Cruelty & Veggie Free
January 5, 2011 9:37 AM   Subscribe

I have vegetarian leanings but hate vegetables. I know I'm being an impossible Special Snowflake. Advice please.

As an animal lover, I am finding it hard to continue to eat meat with the knowledge that most of the meat I eat probably comes from animals that are treated badly. I say this because I don't have a ton of money and end up buying my food from places like Walmart and the occasional fast food place. Whole Foods would kill me financially right now, and I'm not even sure how much of their food is cruelty-free.

I am not so far on the animal rights side of things to say that animals should never be used for food. I could see myself in the future having my own farm with animals that are humanely raised and used to feed my family. (Not that this is likely but I would be more than okay with it.) I just think that animals deserve to be treated humanely, and it seems like most of the affordable meat right now comes from animals that are most likely abused. I don't want to support those practices.

Here the problem: I dislike most vegetables. I grew up a picky eater and my parents (god love them) would let me have mac & cheese pretty much anytime I didn't want to eat what everyone else was having. As an adult I have incorporated a lot more foods into my diet but I'm still picky. I tried a vegetarian burger recently (Lunaburger) and couldn't make myself eat more than a few bites. The texture was horrible (IMO) so meat substitutes might be out. Vegetables I will eat are potatoes, corn, lettuce, tomato, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli. Aside from potatoes I usually eat these in small portions, like maybe a side dish. And always one at a time, I don't like mixing. Switching to these as entrees seems unlikely, and I know I wouldn't stick with it.

Right now I mostly eat poultry, pasta, breads, cheeses and fruits (and of course my other favorite food group: ketchup). If I were to cut out meat, that doesn't seem to leave much in the way of nutrition. I do take a daily vitamin. My questions are:

1. What nutrition problems should I look out for? Will taking a vitamin be enough to mitigate the loss of nutrition I am currently getting from meat?

2. Are there any affordable cruelty-free meat options available that I might be missing?

3. I feel like I am the only person who doesn't want to eat meat but hates vegetables. Do any of you know of any resources (blogs, books) of someone with a similar experience?

Thanks for any help. I know I'm being kind of a pain in the ass about just not making myself eat veggies, but if that were my plan I know it wouldn't be sustainable.
posted by halseyaa to Food & Drink (44 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have a hard time believing adults can just not like vegetables. I think you've probably just not had most of them cooked properly. I know I hadn't until I was well into my 20s. I suggest picking up a cookbook - or even an issue of Vegetarian Times - opening to a recipe and random, and trying it out. Pay attention to cooking times especially; until I learned to cook for myself, every vegetable I ever ate in my life was either canned or boiled to death.

As far as veggie burgers and that type of thing, try Morningstar Farms. Their corn dogs, chicken nuggets, and many of their veggie burgers (tomato-basil pizza burger!) are absolutely delicious. You can also use their fake meat crumbles in chili, pasta sauce, etc. - anywhere you would use ground beef.

You need to eat a balanced diet, whether you are vegetarian or not, but I do think vegetarianism exposes you to more nutritional deficiencies if you aren't paying attention (and I say this as someone who is mostly vegan). My mother in law quit meat and her hair started falling out because she wasn't replacing it with any other protein (and also doesn't eat many vegetables). So yeah, you probably need to learn to expand your horizons. Don't be afraid! Food is delicious. Try some new things.
posted by something something at 9:45 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

As an animal lover, I am finding it hard to continue to eat meat with the knowledge that most of the meat I eat probably comes from animals that are treated badly
Whilst I take issue with that as a bit of a sweeping generalisation, if you are that concerned, you should only purchase your meat from ethically sourced suppliers.
posted by dougrayrankin at 9:46 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pasta and pizza are great delivery vehicles for vegetables. But it kind of sounds like your problem wouldn't really change if you stopped eating meat. I mean, you don't eat vegetables now. You'd get less protein. So you'd have cottage cheese, or peanut butter toast, or throw some beans in with your pasta to make a complete protein.

It'd probably be good to get friendly with a few vegetables regardless. You don't have to like them all -- you just want to make friends with a couple. Sweet potatoes are nice people, for instance, and lots of vegetable haters like broccoli, and there's a lot of good stuff in tomato sauce, like for pasta and pizza.

Very few people eat a ton of kale. (I know, kale eaters anonymous will immediately show up.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:50 AM on January 5, 2011

I was you when I decided to become vegetarian. I found that by exposing myself to new vegetables, and doing so numerous times, I eventually grew to love a much bigger variety of them than I did before. Granted, there are a few that I still don't like much. But the surprising thing is that, even the ones I don't like, I can actually eat them now without the gross-out factor I had before. Learning how to cook them is extremely important.

Another suggestion is that maybe you can budget for cruelty-free meat from whole foods and buy the rest of your groceries as cheap as possible. There are a ton of threads here on buying groceries on a budget and stocking your pantry so that you have the basics. That way you can buy meat/veggies on a week-to-week basis that you supplement with the staples. There was also a really great comment (maybe someone else has the link? I didn't favorite because I don't eat chicken) about making a rotisserie chicken stretch a whole week. Cruelty-free is expensive, to be sure, but you might be able to make up the difference elsewhere on your grocery list.

Also: Eggs. Lots of protein, super cheap, and amazingly versatile.
posted by a.steele at 9:52 AM on January 5, 2011

Kale is great, especially if you get the lacinato/black Tuscan variety. Lately I've taken to eating collard greens instead of kale, not sure why.

How do you feel about vegetables in soup? When I feel like I'm not getting enough veggies in my diet I usually make a big pot of soup and throw in all the vegetables that I like and some that I usually don't - frozen peas are gross on their own but A-OK in soup. Same with parsnip. And spinach!

Veggie omlettes are good too. Cheese hides a multitude of vegetable sins.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:55 AM on January 5, 2011

Best answer: Get to know the seasonal vegetables at your local farmers' market! I hated tomatoes (I know, fruit vs vegetable, but there's a point to make), thinking they were just these mealy, tasteless sandwich garnishes, until I discovered local in-season tomatoes, and now I eat them whole as snacks. The same goes for other vegetables as well. Local/organic is best! Also there are usually meat-sellers at farmers' markets too, and you can question them on their methods and decide whether they meet your standards.
posted by greta simone at 9:55 AM on January 5, 2011

Depending on where you live, might wild game meat be available cheaply? Do you know anyone who hunts and might have a spare half a deer in their barn every so often? I have no idea how licensed retail of game meat works where you live, but it may still be possible to get it at a reasonable price.

Buying small quantities of ethically sourced and tasty meat may help make food more appealing if mixed with things you're not as keen on, e.g. stir-fried vegetables with little bits of bacon scattered through it, instead of a lump of hormone-laced cardboard with water injected to increase the volume. Cheap chicken really doesn't taste any worse than fake meat, to me at least. Except fake bacon, that's a waste of space.
posted by Lebannen at 9:58 AM on January 5, 2011

I'm an adult, and I hate most vegetables. I try to eat them, though, since they make my system work better. I have a friend who will absolutely not eat anything other than meat and potatoes.

For the better meat idea, you might try going the kosher route. Although there have been a few exceptions in the news over the past few years, in general kosher meat is good quality, and the animals are ethically treated. The butcherer is even required to say a prayer, thanking the animal for its life, before the deed is done.
posted by Melismata at 9:59 AM on January 5, 2011

Best answer: One specific thing that might help - do you have access to Trader Joe's? My family has had great success mixing their meatless meatballs into pastas with any kind of tomato sauce. We break them up to the consistency of ground meat and it tastes very good. The sauce provides most of the flavor anyway, and the "meatballs" give it the texture of a decent bolognese with a major punch of protein. I say this as a devoted carnivore. It doesn't solve your overall problem, but it could supply one vegetarian dinner a week.
posted by synapse at 10:00 AM on January 5, 2011

Modern omnivorous diets tend to include too much meat anyway, so it's possible you could cut down without any nutritional difference. Just save up for one or two 'nicer' bits of meat a week instead of the cheaper stuff every night. You really ought to be getting plenty of veg in your diet anyway, vegetarian or not, so I'd encourage you to experiment with recipes using the ones you like on your non-meat days. I'm afraid potatoes don't count in that score :) And don't forget fish it you're looking for alternative sources of protein. There are plenty of environmental concerns there, but fewer ethical ones for most people.
posted by londonmark at 10:01 AM on January 5, 2011

Are tofu and/or seitan out as meat substitutes? There are also meat substitutes that masquerade as ground beef, sausage, chicken nuggets, etc., and the ones I've tried aren't bad at all.

What about fish? Tilapia farmed in the US tend to be grown in sustainable ways (from what I've read).

Grass-fed/no-hormone/ethically raised beef can be found on sale at Whole Foods. It's not going to be as cheap as feed-lot beef, but it shouldn't be. My downstairs neighbor bought some enormous cut of meat from WF a while back when it was on sale - maybe $3-4/lb, they cut it up and wrapped it (no extra charge) and she had steaks for months in her freezer.
posted by rtha at 10:01 AM on January 5, 2011

Your list of will-eat vegetables is pretty good, and you can continue to eat those in side-dish portions. What you need is a protein. Beans are excellent, so find a few bean/bean dishes you like that are easy to prepare.

Some pre-prepared sources of protein are gross, some are palatable. It's a lot of trial and error finding what you like. Crumbled tofu is easy to sneak into a lot of dishes without changing the taste or texture much, and I really like scrambled tofu (being a non-egg-eater myself). I also love tempeh, which has kind of a grainy nutty taste; if you like grains, give it a try.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:01 AM on January 5, 2011

Pescetarian here with many of the same concerns as you: I'm not against eating meat, but the torture of animals (and the hormones, antibiotics, etc etc added because of the nastiness of factory farms) is unacceptable to me.

I've seen good advice around here along the lines of - try one new vegetable a week. Even if you think you don't like it. Stirfry it up with a little butter and garlic. This makes brussel sprouts (as an example) yummy (and I have converted a couple people to the brussel sprout express.

I love these veggie sausages. A bit on the pricey side, but if you use even one per dish, cut in disks or half-disks, it can really improve a veggie dish.

Good luck to you and don't try to do too much all at once! Every effort toward cutting down the demand for factory-farmed animals is a win in my book (even if you continue to eat meat but much more sparingly than you used to.)
posted by Glinn at 10:04 AM on January 5, 2011

Learn to cook vegetables so that they taste good. ;) I hated vegetables too until I discovered that they didn't have to come boiled and from a bag.

...also, garden vegetables and grocery store vegetables taste a world apart.

Meat substitutes are gross. IMHO. But I'm a food snob.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:04 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel like I am the only person who doesn't want to eat meat but hates vegetables.

This describes me perfectly. A lot depends on what you mean by "I'm a picky eater" - if it means you'll keenly miss Kobe Beef then that's very different to just "I don't like boring stuff like carrots" - if your mac & cheese example implies the latter, you should find being veggie really easy.

I eat, and enjoy:

Pasta with a variety of pesto sauces.
Certain fake meats (others are gross, so experiment)
Salads with tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, other stuff.
More cheese, lots of cheese.
Omelettes and poached eggs and soft boiled eggs
Soups when I'm feeling lazy.
Hash Browns

It's not a particularly healthy diet, and I probably miss out on the much-vaunted veggie health benefits, but it's cruelty free and tasty, and there's enough of most important things that I don't get fat or ill or anything.
posted by piato at 10:05 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Buy How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and start making recipes. He teaches you some good combinations, cooking times and condiments/spices that go well with certain foods. It's not a gourmet cookbook, nor are the recipes very complicated. Pick two a week for a few months and see how that goes.
posted by barnone at 10:09 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

How do you feel about beans? (Will you eat chili? Bean dip? Baked beans? A soup like minestrone with some beans in it?)

How do you feel about nuts? Peanut butter?

How do you feel about eggs?

How do you feel about whole-wheat or multi-grain bread?

If you've got eggs, cheese, fruit, and some sort of nut or legume to go along with your beloved white starchy things, you can make yourself a pretty damn nutritious vegetarian diet that goes real light on the vegetables.

(You'll want to go heavy on the fruit if you're avoiding vegetables altogether, to make sure you're getting enough of things like vitamin C. But it sounds like that won't be hard for you. Anyway, you don't need weird fruits for this: apples and oranges will get you by just fine.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:11 AM on January 5, 2011

I was actually thinking about this this morning... I think of lot of peoples' veggie-hatred is due to the fact that they've often encountered veggies in poorly cooked or unadorned form - as a pile of "stuff" to morosely gnaw through, rather than prepared as an actual DISH worthy of savoring.

It's easier to get away with being lazy in preparing meat... you can grill up a chicken breast and stick it on a plate with a sprinkle of salt and it'll be palatable, if boring. However, a LARGE quantity of veggies benefit from more finessing. That's the challenge and the fun part! A super-ripe Jersey tomato doesn't need anything to make it delicious. A package of frozen spinach, however, is a little green Rubik's cube: how to best develop, enhance and complement its flavors?

The recent MeFi thread on vegetable salads has provided me with ton of inspiration and the desire to really focus on veggies rather than blasting them with Pam and grudgingly shoveling 'em down.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:11 AM on January 5, 2011

Good eats - Undercover Veggies.
posted by special-k at 10:13 AM on January 5, 2011

So, veggie burgers are to meat substitutes as a frozen, pre-cooked hamburger patty from the superarket is to a good steak or roast. No comparison.

Also, it's possible you should try finding some veggies cooked really skillfully, because they're a whole different animal than cream of spinach soup or boiled carrots.

Also try vegetables in settings different than just thrown together with some salt, such as in a curry, a stew, or stir fry.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:13 AM on January 5, 2011

Best answer: Previously.

Vegetables I will eat are potatoes, corn, lettuce, tomato, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli.

Well, that's kinda good right there, though you'd ideally want to have more variety. You don't need to eat every single vegetable. Make sure to have some bright red, bright green, and bright orange vegetables. You're already doing that ... but how about butternut squash, kale, bell peppers ... ?

Don't mainly rely on potatoes. On their own, they're OK (not great) sources of nutrition, but they're often vehicles for other bad stuff (lots of oil, lots of salt, lots of butter, lots of cheese ... you get the picture).

Aside from potatoes I usually eat these in small portions, like maybe a side dish.

OK, this is a fundamental problem. You're making the classic meat-eater mistake of conceiving of vegetables as boring "side dishes" that you tolerate in order to get to the main attraction -- which, 99% of the time, is supposed to be meat.

That view is obviously not a viable platform for having a healthy, enjoyable vegetarian diet. So, if you want to be healthily and happily vegetarian, you have to overhaul your view of what constitues a good, solid, filling meal.

You need to integrate vegetables -- a lot of them, every day -- into the centerpiece of your meals.

I assume you mostly eat in, since you say you're eating on a budget. OK, so you're deciding what to cook for dinner. When I'm deciding what to cook for dinner, I'll start with some kind of foundation, like quinoa (simmer in water or vegetable stock - very easy) or pasta (a relatively nutritious kind, e.g. whole-wheat) or salad (with a vinaigrette). Then I'll saute vegetables in olive oil, or leave them raw for a salad. I usually start the saute with chopped onions or garlic or shallots or leeks. Once everything's cooked, mix it all together and add some seasonings (salt/pepper, spices, herbs, lemon juice). The same basic concept applies to risotto (cooked with a vegetable stock) or a sandwich/panini (with vegetables like spinach and roasted red pepper) or pizza.

We've had several long threads about how (in)effective) vitamin pills are. Example, example... I don't recommend trying to fill most of your nutritional needs with pills.

One of the several ways a vegetarian can get enough vitamin B12 is nutritional yeast. You can buy it in bulk from Amazon. The name might not sound that appetizing, but I eat it every day. I sprinkle it on anything I'd put parmesan cheese on. I like it so much I sometimes it big spoonfuls of it on its own.

Read up on getting enough iron as a vegetarian. A quick Google search will come up with info on not just iron-rich vegetarian food but also how to make sure you absorb the iron well (put the word "heme" in your search query).

I assume you're concerned with protein. Beans, nuts, eggs (if you eat them), lentils, quinoa, tempeh, hummus, tofu, and some vegetables are generally fairly high in protein. Quinoa and tempeh are especially useful; a quick Google search will turn up lots of info on their nutritional content and how to use them in recipes. (Some argue that the American standard of what's "enough" protein is skewed to fit the norm of eating lots of meat; most Americans consume too much protein; and vegetarians easily get enough protein without even trying. I'm not saying I agree with this, but it's worth considering. I do try to get plenty of protein, but I'm skeptical of all claims on this topic, since almost everyone has an ideological slant; few people are neutral about vegetarianism.)

If you've read through this whole thread and still just aren't willing to eat much vegetables, I would direct you to this old AskMe comment (by me under another username). I was responding to someone who asked a similar question. (It's not the same thread I linked at the top of this comment.) Bottom line: How do you become a vegetarian if you don't want to eat vegetables? You either eat vegetables (and start to like them or just accept them) or ... you don't become a vegetarian. Being a vegetarian without eating vegetables is not healthy. Hey, being a meat-eater without eating a lot of vegetables isn't nutritious either, but being a non-vegetable-eating vegetarian is surely even worse.
posted by John Cohen at 10:17 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I used to think I didn't like vegetables, but it turns out that I just don't like mushy, overcooked vegetables like I was served as a kid. I encourage you to try raw or lightly cooked vegetables until you find a few you like.

(I still don't like Brussels sprouts or asparagus though.)
posted by JoanArkham at 10:24 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Check out Vegetarian Times. The January/February edition has what looks like a really tasty lasagna with kale.

Beans and certain grains will be your friends, too. Quinoa is high in protein and works to bulk up simple things like roasted cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese. Toss with some pesto and that's a great meal.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 10:31 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to think I didn't like vegetables, but it turns out that I just don't like mushy, overcooked vegetables like I was served as a kid.

Yep, and I'd add: a common way to make a vegetable "side dish" is to cook vegetables in water, then throw out the water and serve the vegetables.

Guess what's in that water that was thrown out? A lot of the nutrition and flavor from the vegetables. If you've ever made a vegetable stock and tried eating the solid vegetables that are left over after they've infused the stock, you've tasted an extreme version of what this process does to vegetables. Blech!

That's why I recommend sauteing vegetables, or cooking them in a soup (so your meal retains the nutrients that the water leeches out of them), or having them raw (in a salad or with a healthy dip such as hummus).
posted by John Cohen at 10:31 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding julthumbscrew and everybody else who's said you've probably just never met a vegetable that was cooked properly. What started me on the road to becoming a good cook was the genteel academic poverty of graduate school: I couldn't afford to eat much meat, plus the quality of produce available was pretty poor, especially in winter. So I turned to Indian, Thai and Chinese cuisine for low-meat or vegetarian dishes that were seasoned enough to overcome the tasteless drabness of the foods I could afford. Hubby comes from a meat-and-potatoes family of dreadful cooks and thought he didn't like a bunch of vegetables, until he tried them in flavorful dishes. Cooked by me, natch. *smirk*

So I think you too could learn to like them if they were prepared properly. "Properly" means, of course, whatever suits your taste. Your current preferences sound rather bland to me, but like Hubby, you may be a latent spice-lover. Hot, herby, pungent, creamy - figure out what you like and find recipes that fit the model. Try stuff at restaurants to see what floats your boat, or throw caution to the wind and try a bunch of recipes from the suggestions here.

One last tip: cheese. Lots of cheese. It satisfies the craving for animal fats and umami "meatiness", although it ain't cheap.
posted by Quietgal at 10:35 AM on January 5, 2011

Best answer: First up, congratulations on deciding to become a vegetarian! I've been a vegetarian since I was 12 years old (and blessings on my mother for accommodating my decision), and I'm now 27. I've always been a vegetable loving little weirdo, but I've lived with picky eaters and also have some weird food preferences of my own*.

The first thing I'd suggest is to try not to over identify with being a 'vegetable hater'. It definitely sounds like there are vegetables you *do* like, so start from there. The second is to see this as a new food adventure. Invest in some new cookbooks, start reading food blogs, and commit to trying new recipes every week. I know Maggie of Mightygirl is doing this thing where she wants to taste 100 new fruits - maybe you could start a taste 100 new vegetables project. You never know, you could be crazy about jicama or parsnip or endive.

The second thing I'd say is I don't for a second believe you need supplements to have a healthy vegetarian diet. I went through puberty as a vegetarian, and I'm now a competitive powerlifter, and I've never had a vitamin deficiency**. I also know several very strong vegan powerlifters. Trust me, you don't need meat (or even animal products) to have a nutritionally complete diet. For me, the key is variety and experimentation. I've always loved cooking, so I'm always trying new food and recipes. As a general rule, I try to include a protein with every meal, whether it's nuts, legumes, cheese, eggs or tofu (for instance, I really love cottage cheese with muesli and fruit for breakfast), but after a while that's not so hard.

If you're used to a 'real meal' containing meat, it's going to feel weird transitioning to a mostly plant based diet. But if you spend some time actively trying new recipes and ways of eating, you'll start to find things you like.

Here are blogs I really enjoy: (a former vegetarian who occasionally eats meat, but still largely vegetarian) (you must, MUST try her hot and sweet butter bean mix - delicious and quick and full of protein

There's also my food blog, but I won't list it because I don't want to be self-promoting. Feel free to memail me.

Here are some cookbooks I think are essential:
Yotam Ottolenghi's 'Plenty' is just wonderful.
Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian

So I'd say experiment, have fun, and don't be hard on yourself. It takes time to transition from one way of eating to another. Even if you find you still want to eat meat occasionally, you'll get great health benefits from a more vegetable based diet, and the more you experiment and try the more you'll start to like.

* I'd genuinely like to find whoever decided whole grilled portabello mushrooms make great burger substitutes. They're slimy and gross and WRONG

** I have rheumatoid arthritis, so I've had a lot of bloodwork done, so I can definitively say I don't have any vitamin deficiencies.
posted by nerdfish at 10:48 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, and I'd also add that you should definitely try new cooking methods. I've converted many a brussels sprouts hater to my roasted brussels sprouts with shallots. I also have a great recipe for pan-fried kale and black bean tacos that my meat-loving, vegetable hating parents in common law really love. Man, now I sound like a freak. I just really love food.
posted by nerdfish at 10:52 AM on January 5, 2011

I don't know where you are, but here in SoCal, I've seen ranch-raised meats at a couple of local WalMarts. I know the one in Rosemead has organic chicken and eggs, as well as produce, but that could be a regional variation. You might also check your local farmer's markets for ethically raised meats, as well as stocking up on produce.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2011

Might I recommend The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook?

Chock full of great recipes for all you non-carnivorous carnivores.
posted by Aquaman at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2011

Best answer: I'm soon to hit 30 years lacto-ovo vegetarian with only a few slips I can count on one hand (grew up on a farm, hated butchering animals).

The one thing I wish someone had told me: don't worry about anything except over-carbing.

Take away meat and there's a gazillion things to eat (as everyone here has pointed out). It is freaking ridiculous. Being a veg is not a sacrifice in the modern western world. There is plenty of nutrition in a vegetarian diet if you eat a variety of foods. You say the problem is that you don't like vegetables. That is just silly. That is almost as broad as saying you don't like colors. You will find veggie things you like if you just start trying things.

A big pitfall can be carbs though. It is so, so easy to replace the protein element of a dish with a hunk of bread or pasta or a baked potato. This is where the chubby veggies come from (as I once was). Go easy on the carbs.
posted by quarterframer at 11:06 AM on January 5, 2011

This really isn't about vegetarianism. Somewhat ironically, most of the vegetarians I've known really aren't all that into food and waste a LOT of their calories on prepackaged simple carb crap. I'd pay more attention to foodie blogs and cookbooks than to sources trying to get you to eat ethically.

Vegetables (green stuff) is not a replacement for meat/dairy and if that's the problem yur doin it wrong. Fortunately, potatoes, corn, lettuce, tomato, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli pretty much cover all the flavors you'll encounter in the vegetable world. This is definitely a presentation/psychological issue more than you not liking veggies.

Nothing did more for my veggie love than signing up for a CSA share. Having 10-20lbs of vegetables that I had to deal with every week for 6 months a year forced me to branch out. That, plus a few good cookbooks (Bittman, Madison, etc) will have you well on your way.

If you want to go sort of vegetarian-lite, there's TONS of traditional european peasant food (spanish, italian, french, etc) that relies on teensy tiny portions of cured or otherwise flavorful meat just to make things taste good. Get yourself a big free-range forage fed cured ham that lived a nice life and add some of that to veggies. You'd be amazed how little iberian ham you need to make a big mess of vegetables taste like a pig. The spanish cookbook 1080 Recipes has lots of stuff like that.
posted by pjaust at 11:44 AM on January 5, 2011

three years in, i mostly still eat a lot of fake meat. it takes a while to develop a taste for it. in my experience, i had to miss meat a certain amount before the fake stuff started to taste good. so a few weeks at least. obviously, if you just had real meat earlier in the day or yesterday, the fake stuff will not compare. but if you're dying because it's been three weeks since you had a burger, a fake one will be a reasonable compromise. you also have to experiment with different brands. i like quorn the best but it can be hard to find depending on where you live. morningstar farms is a close second. i like boca's breakfast sausage.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 12:03 PM on January 5, 2011

Sometimes the sauce/seasonings in a veggie dish can make a big difference. For example, bell peppers/onions/water chestnuts taste much spicier in Szechuan sauce. If you like Asian food, there are quite a few ways to eat vegetables in which they may not taste quite like.. vegetables. But then again, I love veggies and will happily eat bell peppers raw.

You could try making a chili - onion, tomatoes, some cans of beans, spices, and fake meat crumbles if you'd like. You can add most veggies, and it's a great way to get extra protein, too.

I can't say much about cruelty-free meat since I don't eat meat, but I'm sure there are plenty of options - free range chicken, grass-fed beef, etc. If you're looking to transition to eating meat less, try only having it two or three times a week as you incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Rice makes a good addition; some stir-fried vegetables and sauce for extra flavor make it a quick and easy meal.
posted by cp311 at 12:07 PM on January 5, 2011

Speaking as a lifelong vegetarian, the best vegetarian burger I've found (outside of india) has been in Trader Joe's. I think they call it masala burger or something, it was pretty awesome.
posted by dhruva at 12:15 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seen today on the the wikipedia list of common misconceptions:
It is not nutritionally necessary to combine multiple sources of vegetable protein in a single meal in order to metabolize a "complete" protein in a vegetarian diet. Unless a person's diet is heavily dependent on only fruit, only tubers, or only junk food, they are virtually certain of getting enough protein if they are eating enough calories.
posted by statolith at 12:17 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your situation is not unlike mine- one day, about 10 years ago, I saw some sides of beef being hacked up at a cheesesteak place. That was IT for me. Yet, I sort of hated vegetables as well, and didn't have parents that really forced me to eat too much of what I didn't like.

Naturally, being 20 and a 'vegetarian' that hated vegetables saw me eating pizza and french fries most of the time, gradually expanding into the tofu/Morningstar arena, and after meeting my SO, continually expanding the pure vegetable options.

You hit a bunch of points in your post, so this is going to be kind of random:

Right, so, after 8-9 years of vegetarian eating (with a couple years break in the middle) I went to the doctor for the first time in about twelve years. The only nutritional problem was a Vitamin D deficiency, which is pretty easily supplemented. I take a multivitamin with a healthy dose of D.

Some Walmarts actually have affordable organic groceries, or so I've heard. It's probably worth investigating the ones in your region. Perhaps if you found affordable grass-fed beef and free-range chicken, you could take an intermediary step, although such things are not known for being particularly affordable. I second Trader Joe's- there's lots of decent stuff there for not much money. It's a pretty haphazard selection, IMO, but I could be pretty happy just buying there. We usually stick to Whole Foods though, as my SO hates Trader Joes.

Veggie burgers are pretty different, and a bunch of the diner ones I've had suck. Try the Morningstar ones maybe. You're not the first to dislike the texture of veggie burgers. You don't have to like that stuff, of course, but it helps a great deal in mixing up your diet. You should try tofu, gluten, and seitan, maybe you can stand one of them. If you start trying vegetarian restaurants, most of them use one of the above in ALL of their dishes. Some (theres an AMAZING one called Sprig and Vine in New Hope, PA) use purely vegetables and are geniuses in getting spoiled brats like myself to actually crave brussel sprouts, for god's sake.

If you have no qualms about eating fish, and enjoy it, definitely do so. I personally can't stand fish, but seafood is really good for you. Many people who don't eat any other meat still eat fish, and a good % of people who know I'm vegetarian don't think fish counts. Aside from nutritional benefits, eating seafood allows you alot of latitude at Chinese/Japanese/Korean restaurants- you're going to be pretty limited at these places. If you can't get around to tofu either, well forget it.
posted by tremspeed at 1:06 PM on January 5, 2011

Here's a good link to an interview with a vegan pragmatist. I think he makes good points: vegan (or vegetarianism) isn't inherently healthy or natural, but it's moral, and if you choose to go that route you need to think of your health or you may fail because of how your body is wired (because each of us is different, a snowflake, if you will). There's also a link to a website with good supplement information.

You're thinking of your health, so that's good. Also, about vegetables, just try adding them to stuff. Like if you're making a casserole, add a few bags of random frozen vegetables. Add cheese to them, or extra spaghetti sauce. Find sauces that are good on veggies. Also, try out some Asian restaurants and ask what's most popular. There's probably some good dishes involving vegetables that taste cool as long as you're willing to try them out.
posted by thebeagle at 1:18 PM on January 5, 2011

Best answer: If you are concerned about the treatment of beings involved in the production of our food, you should also think carefully about the living conditions of the animals producing our dairy and eggs, the effects of grain/soy and produce production, and the farmworkers picking or raising our food. This is not to trivialize your desire to avoid CAFO meat but to remind you that in our food distribution system, a vegetarian or vegan diet can unfortunately be the source of as much suffering as an omnivorous one.

Farmers' markets are good places to find out about local meat, egg, and dairy production that meets your ethical standards. There's also for mail-order and local sources. And an interesting argument that some types of shellfish (e.g. oysters) may be compatible with a lower-cruelty diet. The cost of ethically-produced animal protein is going to depend on how you source it, e.g., going in on an entire pasture-raised side of beef with a couple friends and freezing or canning the meat is going to be far cheaper than choosing cuts at whim each week. Things that sound ridiculous now, like paying $8 for a dozen backyard eggs, are much more inexpensive for 4-6 servings of protein than buying meat at all.

Risk for nutritional deficiencies depends on what you eat. Here's a list of possible deficiencies. In general, the farther you get from omnivory, the more likely you are to need manufactured supplements or artificially fortified foods. Ovo-lacto vegetarians may not need any, vegans almost always require them. Several of the vegetarian side of my family require periodic doctor's office B12 injections and fish oil supplements (body's ability to convert short chain omega-3s in veg food to long chain omega-3s declines pretty steeply with age and is inhibited by intake of too many omega-6s from seeds, nuts, and their oils).

Bottom line is that a vegetarian diet can be enjoyable, nutritionally complete, and less cruel, but you are going to have to balance that against your personal risk of becoming a persistently vegetable-hating diabetic carbotarian whose primary intake comes from bread, pasta, mass-manufactured junk food, industrial soy meat substitutes and dairy, and medications. We've got those in my family too.

Also, here is an excellent recipe for swiss chard gratin.
posted by hat at 1:29 PM on January 5, 2011

I'm with JoanArkham and John Cohen: dear god, I hate mushy cooked veggies. The thing I like about veggies is the crisp and the juiciness, both of which end up way gone with cooked vegetables. Raw is so much better.

I do get a surprisingly large amount of crap ("oh, jenfullmoon doesn't like ANY veggies!") from people for not getting thrilled to eat some cooked green beans or whatever, though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:02 PM on January 5, 2011

People have talked about getting veggies from CSAs and farmers markets, but you can also get great, pasture-raised, cruelty-free meat (and eggs and dairy) from the same sources. At least here in NC, it is more expensive than Walmart, but generally cheaper than Whole Foods, and you can ask the farmer questions about their raising practices if you have specific concerns. Plus it tastes so much better than any grocery store meat.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:20 PM on January 5, 2011

Best answer: Here the problem: I dislike most vegetables. I grew up a picky eater and my parents (god love them) would let me have mac & cheese pretty much anytime I didn't want to eat what everyone else was having. As an adult I have incorporated a lot more foods into my diet but I'm still picky. I tried a vegetarian burger recently (Lunaburger) and couldn't make myself eat more than a few bites. The texture was horrible (IMO) so meat substitutes might be out. Vegetables I will eat are potatoes, corn, lettuce, tomato, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli. Aside from potatoes I usually eat these in small portions, like maybe a side dish. And always one at a time, I don't like mixing. Switching to these as entrees seems unlikely, and I know I wouldn't stick with it.

This is all patently ridiculous, and you need to start adding vegetables and other non-carnivorous foods to your diet ASAP, whether you become a vegetarian or not. You are on a fast track to heart disease.

Start with the vegetables you already know you like. Find recipes that include them, separately or together. For instance, if you like both potatoes and cauliflower, there is no good reason you won't like aloo gobi. If there are ingredients in the recipe you "don't like", add them anyway. You probably have no idea what you like and don't like. Continue doing this until you are able to reconcile your diet with your ideology.
posted by Sara C. at 3:35 PM on January 5, 2011

101 Cookbooks is great. I think I read it for more than a year before realizing it was a veggie/vegan blog.

Depending on the amount of space you have, the affordable way to buy good meat is on the hoof. As in, you pay the farmer for the animal, he drops it off at the butcher, and you pick it up with a couple of huge coolers. It seems pretty standard for a butcher to be willing to split pigs into halves and cattle into quarters. If that's still too much, you can further subdivide with your friends.

Unfortunately this requires a freezer but does allow/force you to meet your animal and your farmer. Our beef averages about $5/lb across the board (same price for ground beef as ribeye) and our pork is about $4/lb for a pastured animal fed organic and raised in admirable conditions. This requires the wherewithal to pay for a year's supply of meat in one go as well as they ability to cook the weird cuts of meat.

If you live somewhere where backyard chickens are common and are more willing to be 'hands on' with your food, craigslist has a steady stream of free roosters from people who discovered that sex identification is only about 90% accurate with baby chicks. Of course, you'll need to learn to pluck and clean a chicken, but it's not hard.
posted by stet at 4:15 PM on January 5, 2011

Not all meat subs are equal. Some are gross and I don't know how they even stay on the market, while some are great. Most people I know like any of the Morninstar
Farms stuff. I don't know anyone who doesn't like things made with their burger crumbles or chick'n strips. I like tofurkey products a lot, too. Everyone's taste is different, though, so you have to try them on your own.

What cuisines do you like? That's a good place to start. Thai? Tex Mex? Greek? Whatever vegetables typically show up in those dishes are things you probably like or tolerate.

When I quit eating meat, I ate a lot of what my old Joy of Cooking calls "filled things." These are sandwiches, pizza, quiche and other dinner pies, enchiladas, crepes, burritoes, you get the idea. These are great for getting meat out of your diet because meat isn't the main focus of them anyway. Actually, these are still my favorite things to eat.

Also try to pinpoint what it is exactly you don't like. Is it a texture thing? Bitterness? I have a thing about texture and have to scoop the seeds and glop out of tomatoes and then they're fine. I used to just think I didn't like them. Also, eggplant has to be cooked only one of two ways, otherwise INEDIBLE SLIME!

Finally, don't try to do it all at once.
posted by zinfandel at 4:31 PM on January 5, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, thank you so much for all of the great advice and resources! I am feeling much better about my ability to follow through on this, and will check out the sites suggested. My plan is to improve my veg cooking skills, and pick up at least one unfamiliar/new thing each time I go to the grocery.

I am also interested in trying more ethnic food... growing up and living in suburban Ohio hasn't really exposed me to much other than meat & potatoes but I've recently discovered a local Turkish restaurant that is great so I'll try to keep branching out. I always feel really dumb because I don't know how to pronounce most of the dishes and have no clue what is in them. For example, Sara C. suggested aloo gobi which looks delicious but I've never heard of it before. :)

Right now my husband and I are in a one bedroom apartment so no room for a deep freezer or backyard chickens but hopefully in the future that will be an option! Thanks again, everyone!
posted by halseyaa at 4:34 PM on January 5, 2011

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