WASHINGTON — It’s not exactly a shocking statistic: 25 percent of adults and 7 percent of kids eat vegetables daily.
Yeah, yeah, they’re full of nutrition, but eating them can feel like a chore — for good reasons. “They’re slightly bitter,” said Sally Squires, who writes the Lean Plate Club™ blog. “Texture is also a big problem.”
So how exactly does one work around this in the kitchen? One way, Squires said, is to take a cue from Mary Poppins and add sugar.
Recent university studies support it: Researchers added small amounts of sugar to vegetable slurries made from broccoli, kale and spinach. “They found that by adding increasing amounts, that they could really make these things more palatable but they didn’t have to add a lot,” Squires told WTOP’s Mark Lewis and Debra Feinstein.
This plays particularly well with kids, Squires said, as they have heightened taste receptors for sweetness. And it doesn’t require much to bring out the vegetables’ natural flavor.
“Some of the home-cooked Asian recipes will call for a teaspoon of sugar just to take the edge off of some of the bitterness,” she said.
Because the amount used in the tests was small, Squires said, it didn’t undercut the vegetables’ nutritional value. If even a small amount is still too much sugar for you, consider adding fruit juice, a sweet-flavored vinegar (like balsamic), nuts, dried fruits or cinnamon. A fat like butter or olive oil, too, can make them more palatable.
And if you want to make the flavor more savory but minimize sodium, spices can be substituted for salt.
Another suggestion: Take advantage of the inherent sweetness of such vegetables as baby carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Tomato soup, hummus and guacamole offer sweeter nutrients along with a more pleasing texture.
“There are a lot of things that we can do that will push kids towards really enjoying vegetables,” Squires said.