The hardest thing for me about starting a vegan diet about four years ago was getting used to different things. New tastes. New textures. New routines. New habits. It’s why people give up before they start. It’s why people disregard new diets before even trying.
How about a little encouragement? You can do it!
Maybe you think about getting healthier by eating more vegetables. Maybe you learned information about the environment and you want to help. Whether you’re dipping your toe in the water or going whole hog (ha ha!), I have a few suggestions. I’ve been there!
When I began, I really didn’t like beans. I started with hummus. Now I eat different beans almost every day. I think they’re just magic! How did that happen?
Let’s get into the details of how you may expand your palate.
1. Start simple
Begin with a neutral base. A bed of lettuce. A plate of spaghetti. A pile of rice. Mix in a few vegetables you already tolerate. If you only like tomatoes, use tomatoes. Season the plate any way you find appealing, maybe using one of your favorite sauces or dressings. Next week, throw in a vegetable, bean, grain or seed you never tried before. Each week, see what new food you can try. Before you know it, you’ll be eating the rainbow.
2. Try, try again
Experts say it takes thirteen tries before a food is accepted. If you don’t like something the first time you try it, give it another! You don’t have to eat a lot. Be your own experiment. Is thirteen your lucky number?
3. Wait for your tastebuds to die
My daughter likes to joke that the reason I like a lot of food is because I’m older and all my tastebuds have died. She’s a funny young whippersnapper, but she’s also right.
We are born with more than 10,000 taste buds. As we age, we have fewer taste buds. Those we have become less sensitive. So, while kids push spinach to the side of the plate complaining of a bitter flavor, adults don’t get the same strong flavor signal to the brain. They eat the spinach.
If you avoided a certain food ever since childhood, stop being childish and give that food another try!
4. Keep it all in the family
If you enjoy sweet vegetables, like corn for example, try related tastes. Maybe cubed sweet potatoes, carrots or parsnips. If you like potatoes, keep new flavors neutral. Maybe spaghetti squash, zucchini or eggplant. Sometimes, it’s not the taste you don’t like, but the texture. Find the food texture you like and try a new food with a similar texture.
As for me and beans, I found chickpeas most appealing. I made them into hummus. I added them to salads. I got used to them. I began to enjoy them. Chickpeas led to french lentils, which led to white beans, which led to red beans, which led to whatever beans! I threw them not only in salads but into soup and chili.
5. Make it a game
One of the things I enjoyed when I started was going to the local farmer’s market and looking for something I never saw before. I remember buying kohlrabi for the first time. I took it home and searched the internet for how to cook it. I did the same for celery root, cassava and fennel. This is a good way to get out of ruts you don’t even know you’re in!
6. Play hide and seek
We’re all just big kids, and we don’t mind when nutrients blend into their surroundings. Muffins are a wonderful vehicle for hiding healthy stuff! Zucchini and carrot shreds. Bananas and pumpkin puree. Applesauce and raisins. Hide it all in there!
7. Stay hungry
I took a series of vegan cooking classes several years ago. At the start of class, our teacher gave us each a mug of hot water flavored with fresh lemon juice. (It’s a detoxifying drink, don’t you know?) That’s it. We spent the class duration chopping, talking and cooking. By the class end, we were so hungry, we eagerly ate everything placed before us. Hunger and anticipation: two powerful tools for your palate expanding efforts.
Louie and Kelly have both in abundance!
Wait for it!
If you’re patient, you’ll get the treats: good health and a clean environment!