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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!