How to get your man to eat more plants

We eat plants and only plants in our household. I am vegan; my husband Dan is not. He grew up on pretty traditional meat-and-potatoes fare (For that matter, so did I, but I always got excited about asparagus and the nights when we would have huge fruit salads for dinner, so my tastebuds may not be the most representative.) That means that the meals we make need to please both of us. I want healthy, fresh, well-balanced, and hopefully, if we're lucky, pretty, and Dan wants something that satisfies him with lots of flavor. No plates of lettuce and raw vegetables grace our dinner table (Although for lunch, when I am left to my own devices...). 

Since I went vegan over three years ago, I have learned a thing or two about turning picky eaters onto plant foods.  Here are my top tips:

 

  • Make your meals familiar and substantial.  

At least to begin with, don't serve salads and vegetable plates for dinner.  Shepherd's pie made with chickpeas instead of chicken, vegetarian chilis, and pasta marinara are all spins on childhood favorites that easily are made (or naturally are) vegan.
 

  • Make friends with your blender and food processor.

I've said this before, and I will say it again: you can get anybody to eat almost anything when it's pureed with a little fat and some seasonings.  Mashed cauliflower poses as mashed potatoes, pureed squash can become creamy pasta sauce, and mushrooms add thickness to gravies.  I won't tell you that a creamy butternut squash pasta tastes like macaroni and cheese--it doesn't.  But it does taste comforting and coats the tongue with creaminess.  The meal tastes just indulgent enough, everyone gets a serving of vegetables, and your jeans fit better.  Win-win-win.

 

  • Cashews are nature's wonder food.

Really.  Sometimes you do want to have creamy pasta, not the healthy squash version.  And for those times, cashews work beautifully.  Once soaked and blended, raw cashews behave surprisingly like cream.  The cream made from cashews is neutral in flavor--so they can go sweet or savory--and adds richness.

 

  • Season, season, season!

No one serves a plain, unseasoned piece of boiled chicken, so don't do that with vegetables, legumes, and grains.  Roast broccoli with garlic and olive oil, simmer your lentils in a sloppy joe-like sauce, and dress up your quinoa with dried fruit, nuts, and a citrus vinaigrette.  Flavor equals satisfaction.  I don't know of vegans who subsist off of steamed broccoli and bare chunks of tofu, so don't think that vegan food needs to be boring.

 

  • Know when to cut your losses.

Not everyone will like everything.  Dan does not care for spaghetti squash or raw kale, and that's okay.  I save these foods for when I eat alone.  Instead I focus on what we both like and aim to think of as many different ways to prepare those foods as I can.

 

  • Try preparing a food a different way.

Dan doesn't like raw tomatoes, but he will eat them roasted or stewed.  Dan won't touch raw kale, but he tolerates it wilted into soups.  I don't care for steamed Brussels sprouts, but I love them roasted or shredded into salads.  You get the idea.  Don't write off a food until you have tried many different iterations.

 

  • There's always dessert.

One thing that made Dan a big believer in vegan food was dessert.  Vegan desserts are not necessarily significantly healthier than their omnivore counterparts, but they can open people's mind to how delicious plant-based eating can be.  Some of the work in shifting people's opinion of non-mainstream food is to break stereotypes about how restrictive and austere specialty or healthy diets are.
 

 

  • Some recipes to get you started: 

Here are some crowd-pleasers.  They are Dan-tested and -approved and I've used many of them for mixed company entertaining.  (Check out more meal ideas over on the Menus page.)