I didn’t enjoy eating meat as a kid. So you better believe when I left home for college and wasn’t relying on others to prepare most of my meals, it didn’t take long before I became a vegetarian. The thing is, I wasn’t a huge fan of vegetables – or even a whole lot of different fruits – either. They were never pushed on me when I was little. And I wasn’t exposed to a wide variety of them until middle school, when my mom married an incredible cook. Suddenly our kitchen was filled with vegetables I’d never even heard of before, like artichokes and asparagus. Even with my stepdad’s influence, I wasn’t very adventurous in the produce department.
So while I easily gave up meat (with the exception of seafood) 20 years ago, I am proof that it is easy to be a vegetarian and still have a less-than-stellar diet. I was queen of the ever-convenient cold cereal in college. My reign continued after graduating, when I didn’t make much money, because it was relatively inexpensive, quick and fairly satisfying. I ate it a lot as a sleep-deprived, energy-sucked new mom, too, because it required no time to prepare and no thinking: pour, add milk, consume.
Body Back forced me to clean up my act, as fresh fruits and/or vegetables are a part of every meal. One of the green vegetables I felt comfortable eating was fresh spinach, so I started buying the baby version, in organic form, in bulk at Costco. I quickly surprised myself by how many handfuls I would willingly eat – whether raw in a salad or smoothie, or cooked down and added to eggs, a stir-fry or whole-grain pasta dish.The re-introduction of spinach then led me to experiment with other fresh leafy-green vegetables, including the now-trendy kale. Getting added sugar and processed foods out of my system left me with a clean palate. So not only was I eating more vegetables and fruits – many of which I thought I didn’t like – I could really taste and enjoy them.
Getting my kids to eat veggies hasn’t been easy. As babies, they loved them pureed. But these days, unless I sneak them into a dish or meal, my boys still shun most vegetables, unfortunately. I try not to get too discouraged by this. My hope is that if I continue to model eating fresh vegetables each day, they will eventually incorporate more of them into their own diets. I have to remind myself that I didn’t always enjoy eating them, either.