Does the sight of a Brussels sprout make you go 'urrgh' or the whiff of a sardine turn your stomach? If so, you're not alone. It's not only children who turn up their noses at certain foods, adults aren't averse to this kind of behaviour either.
Unfortunately, many of the foods we love to hate provide also us with the greatest nutritional benefits and avoiding them could mean you’re missing out on vital nutrients. However, just because a food doesn’t appeal to you in one form, doesn’t mean you won’t like it cooked another way. And you never know, you may find your taste buds actually like something you once swore would never pass your lips again.
Reasons why we don't like some foods
Our dislike of certain foods can be narrowed down to a few simple facts:
Taste and texture;
It’s true some foods aren't as pleasing to the palate as others. If it came to a choice of boiled vegetables or fried chips, the majority of us would probably opt for the chips. And strong smelling foods can put people off for life without having ever tasted it! Luckily, the taste and smell of many foods can be altered, improved or even disguised completely.
Childhood food association can have a lasting effect on our adult diets. If you were forced to finish food you disliked or perhaps given soggy, unappetising vegetables, it's understandable not wanting anything more to do with such poor fare. Likewise, it's common to resist a food if it once made you sick after eating it.
Fortunately, it’s possible to break these negative food associations by trying them in a different form. And you may be pleasantly surprised. So don’t let your unhappy perception or experiences of a particular food put you off forever.
Common hated foods
Food preferences can vary widely between cultures, however, vegetables often feature highly on the most hated food lists. This is unfortunate as they provide some of the greatest nutritional benefits. Not only are vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals, they provide fibre which is essential for good gut and bowel health.
Green vegetables such as spinach or Brussels sprouts can have quite a bitter taste when eaten alone. And broccoli, often seen as public enemy number one, is commonly left off the menu. However, broccoli is rich in nutrients that help fight cancer as well as providing a good source of calcium. It’s high in fibre and weight for weight, broccoli contains more vitamin C than an orange.
Many people also avoid fish, either because they don’t like the taste or they simply don’t know how to cook it. Often the only fish they’re familiar with is when it’s in finger form and covered in breadcrumbs. While some fish have a mild taste - plaice or cod, others such as mackerel or sardines have a much stronger flavour that many people don’t like.
Sardines and mackerel are oily fish and contain high levels of the omega-3 fatty acid. This is essential for keeping our brain in good working order and we should try including at least 2-3 portions of oily fish in our diet each week.
Learning to like your hated food
Food can be cooked and presented in a multitude of ways. If you've always boiled your vegetables in plain water, try poaching them in vegetable stock. This adds a little more flavour. Or lightly steam them and gently saute in garlic, olive oil and mustard seeds. Adding herbs and spices makes all the difference to the flavour.
Methods of disguising disliked food includes pureeing them into sauces, soups or smoothies along with plenty of other ingredients including herbs. Some fruits such as blueberries aren’t to everyone’s taste when eaten alone. But try blending a handful of blueberries with half a banana, a handful of spinach and half an avocado for a delicious, nutritious and creamy smoothie.
Stir frying is a fantastic means of including a wide variety of food. The high heat used helps preserve essential vitamins as food is cooked very quickly. Start with basic ingredients such as chopped garlic, ginger and spring onions and add a range of evenly-sized chopped vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach. Experiment with adding different sauces like soy or tamari, and chilli then drizzle over a little sesame oil and you'll make even the most unappetising food taste wonderful.
Roasting vegetables adds a whole new dimension of flavour to bitter veg such as Brussels sprouts and bland flavours like cauliflower. Roasted vegetables develop a lovely sweet taste so you may find you actually like them. Throw in whole garlic cloves with your roasting vegetables then squeeze the inside of the garlic out and mix with the roasted veg. Try chopping a variety of vegetables into a similar size, say, red onion, chopped garlic, aubergine, courgette, sweet potato, pumpkin, broccoli and cauliflower and placing them into a roasting tin. Drizzle over some olive oil and roast in a hot oven for 30 minutes.
So remember, by eating a wide and varied diet, including plenty of fruit and vegetables is the best way to reap the benefits of their nutritional content. The greater the variety of food we eat, the better for our gut health and immune system. Don’t be afraid of trying something you haven’t eaten for a long while. You may find it’s not that bad after all.