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Extension: Food is all in the preparation

By Barbara Worley 

UGA Extension Forsyth County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent 

Children are held accountable for eating their vegetables, but how many adults are eating the correct number of servings per day?  Moreover, are they eating a variety of colors, flavors and textures or are many guilty of fitting in the “I like this, but not this” category?  

So many of us are scarred from memories of boiled Brussels sprouts and bland cauliflower that delicious vegetables are forever written off as things that are disliked.  

The phrase “you won’t know if you like it until you try it” are uttered by countless parents trying to get children to eat their vegetables. A 2010 study by Louisiana State University showed that children repeatedly tasting certain vegetables in school increased their liking of the items after eight to nine tries. That same principle can be applied to all ages of people. 

Other studies have shown the relationship between genetics and environmental influence on food preference. Even though genetics can play a role on what foods some prefer, exposure to foods is a bigger indicator of what people will choose.  

A great read for parents or those just interested in food that was suggested years ago in a training addressing food and eating is, “French Kids Eat Everything” by Karen Le Billon. I frequently mention it in classes to those of all ages when discussing food, culture and trying new things. A person known for eating bizarre foods, Andrew Zimmer, stated in a 2016 article in Time magazine:

“A lot of times, people ask me how to acquire a taste because they want to learn how to like kale — or, even more commonly, they want to find out how to get their kids to like healthy foods. The truth is that we’re not genetically predisposed to dislike certain foods. In fact, we’re predisposed to like the majority of them (with the exceptions being bitter and ammoniated things because they can be hallmarks of spoilage or something that’s not necessarily safe). The problem comes with the messages our culture gives us about certain foods.”

Unfortunately, we are often trained to dislike certain foods, mainly vegetables, due to preparation. Vegetables are often prepared in ways that do not highlight their greatest attributes. Knowing when to apply the proper technique is important —dry-heat, moist-heat or combination.

Dry-heat cooking methods are those that use air or fat (butter or oil). These include broiling, roasting, grilling, baking, sautéing, pan-roasting, pan-frying and deep-fat frying. Cooking foods using this method will caramelize and have a deep flavor. 

Moist-heat cooking uses water or steam to emphasize the natural flavor in foods. These methods include poaching, boiling, steaming, blanching and simmering. Stewing and braising are two combination cooking methods that incorporate both dry- and moist-heat cooking. 

Which method is best for vegetables? Roasting, pan-roasting, broiling and sautéing will add flavor to all vegetables. Pan-roasting caramelizes the natural sugars and promotes browning. Roasting concentrates flavors by driving off excess moisture and makes vegetables crisp. Broiling browns vegetables quickly and deeply. Sautéing browns the food’s surface as it cooks and develops flavor.

Boiling allows you to season the vegetables as they cook. Vegetables can be easily overcooked when boiling, so it is best with nonporous green vegetables, such as green beans or snap peas. Steaming washes away less flavor than boiling and leaves vegetables crisper. Steaming should be used for delicate, porous vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower.  

For more information on food, health, and nutrition, visit Forsyth County Extension at

Forsyth County Extension is supported by The University of Georgia, Forsyth County Government, Forsyth County Board of Education, and United Way of Forsyth County.