I didn’t enjoy eating fruits and vegetables.

In fact, in my days of being an overweight and depressed child, I didn’t derive pleasure in eating any type healthy food. I desired to eat ice cream over a banana. I preferred cheese over. . . basically everything. I LOVED cheese.

I had fallen into the super-stimulants trap that many people fall for. I craved the salt, sugar and fat that unhealthy, hyper-processed foods are laden with. Salt, sugar and fat are the reasons that people don’t enjoy vegetables as much as I can now.

My days disliking vegetables are over. I can eat plain steamed broccoli with no problem. Give me a bowl of properly pressure-cooked green peas and I will gladly eat them. Nonetheless, even though I no longer struggle to eat vegetables, I understand the majority of people still do. Even the mention of a vegetable will receive a look of sour distaste from youth and adults.

I hope this recipe will turn that around.

Familiar ingredients

One reason this recipe can alter perceptions on vegetables is because it is made with familiar and homey ingredients.

Potatoes are familiar in many households. Carrots, too, are generally recognized as being edible to most. The presence of celery can be a toss-up: either love it or hate it. The majority of kids should be open to eating celery since they are familiar with the vegetable and have fond memories of consuming ants on a log (celery topped with peanut butter and raisins). Parsnips should be accepted as a result of their nondescript appearance and taste similar to carrots.

Whole raw parsnips

Parsnips, a vegetable I discovered my first vegan Christmas

(Not) All holiday food is unhealthy

A second reason individuals won’t be hesitant to taste this vegetable-laden recipe stems from the fact that the day is a holiday.

In general, when vegetables are introduced on a holiday, they have higher perceptions because they are believed to be laden with either one or a combination of salt, sugar and fat. Even as a young child I thought that green bean casserole was tasty. My mom prepared brown sugar carrots that I had no problem eating either.

The family may just assume that the salt, sugar and fat is coming along with the recipe simply because of the fact that the day is a holiday. You can manipulate their positive assumptions of pleasant-tasting vegetables to your advantage.

Let them help

This last reason doesn’t necessarily pertain to this recipe specifically: Children (and adults) who are involved in the preparation of a recipe are more likely to try a food.

Kids especially fancy thinking they have power over what they eat. After all, adults want to be able to choose what they eat. Adults don’t like to be told what they can, cannot, should and shouldn’t eat. Kids desire to be similar to adults and make decisions for themselves.

You can use this desire by encouraging help with preparation of a meal or with decisions about the dish in question. Ask children if they want to chop the carrots or celery. Ask if they would prefer the potatoes chunky or smooth. If young ones feel involved in the process of making a recipe, they will be more likely to be proud of said food and derive pleasure from consuming it.


A version of Earthy Shepherd’s Pie I made for our Christmas Eve dinner with peas, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and lentils.


Help your family get over their nasty perceptions of vegetables with this mouthwatering Earthy Shepherd’s Pie recipe. The family may assume that all holiday recipes contain obscene amounts of salt, sugar and fat, but that doesn’t mean it is necessary. Let them think all holiday recipes are unhealthy while they revel in eating your healthy Earthy Shepherd’s Pie.

Vegan and free of added salt, sugar, oil, soy, nuts and seeds with a gluten free option

Reasons to love this recipe: lots of vegetables, homey, festive, nutritious

Serves 6-8

Adapted from OhSheGlows


Mashed Potatoes:

  • 3 lb. (1 1/3 kg) white potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder or 1-2 cloves freshly chopped garlic
  • Boiling water as needed

Vegetable Filling:

  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 parsnips, finely diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cup, vegetable broth (or more as needed)
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine (or more broth)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning (combo of sage, basil, parsley and rosemary)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tbsp whole wheat flour (use rice flour or corn starch to make it gluten free)


Preheat oven to 425° F (220° C). Boil potatoes until tender.

While the potatoes boil, prepare the vegetable filling. Sauté the onion and garlic with wine, vinegar or vegetable stock in a fry pan for 5-7 minutes. Next add the rest of the chopped vegetables, excluding the potatoes. Allow the vegetables to cook on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding liquid as necessary to keep from burning or sticking.

Back to the potatoes; when the potatoes are done cooking, drain (reserving 2 cups of cooking liquid) and place them back in the boiling pot. Add the pepper, garlic powder and as much cooking liquid as necessary to mash the potatoes

Thoroughly mix together the broth, red wine, thyme, black pepper and flour in a small bowl to add to the vegetable filling. Add sauce to the vegetables in the skillet and stir well. Cook until the liquid has thickened slightly.

Scoop vegetable mixture into a large or extra large casserole dish. Spread the mashed potato mixture on top of the vegetables and garnish with paprika, more ground pepper and thyme. Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before enjoying, as the inside vegetables will be extremely hot.

Note: I suggest serving this with my sweet gravy (found in Single Serve Nutrition)

Ingredient Suggestion: To make this more festive for Christmas (or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.), replace the parsnips with beetroot. This substitution will add both a different flavor and a wonderfully festive color to the dish. Earthy Shepherd’s Pie is great with just about any combination of vegetables. Feel free to switch out any of the vegetables in my recipe for another one you have on hand.

  • Updated 3 years ago
Sara Binde

Sara is a health and nutrition coach. She advocates for a whole foods plant-based lifestyle and teaches the world how to achieve weight loss.