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How To Make Healthy Foods Palatable

by Elizabeth Kelly

"No way."

"Come on. Just one bite won't hurt you."

"Ewww. It's gross!"

It's a scene that plays out at dinnertime in thousands of households across the country. But if you're picturing a frustrated mother and her rebellious five-year-old, think again. The truth is that many adults turn up their noses at certain foods, and no amount of coaxing can get them to have even a taste. Surveys prove that the same foods repeatedly turn up on the most-hated list of a lot of adults, but those same foods have something else in common: they're extremely healthful.

If you're one of those grownups who behaves like a child in the face of broccoli, you have a dilemma. You know it's packed with nutrition and that you ought to be mature enough to eat it, but one look at that bowl of green, mushy stuff makes you say "No!" yet again. The answer may lie in the preparation. In fact, when faced with a previously-hated food in a whole new way, many people are more likely to give it a second try. Find your most-hated foods on this list, and use these tips to learn how you can incorporate them into your diet in a way that will please both your palate and your health.


Brussels Sprouts
Those who balk at sprouts may be pleased to know that there's a scientific reason for their distaste. Overcooking actually produces a compound that smells and tastes like sulfur, and because the most common way to prepare them is by boiling, many people only know them in their smelliest form. The best way to reap the benefits ofbrussels sprouts, which are tightly packed little balls of Vitamin K, is to buy them fresh, separate them leaf by leaf, and saute them for just a few minutes in a bit of olive oil and your favorite seasoning. The taste is light and fresh -far from the smelly sulfur version.

Sardines
These tiny fish seem to have an undeserved bad reputation even among people who otherwise love seafood. The fact that they are so dense with heart-healthy Omega 3 acids is making some people wish they could fit them into their diet. If your local seafood market carries a fresh version, try some on the grill as an appetizer. You'll find them far less fishy than the canned version. If you can only find canned, and can't stand the way they look, drain and rinse them well, then puree them in the food processor with lemon and a spoonful oflowfat mayo for a tasty spread.

Broccoli
Even large numbers of vegetarians have been known to hate broccoli, which often tops lists as the most hated vegetable in the country. It wouldn't be such a tragedy if it weren't one of the best cancer-fightingsuperfoods that there is. The best trick for adding broccoli to your diet is to add it to foods you would never even think of turning down. Chop some onto your favorite pizza, or add it to your world-famous pasta sauce. If you enjoy spicy foods with curry or hot peppers, even better: the strong flavors will help overpower the meek vegetable, leaving you with a flavor you enjoy.


Beets
Remember all those photos you've seen of hundred-year-old Russian men and women? Some credit the more than 80 nutrients packed into beets as one of the keys to their longevity. Beets are also bursting withfolic acid, which every woman knows is essential for a healthy pregnancy. What turns people off of beets? Most say it's the texture, having only tasted the canned or pickled variety. When roasted fresh, like their root vegetable cousins, you'll find that beets have a similar consistency to the potato. And who doesn't like potatoes?

Tofu
If you keep up with health news, you know that soy products like tofu are important to your health, and that goes double for women. Tofu has been shown to even help combat the symptoms of menopause. If you're one of the many who has been turned off by the white, rubbery squares in a mediocre stir fry, you might want to give tofu a second look. One of the upsides of tofu is that it absorbs the flavor of anything it's prepared with. If those wobbly cubes turn you off, change them completely by transforming them with your blender. Look for the silken rather than the firm variety, toss it in the blender with your favorite fresh fruit, and enjoy a creamy smoothie.

Garlic

There seems to be no middle ground with garlic; people either love it or hate it. If you fall on the side of the naysayers, but you'd like to reap the cardiovascular benefits, try cooking your garlic in a way that considerably lessens the strong taste. Roasting the whole bulb at a high temperature has a creamy-textured result that tastes almost sweet, but retains most of the nutritional value. Slice off the top of a fresh head of garlic horizontally, exposing the inside. Wrap in foil and bake at 400 degrees for about half an hour, until soft. You can squeeze each bulb directly onto crusty bread, or add the roasted garlic to soups, stews, or sauces.


There's no doubt that you are a strong person, but if you are still reluctant to dive right in, use the same strategies on yourself that parents use on small children. Serve yourself a small portion and take just three bites. Once you realize that the dish is not as terrible as you imagined, you might even find that you not only can tolerate it: you actually enjoy it. And guess what? Your body and your health will be enjoying it along with you.

Beet Recipe: Oven Roasted Root Vegetable Medley
1 lb. beets, peeled and cubed
1 lb. turnips, peeled and cubed
1 lb. red-skinned potatoes, quartered
1 lb. carrots, sliced into 1" coins
1 onion, cut into 1" pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1-3 cloves of garlic (to taste)
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and toss gently to coat. Transfer to a roasting pan or casserole dish and roast 30-45 minutes until lightly browned, turning halfway through cooking time.


Tofu Recipe: I-Can't-Believe-It's-Tofu Berry Smoothie
1 8 oz. block silken tofu
1 cup fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, or medley)
1 banana
1 cup skim or soy milk
1 tbsp honey
Add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. For a frostier smoothie, freeze the berries and peel and freeze the banana ahead of time. 2-4 ice cubes can also be added as you blend. Try substituting 1 cup of your favorite fresh fruits as the season dictates.