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Expert Q&A

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Can I learn to like fruits, veggies at age 30?

Asked by Havertown, Havertown, Pennsylvania

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Hi. Since I can remember (3-4 years old), I have not eaten most fruits and vegetables (bananas, tomatoes and a few others are exceptions). Now that I am over 30 years old, is there any hope to "re-learn" how to eat?

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Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

Hi Havertown -- This is an interesting question, especially since most people do not eat adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, so learning to incorporate more of these foods into your diet is important for everyone. This food group is particularly important because of the known benefits of fruits and vegetables for disease prevention, weight management and achieving optimal health. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and phytonutrients in these foods are not the same when they are obtained from supplements, so it is critical to get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

While I am not a food psychologist, I am almost certain that it is possible to "re-learn" eating behaviors with a little creativity in the kitchen. Without knowing more about why you don't like most fruits and vegetables (taste, texture), I would recommend starting with sneaking vegetables into foods that you do like. For example, if you like muffins, try adding shredded carrots to the muffin mix before baking for a beta carotene boost. If the flavor of carrots is too strong, add spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg to mask the flavor. Or try sneaking finely chopped broccoli into lasagna recipes. The cheese, spices and tomato sauce will mask much of the flavor.

One popular book (directed toward kids but appropriate for adults) full of ideas for incorporating healthy foods into recipes is "Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals." It is also important to learn to make vegetables taste good by incorporating them into tasty dishes and recipes. The series of cookbooks by Hungry Girl has some terrific ideas for making vegetables taste great with things like broccoli slaw, faux onion rings, and scoopable salads.

While variety is important to ensure that you get the full scope of nutrients, start slowly and focus on one or two vegetables and one fruit each week. It is particularly important to consume deeply colored fruits and vegetables, especially dark green and orange as per the latest food pyramid guidelines, so focus on these types of vegetables first.

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