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Kale: From Not to Hot

Take a lesson or two from this veggie’s rise to the top.

Updated 11/2020 and 9/2021; Original title: Professor Kale

This isn’t a story to try to convince you to eat this particular deep green veggie (or to tell you not to eat it). This IS a story about what we can learn from kale’s rise to fame. Whether you like it or not. 😉

If a bitter, rather odd-looking vegetable can go from wallflower to pop star, so can we. And we can do it without compromising our values, standards, or beliefs.

We probably all had that one teacher we didn’t like but begrudgingly, we admit they probably taught us a thing or two. Consider kale your teacher in this “food for thought” perspective.

With the right support, almost anything is achievable. Consider it a form of mentorship. Wen someone believes in you, they see things in you that perhaps you didn’t see in yourself. Find someone who brings out the best in you, helps you hone your skills, and makes you see what talents are uniquely yours.

Marketing matters. If you read the story of kale’s climb to popularity, you get a sense of the importance of PR and marketing. Influencers. Thought Leaders. Celebrity. Kale got a perception makeover. People and concepts can do this, too.

Words matter. Yes, how we present ourselves visually matters. Verbal presentation also matters. Ever notice how some speakers have you on the edge of your seat while others have you squirming in it, waiting for the presentation to end? Kale didn’t say, “hey, I’m good for you”, or “you need greens weekly because of all our nutrition”.  Nope. Kale said “Check me out, I’m awesome. You need me.” And we believed it.

Kale was able to back up this positioning because it is actually packed with nutrition. We don’t have to “should” people. We can have fun with accurate, science-based information and win. Kind of like kale.

kale garden
Image by Javier Robles from Pixabay

Take time to choose your words. Ask how it’s going to feel to the end audience. It’s about them and meeting a need or solving a problem. It’s not about you and what you want people to know.  Kale made it fun and exciting to change what we thought about it. It wasn’t hard, judgmental, or scary to rethink what we thought we knew about it.

Things that are good for us can also be popular. Whether we are talking about rethinking something for ourselves or in our work, let’s find the fun and the joy without losing the science or the accuracy. Many things worth having and understanding are complicated. Unpacking the details takes time and effort, and how we go about this can build trust and support – or shatter it.

I had a conversation with someone who told me he caught flack at a barbeque with friends because he was the only one not overeating the party food and overloading his plate. It’s not our place to judge others or tell people what to eat/how to eat. Even as a dietitian, my job is to inform your thinking to support your well-being goals and manage your health, not tell you what to do.

We’re not talking about giving up party foods.

I’m talking about eating them At. The. Party.

Every day, sometimes, and party foods. An easy and fun way to categorize foods from nutrient rich to not so much.


Whether we are talking personal or professional reimagination, take a lesson from kale. Given the right positioning, some new stories, and a few supportive friends and coaches, you can uncover your super version(s), too.

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.