red cabbage or throw a few kale leaves in there to mix it up. While buying whole heads or loose stock leaves gives you the freshest (and usually cheapest) option, consider trying pre-packaged mixed greens to test out what you like the most.

That said, a good salad is so much more than the greens. (Sometimes, there are no greens to be had period.) Here’s where the veggie of the week idea can come in handy. Use the vegetables you like already and throw in a new one every few days. Don’t limit your salads to veggies only. Just about any salad, if you ask me, tastes better with some meat or even a little cheese on occasion. Do a chef salad, a salmon Caesar salad, or a broccoli, scallion, and carrot slaw with some marinaded beef. Then get bold and add to the mix over time. If texture is an issue, try a chopped salad.

Veggie Snacks Can Be More Than Carrot and Celery Sticks

I personally love a crudite platter, but it can get old if you never mix it up. Invest in a dehydrator and make vegetable “chips” with everything from kale to zucchini. Season generously, and enjoy. Use the leftovers from the previous night’s veggie adventure as a snack, or do a butter leaf wrap with a vegetable-rich tuna or chicken salad. Good readers, I know you’ll have plenty to add here!

Sneak Them Into Your Favorite Dishes and Comfort Foods

One of the best meals I ever had at someone else’s house was shrimp cooked in a Greek vegetable and feta sauce. I never would’ve guessed it was just tomatoes, green pepper, scallions, olive oil, and herbs with feta. The longer things cook, the more the flavors become blended into something wholly new and rich. Use this principle to your advantage. Add minced veggies to your favorite chili, stew, or soup recipe. Mash some root vegetables and serve it with garlic butter, homemade gravy, or plain meat drippings.

Anyone ready to eat now?? Thanks for reading today. Be sure to share your own ideas for enjoying vegetables Primally. I’ll look forward to reading your tips, questions, and recipe ideas. Have a great week, everybody!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Organic herb blend salad (from the store), chopped apples & avocado, toasted nut & seed mix (whatever’s available, toasted in a pan with butter or coconut oil & a teensy bit of salt, and kept in an airtight container in the fridge for just such an occasion – or with baked squash, sprinkled on steamed veggies, or baked or fresh fruit), or raw nuts or seeds, a little tuna perhaps. I baked eggplant the other day for babaganouj, and nibbling as I so often do when cooking discovered that eggplant is surprisingly sweet. Yum.

    Margi wrote on November 16th, 2011
  2. I never had a big problem adding veggies into primal eating. After failed attempts at vegan eating and USDA pyramid-style eating, I had already traded in servings of grains so I could have more servings of meat. But in order to make my meals feel like meals, I needed side dishes, and in my mind, if you don’t have rice and potatoes, you just have another vegetable!

    Certainly some very delicious recipes from MDA helped, too. I happen to remember a fennel and carrot side dish quite fondly…

    I also agree that you can re-train your palate. I used to tolerate veggies but love fruit, but once I gave up the grains, I realized that veggies have their own fabulous sweetness.

    Tonight, I made a pumpkin “lasagna” with spaghetti squash, zucchini, and a cashew “cheese” (I don’t tolerate dairy) mixed with pumpkin puree, all in layers with sausage. I couldn’t get over how fabulous it was! And now, if my husband eats a dinner that doesn’t involve veggies, his first thought is “Where are the veggies?” Dinner isn’t complete without them!

    Deanna wrote on November 16th, 2011
  3. Talking about eating more vegetables…has anyone else seen this…

    Oh dear…..

    Rio wrote on November 16th, 2011
  4. You can’t go wrong sauteeing pretty much any vegetable in olive oil, garlic & chopped onion. Flavor with salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes, or whatever suits your tasted.

    Chris wrote on November 16th, 2011
  5. I love veg. Recently I served a broiled steak and potato with roasted broccoli. I tossed the broccoli with olive oil and crushed garlic and then sprinkled some grated gouda cheese on it. It was incredible. the carmelized and melted cheese with the broccoli was unbelievably delicious. All 3 eaters thought it was better than the steak!

    misha wrote on November 16th, 2011
  6. I have not probs eating veggies – love them roasted, but I can’t eat too much meat – it messes up my digestion. I’m thinking of trying primal, but don’t think I can handle eating a lot of meat. What I am eating now is grass fed, so that’s not a prob. I need to figure how to make the transition.

    faith wrote on November 16th, 2011
  7. Dan speaks the truth! Any green cooked in tasty, tasty fat is to die for. I’m convinced it’s what I’ll do to get my future kids to eat their veggies 😛

    I made some collard greens yesterday that I cooked in some brown butter and some coconut oil, garlic and chili pepper flakes. Absolutely delicious, and so simple!

    pat wrote on November 16th, 2011
    • Pat, how do you get brown butter?

      Anne wrote on November 22nd, 2011
  8. My fav way to incorporate veggies are:
    Spinach a whole bunch
    cold water
    coconut water
    in a blender 😀
    That dark green stuff is the best for me :3
    Anything cold or fresh is my fav anything dark green id say.

    Sergio wrote on November 16th, 2011
  9. “add veggies to your chili”…. BLASPHEMY!!!!! You have gone too far Mark Sisson. I’ll put veggies in my frittata/quiche thingy, replace my mashed taters with whipped cauliflower, and serve a wonderful chipotle whipped butternut squash….

    But I will not add veggies to my chili. My chili is home to 3 types of fat laden meat, melded together with copious amounts of spices that add various levels of heat. I suppose I can conceded that roasted tomatoes are a veggie…. wait, or is a tomato a fuit????

    greg wrote on November 16th, 2011
  10. I’ve really enjoyed this thread. I’ve gotten lots and lots of great ideas! To share a little bit with the MDA community, I’ll link to this good veggie site: I’ve found some good recipes there.

    mommaofmany wrote on November 16th, 2011
  11. Try radicchio leaves as a taco shell, works out just great! :)

    Johanna wrote on November 16th, 2011
  12. for all those asparagus haters out there, give this a try…take young asparagus, chop the woody stems off the bottom, wrap around two or three stalks in streaky bacon or salmon, and grill until the bacon/salmon is cooked and the asparagus is slightly browned.
    Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon and some salt and pepper.

    it makes for a really nice starter, or you can just eat a whole heap of them for dinner! mmm…

    Kat wrote on November 16th, 2011
  13. Maybe it’s hidden up in one of the earlier posts, but I have discovered a great way to get veggies at breakfast.
    Put a pan on low heat and melt a little butter in. Put in eggs (however many you eat) break the yolk or lightly scramble. Salt and pepper to taste and throw a healthy handful of fresh spinach leaves on top. Cover and let cook slowly until the eggs are set and the spinach is wilted. I add a sprinkle of good quality parmesan cheese. Yum!

    Ann wrote on November 17th, 2011
    • I make something similar to that, Saute some fresh or frozen chopped spinach in butter or bacon fat then stir in eggs & scramble & when almost done sprinkle in some crumbles of feta. Yum.

      Keet wrote on November 17th, 2011
  14. I found that cauliflower and broccoli are excellent as a replacement for bread to soak up sauces in curries! Every time I make curry, I find myself making more sauce than needed so I can have some to soak up!

    Also, I never knew this, but shiitake mushrooms mixed into Red Thai curry are amazing! I just threw some in as an experiment yesterday, worked a treat!

    Veggies for breakfast – I always make a side salad in the AM. I can’t stomach anything sweet in the morning, or after a fast in general. Too bland? People in Europe and the US don’t use aromatic herbs more than a sprinkling; in Russia we eat them as vegetables. I’m talking dill and coriander in particular. Salad onions+sliced, juicy tomatoes + cucumber (sometimes I throw in my home-pickled ones!) + big bunch of dill and corriander + EVOO = heaven (make sure you slurp up the juices at the end).

    When ‘bull’s heart’ tomatoes (huge, kind of lumpy, skin a little milker and pinker than that of a regular tomato) are in season, we mix them with soured cream. Heaven, I’m-in-heaven…

    As far as the trained palate is concerned, I think Primal has given me super-taste buds. I tried some 90% dark chocolate yesterday and it was just too sweet. Back to 100% for me. :-)

    Milla wrote on November 17th, 2011
  15. I agree with you…Infact, I just did something very similar yesterday. I don’t like cauliflower that much so I invented my own recipe and tasted AMAZING

    Fatless Formula wrote on November 17th, 2011
  16. Mark is wrong about the meat. I’ve been trying to add meat to my diet for over a year. When I see the prices, I back off. I will buy an occasional non-pasteured (junk) chicken, but that’s about it. I have bought some unidentified meat from a butcher who doesn’t speak English, but then I fail when trying to cook it and it’s unchewable.

    Maggie wrote on November 17th, 2011
  17. Had greens for breakfast this morning.

    shannon wrote on November 17th, 2011
  18. I like the ideas others are talking about here but, I am a purist/boring. I have always been salad obsessed. I eat a super large salad every single day-usually for dinner. It consists of organic baby spring mix,1/2 of a grilled chicken breast or 2 grilled chicken tenders, homemade bacon bits (pastured pork, of course), 2 boiled eggs, 1/2 of a cucumber and 2 baby carrots added for color. I also make steak or sometimes shrimp salads with slightly different ingredients.

    I also eat creamed spinach and more broccoli than any one person should.

    I definitely want to try the roasted brussel sprouts someone mentioned above. I am typically brussel sprout hater but I would be willing to revisit them if cooked properly.

    Anjanette wrote on November 17th, 2011
  19. Forgot…I always eat omelets on the weekends. I use chopped spinach or swiss chard,tomatoes, mushrooms (sometimes), and good quality organic cheese.

    People who don’t like veggies should buy a juicer and try getting them into their diet that way. Blending them with apples can make almost any veggie taste better.

    Anjanette wrote on November 17th, 2011
  20. I bought a Vitamix last year and have been enjoying vegetable and fruit smoothies. Because the plant is broken down you get easily absorb the nutrients. Also the glucose spike from any fruits should be avoided by the fiber from the vegetables.

    Ben wrote on November 17th, 2011
  21. My recent marriage has opened up a whole new world of vegetables to me. My husband is from Mexico and has show me healthy Mexican food. Everything is centered around vegetables! My best advice for loving salads… Limes! Squeeze a fresh lime on just about any fruit or vegetable and it really brings out a wonderful flavor. Yesterday we had a salad- small amount of lettuce, boiled carrots, sweet potatoes and eggs, tomatoes and apples, all in small chunks. Drenched in Lime juice, sounds so strange but was delicious!

    Christin wrote on November 17th, 2011
  22. Two words: grilled salad. Slice open a tight head of lettuce (romaine and iceberg would probably work the best), drizzle some olive oil and salt and pepper, and lay down on the grill! Whether you add regular salad toppings or more grilled veggies, it is FREAKING amazing and helps to give the salad a really nice savory flavor.

    Also, this is a recipe I used to make even before going primal, and everyone who tries it asks for the recipe. It’s hummus made with beets instead of chickpeas…

    Elizabeth wrote on November 17th, 2011
  23. I had veggies for breakfast this morning, scrambled with organic eggs. They were leftover steamed carrot and butternut squash, fried in chicken fat with eggs added for the last two mins – yummy!
    Now – off to cook dinner, organic Irish beef burgers with veggies…

    Paleo Irish wrote on November 17th, 2011
  24. Try celery root salad.Shave off the outer tough skin,slice thin strips (grate with cheese grater or use a mandolin).Blanch for 2 minutes in boiling water, drop into bowl of cold icy water.Drain and dry. Transfer to a bowl and add: sea salt/pepper, lemon juice (1 lemon) 1 spoonful of mayonnaise or yogourt and one spoonful of dijon mustard. That’s it. I keep a bowl of it in the fridge and match with chicken, porc, fish…and add a couple of tomatoes, slices of cucumber or radishes.

    Christine wrote on November 17th, 2011
  25. As a newcomer to the Primal world, into my second week only, the hardest thing for me is walking past the chocolate always available in my office.I caught myself with a piece in hand the other day, without realizing I was actually eating it! Now I try to keep a bowl full of shopped celery, apples, cucumbers, radishes and bananas on my desk. Any tips to counter the office demons?

    Christine wrote on November 17th, 2011
  26. I know this is off topic but I’m confused about the alleged ill-effects of sugar. I’ve read that tablesugar is one part glucose/one part fructose. I’ve also read that fructose is the more evil of the two molecules. But aren’t most (digestible) carbs in vegetables fructose? So, if we consume 100-150 grams of fructose by way of vegetables, how is this different from consuming the equivalent amount of fructose by eating several chocolate bars? Thanks to all who answer.

    Lee Waaks wrote on November 17th, 2011
    • the point is to get the maximum nutritional bang for your buck, and not to overdo the carbs; if you eliminate grains, legumes and sugar, and eat your carbs from fruit & vegetables, the amount of carbs you get won’t be big enough to cause weight gain; as Mark says, you can go pretty crazy with veggies and still barely scratch your carb limit.

      Technically, you can survive with no carbs at all. They aren’t necessary. We don’t need to eat veggies for the carbs, but for the health benefits that make eating those few carbs worth it.

      True, you could get those carbs by any means; you could down cupfuls of broccoli and greens (and get tons of cancer-fighting antioxidants, fiber and also deliciousness – broccoli with butter? nomnomnom!); or you could eat a couple of hersheys or whatever sweet gloop they sell and get no nutrition whatsoever, as well as harmful frankenfats and chemicals you might expect to see on bottles of detergent.

      The health benefits of veggies and (in moderation) fruit outweigh the unnecessarity of the carbs, especially as the amount of carbs you get from veggies won’t kill you.

      Milla wrote on November 18th, 2011
  27. @lee waaks

    Valid question. And yes sugar is sugar is sugar. And fructose is what comprises most of the sugar content in fruit.

    But the question lies in the feasibility of the delivery of the contents. Let’s take you average run of the mill apples & bananas. Each have around 25 g of sugar. Will you really eat 4-6 of them in a day? I’d venture no. But sugary laden snack foods with concentrated level of sugar, you could pretty easily consume almost on accident.

    The other factor is fiber. Fruit has fiber for a reason. It is the antidote to the fructose. The fiber counters or blunts the fructose’s effect on insulin in the body.

    For a better, much more in depth explanation , google “dr. Lustig bitter truth abou sugar.”

    Greg wrote on November 17th, 2011
  28. mmmm… Thank you US Congress. Pizza is my favorite vegetable too.

    tsherry wrote on November 17th, 2011
  29. I don’t have a problem with veggies because I am a former vegan and my wife is Chinese.

    So, I would like to deviate a little and get your opinion on red wine and white rice in the Primal diet.

    Sean wrote on November 17th, 2011
  30. Guess what – no one likes green beans when they’re cooked to an olive-colored mush. The same goes for limp asparagus or soggy eggplant… many vegetables are better raw. Stay open-minded.

    That’s simply wrong. I, for one, find any vegetable which is at all crunchy deeply unpleasant, so at least one person – me – likes green beans when they’re cooked to an olive-colored mush etc. (though they’re even better cooked properly, i.e. a little beyond al dente). In fact, mushy peas are traditional in the North of England.

    It is just about impossible to get properly cooked carrots at restaurants these days – and, if you can prevail on the cook to cook them properly, he or she won’t know how to do that and still keep the flavour (hint: use thin slices, test them with a fork to find out when they have softened, then cut off the heat immediately but leave them a couple of minutes for the heat to work some more, and afterwards butter them just a little).

    And damned few vegetables are better raw – basically, only the fruits that are designed to be eaten to spread the seed, though even those are often laxatives – for the simple reason that the plants have evolved chemical and other defences against being eaten and we have to work around those with various tricks. You don’t believe me? Why do you think peeling raw onions releases vapours toxic enough to make you weep? Or you can try eating raw cassava sometime, if you dare – but most people who eat it prefer to use the steeping and cooking approach to get rid of the cyanide. So, no, don’t stay open-minded, check all this to find out the truth for yourself and stick with that.

    P.M.Lawrence wrote on November 17th, 2011
    • after years of eating pressure-cooked cauliflower (20 minutes minimum), I am finally eating just blanched cauliflower and actually liking it. I still don’t like cooked peas. Raw or blanched, yum! cooked, not so much. Frankly, this is what I like almost the most about Mark’s approach: stick your toe in the proverbial waters; try it out; learn; go with what works for me within the assumptions. Oh, what I like most? BACON! hahahahahha!

      Mary Anne wrote on November 18th, 2011
  31. My niece totally hates vegetables, and her mum was on a constant battle with her to get her to eat her greens. Then, when they came over, I cooked us dinner, and made bacon-wrapped brussels sprouts and butternut squash roasted in goat’s butter with pecans; now she’s a full convert and loves vegetables! So, basically, spice it up!

    Milla wrote on November 18th, 2011
  32. We actually have some excellent vegetarian cookbooks on our shelves by Irish restaurant owner Denis Cotter. The emphasis is heavily on the vegetables, and so there are many delicious and creative ways to prepare common and unique seasonal vegetables. Of course, he’d probably personally be horrified that we then accompany his creations with a bit of grilled meat, but it keeps us happy!

    Sue wrote on November 18th, 2011
  33. On the breakfast front, raw radishes make a nice pair with eggs.

    Craig wrote on November 18th, 2011
  34. I also pledge to watch “Next Food Network Star” beginning to end, and vote repeatedly, if there is a Primal contestant.

    Timbo wrote on November 18th, 2011
  35. Salad never impressed me, until I discovered Arugula, Spinach Leaves, Kale and real homegrown Tomatoes. Finally, salad has some taste to it, without drowning it in most corn syrup-laden French Dressing brands.

    VMan wrote on November 18th, 2011
  36. I go for color as my guide, and I can never go wrong. Too much green can be tedious, so I make sure my plate is colorful, and then I know my veggie experience will be tasty. Radishes, bell peppers, red cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, various squashes make for a delightful flavor combo. Another little trick I’ve learned while overcoming my “mountain-of-rice-under- my-ood” addiction years ago is to instead have a bed of cool shredded cabbage under my savory meats – that way I can have the filling sensation of rice with my food. The texture of the cabbage is very nice constrasted with the meat – especially with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and your favorite seasoning.

    Pablito wrote on November 18th, 2011
  37. Try this cauliflower recipe. It is very tasty and easy to make.
    Separate cauliflower into florets (not too small). Boil cauliflower until almost cooked through (not too soft, but not too hard). Then dip into a mixture of beaten eggs with some salt and pepper (can also add shredded cheese) and fry it up in a pan on all sides. Enjoy :)

    Tanya wrote on November 18th, 2011

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