I want to hack the (currently non-existent) vegetable part of my diet.
March 3, 2014 10:03 AM   Subscribe

I have a question regarding nutrition and vegetable intake that the internet has so far been unable to answer. I need an Idiot's Guide to eating the fewest amount of vegetables possible while still getting what vegetables have to offer. Are you willing and able to guide this idiot?

I hate vegetables. I have decided in the last few months, however, that this is not a good enough reason for me to not eat them. I need help AskMe! I eat meat, bread, and dairy exclusively. I want to know what am I missing from vegetables (and fruits, if absolutely necessary), and what is the 1) identity of the fewest number of vegetables and 2) appropriate number of servings of those vegetables I would have to eat per day or week in order to get all of those things?

I'm not trying to learn how to cook or prepare in such a way that I look forward to eating plants; I am trying to figure out the most effective and efficient way to "take my vitamins". Thank you!

I don't care about cooking to taste or whatever, but I am into cooking/preparing in order to make things edible. I can eat a raw cucumber; I probably can't eat a raw pumpkin. Apologies if this question doesn't make sense. I'll try to clarify below if I'm so vegetable-ignorant that my question is fundamentally flawed.

TL;DR Pretend I'm going to Mars, forever. I can't afford variety in my diet for its own sake. What vegetables will I need to grow and eat in order to make up for what I'm missing in meat, bread, and dairy? I want a nutritionally complete diet and don't want to miss out on any of the "good stuff" that make optimally-functional humans.
posted by Poppa Bear to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Start with the guidelines here.

The short answer is that you'd be surprised by how little we know about nutrition and health. No one can tell you a short list of essential vegetables that will broadly cover all of the micronutrients you should be getting from your diet. The best approach is to eat an appropriate quantity (per the link, roughly 4.5 cups per day) and a wide variety. It seems likely that you don't need to eat every vegetable to get adequate coverage just as it seems likely that you do need to eat more than one or two different ones. The "right number" lies somewhere in between.
posted by telegraph at 10:09 AM on March 3, 2014

Well, part of the thing about vegetables is that different vegetables contain different things, so what you're missing out on by not eating kale is different from what you're missing out on by not eating pumpkin. And you actually can eat most vegetables raw (ask raw foodists!).

Here's what I would do, if I lost all sense of taste and smell and hated life but had to go on eating vegetables for some reason: each week, buy the cheapest, darkest-colored leafy green vegetable you can find (collards or kale most likely, possibly frozen) and the cheapest brightly-colored vegetable that's not carrots that you can find (red peppers maybe? tomatoes? squash?) and carrots. Each day put them in a high quality blender with enough water (or liquid of your choice) to make them liquidy. Drink as much as you can stand, very quickly through a straw. Try not to buy the same vegetables two weeks in a row.
posted by mskyle at 10:11 AM on March 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

Fiber is pretty important to your butt's health and happiness, so there's that.

I also am bad at eating vegetables. I've found that the most efficient way for me, personally, to eat vegetables is to get a bunch of broccoli and steam it, salt it a bit, and just eat it.

Here's why I like that:

1) It takes 10 minutes start to finish, including washing the dishes.
2) Cheap as balls.
3) It tastes fine.
4) Even a lot of broccoli isn't terribly filling, so I can quickly power through my due of vegetables and then sit down and enjoy the steak or whatever it is I actually want to eat guilt free.

Here is my recipe for broccoli (you will need a lidded pot and a steamer basket): put about 3/4 an inch of water in the pot and start it to boil. Cut an entire head of broccoli over the steamer basket (easiest way is to just chop right through the stem so that all the florets naturally fall apart) and then rinse it off right there in the steamer basket. Your water should be steaming by this point. Put the steamer basket in the pot and sprinkle a bit of salt on there. Put the lid on the pot. Walk away for seven minutes. Come back and get your broccoli. Protip: you can also do this with cauliflower.

I also love roasted vegetables but honestly I've realized that at this point in my life I'm even too lazy to roast veggies. (And god, roasting vegetables is so easy. That's how lazy I am.) I figure that regular intake of at least a small unvaried handful of veggies is better than nothing.
posted by phunniemee at 10:14 AM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

The premise of your question is flawed. Humans are a bizarre species among Earth's animals - humans can subsist on almost anything that's edible (see the diverse diets around the world). If you want to see proof of this, see medical patients that are fed protein shakes and prisoners that are fed Nutraloaf. So far as I know, there is no medical evidence that people actually need a varied diet. If you can stomach your limited diet and your limited diet provides you with sufficient nutrients to meet FDA recommendations and you are maintaining a healthy weight, then I don't think you're really doing too badly. In other words, if your question is "what am I missing from vegetables?", the answer is, "probably nothing" unless you can identify some reason otherwise.

If you really don't want to eat vegetables, then don't. Take some multi-vitamin (pills) and then eat beef jerky (or whatever you like to eat) for the rest of your diet. If you want practical advice, you need to identify an actual deficiency to correct.

What are you trying to fix here? A more specific question will get you a useful answer.
posted by saeculorum at 10:15 AM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't think I've ever eaten 2½ to 6½ cups of vegetables per day (per the link) for any length of time - and I think I have a generally decent diet.

In my Peace Corps village the diet was fish, taro, rice, and coconut ... every day, for weeks on end. It was a remote atoll, and vegetables and fruit don't grow in the sandy, salty soil - I expect this had been the main diet for generations (less the rice). About the only vegetables we ever saw were sardines fried with napa cabbage and onions.

And people seemed healthy! The main health problems we saw were among the (relatively) wealthy, who substituted spam, canned corned beef, and cheetos for the fish and taro.

I think you can probably get by on few vegetables ... but something in me still rebels at the thought that this is sustainable.
posted by kanewai at 10:21 AM on March 3, 2014

Do you also not eat rice or grains, beans, nuts?

I'd worry about scurvy, honestly. And the low-fiber part of your diet, because that's risky. In general, you should have a wide variety of produce (which you've nixed), for the most part it should be lightly cooked, eaten in season, and have many different colors and textures. I take it you find that disgusting, so I really think vitamin pills are the way to go for you. They are not a good substitute for produce, but they are better than nothing. Maybe take them with a glass of Metamucil.

If you're willing to branch out a bit more than having just a few produce items, here's a list of nutrient-dense foods. Try to get whatever is on sale (that's what's in season, usually) from the list. Try to have something different from that list every few days.
posted by Houstonian at 10:27 AM on March 3, 2014

One way to easily cover a segment of the nutritional concerns is low-sodium V8 -- twelve ounces equal two servings of veggies and it covers several general areas. Stirring in a bit of turmeric, black pepper, and olive oil adds an anti-inflammatory aspect.

(low-sodium V8 provides something like 10% of one's daily recommended sodium, whereas the regular formula is up around half.)
posted by mr. digits at 10:32 AM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

How about juices? It's not optimal, but it'll get some nutrients into you. Get the juice blends in the case at the supermarket, or V-8 if you must. Hell, Snappy Tom bloody mary mix will do in a pinch.

I hide veggies in things because Husbunny HATES them. HAAAAAATTEEES them.

If you eat Pizza, you're getting tomato sauce and some onion/garlic in the sauce. Order some sauce on the side and dip.

If you eat Chinese Food, you'll get some onions/garlic and random peppers.

Fajitas also have veggies in them.

I put all kinds of stuff in meatloaf. Grated zuccinni and carrots and onions and tomato paste. Can't even taste it. The same with sloppy joes, peppers, relish, chopped spinach, onion in tomato sauce. I make mine from scratch, cheap and cheerful.

Carrot Cake can hold a surprising amount of carrots.

Pumpkin Pie has a LOT of pumpkin in it.

Unless you've been diagnosed with some sort of deficiency, just chalk it up to being a person who can get by without so many veggies, and get on with your life.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:40 AM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Pick one from each category, eat at least one serving from one of the categories once per day:
a dark leafy, green (kale/spinach/collards/mustard greens/escarole)
a deep orange vegetable (carrots/butternut squash/ sweet potato/yam)
bell pepper or citrus fruits

I think that would cover your bases for vitamin c, potassium, calcium, iron and vitamin A. Though I agree with everyone else that micronutrients are tricksy things and if you hate vegetables that much you might as well down a multivitamin and have done with it.

Beyond that, a thinly sliced garlic clove, salt, pepper, a glug of olive oil and bit of sautéing in a hot pan will do wonders.
posted by Diablevert at 10:45 AM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for your responses! Please accept these clarifications:

if your question is "what am I missing from vegetables?", the answer is, "probably nothing" unless you can identify some reason otherwise.

Well, just because you can survive on a particular diet, doesn't mean you're thriving on it. (A significant number of) people can live on McDonalds, but they're probably going to feel pretty poor while they're doing it. I'd like to plug some of the gaps in my dietary habits if I can, but as I said before, I'm both vegetable-resistant and -ignorant, and was hoping for a simple "plug your nose and eat this" response.

Specifically, there are behavioral and other health issues I've been wrestling with for quite some time that have been very resistant to traditional treatment, and I am hoping that a more complete diet might help alleviate some of those difficulties. The thought of developing a practical (for me) dietary plan in anticipation of growing older is very attractive as well.

Take some multi-vitamin

I would love that. However! I keep hearing that multivitamins may very well be about as useful as placebo when it comes to actual health impact, and it's honestly got me "hearing footsteps" about the practice (fearful and second-guessing). I certainly don't feel any better when I take one, or any other supplement for that matter. So this, for me, is an attempt to take a multivitamin that actually works.

No one can tell you a short list of essential vegetables that will broadly cover all of the micronutrients you should be getting from your diet.

I was very afraid that might be the answer to my question, which is why I tried to ask it so pointedly. "Eat plenty of colorful vegetables and lots of dark leafy greens" (to pick a common piece of advice) while I'm sure excellent, is an effectively unactionable suggestion. To me that sounds the way someone with ADHD might hear someone saying "just go to a library" if they need to concentrate on work. Tremendous advice, for almost anyone else.

If anyone has reason to believe that telepath's answer is wrong, I am all (digital) ears. Otherwise, V-8 and Bran Flakes might be my only hope. Thanks to those who took the time to answer so far!
posted by Poppa Bear at 11:35 AM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since we don't know what we don't know about nutrition, I'd go for variety. Also, I think that for you, trying to suddenly eat 5-7 servings of fruit/veg a day might not be realistic, at least right away. Here are some ideas, since you asked for concrete, actionable things:

1. Is there a fancy raw juice bar in your neighborhood? Rotating through their menu of vegetable and fruit juices would give you some variety in what you're consuming, although it's an expensive habit, and possibly a sugary one. You can do your own jucing if this works out for you.

2. Use the "color" approach and assign each day a color. (Monday=yellow, etc.) Then eat a vegetable or fruit from that color on that day. The simplest thing I can think of is a cup of a frozen vegetable or fruit (strawberries, peas, corn, broccoli, carrots, etc.), microwaved with a little water, put a condiment on top if that helps, and just force yourself to eat it. If you eat something different every day, you'll be improving on your current diet quite a bit, and you only have to do it once a day.
posted by chocotaco at 11:48 AM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's the thing: just eating SOME KIND OF VEGETABLE will be good for you. There's no minimum amount of vegetables that brings you up to a mark, and while there is surely some quantity and diversity of vegetables after which it doesn't make any difference to your health, for your purposes you can probably assume that more is better.

SO: what did you find unactionable about my juicing recommendation or phunniemee's broccoli recommendation or the low-sodium V-8 recommendation? Those all look pretty concrete to me. And any of them is almost certainly better than no vegetables at all.

(on preview, I like chocotaco's color approach, too, and would add that you can eat corn and peas frozen, you don't even need to thaw them out)
posted by mskyle at 11:55 AM on March 3, 2014

Some of this might just be mental gymnastics. If you must eat 5 cups of produce a day, does it matter if that was a single vegetable or if it is a mixture of produce items? From the standpoint of just getting it down, what's the difference?

You can cook multiple vegetables together, if that's a problem. For example, the roasting recommendation above -- you can chop up vegetables and roast them together. Or make a soup with many kinds of produce and eat that. Or a stir-fry. In all of those cases, you can also cook them at the same time as a meat, thus lending some meat flavor to the vegetables.

If ease of preparation isn't the issue, what is the problem with variety in particular?
posted by Houstonian at 11:59 AM on March 3, 2014

I was very afraid that might be the answer to my question, which is why I tried to ask it so pointedly. "Eat plenty of colorful vegetables and lots of dark leafy greens" (to pick a common piece of advice) while I'm sure excellent, is an effectively unactionable suggestion.

What makes this unactionable? Is it that you aren't familiar with which vegetables are colorful and which are dark leafy greens? Because I honestly feel that this is as simple as rotating through the vegetables available at your local supermarket. So one day you walk in and buy, say, a week's worth of the first two colorful vegetables you see and the first two leafy greens. Then you eat them over the course of a week. Next week, buy the next two colorful vegetables and dark leafy greens. Repeat until you've tried all the veggies, then begin again.

I (or anyone else) could give you a list of vegetables instead, but it's easier to grab what's right in front of you than to explicitly be looking for something from an internet list that might not be available or in season at your local store.
posted by telegraph at 12:11 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Dear Poppa Bear,

I am in your exact situation. I'm almost your exact same age. I'm an extremely picky eater with a diet that was incredibly rich in red meat, bread and dairy almost exclusively. When I was younger I promised myself that once I hit 30 I would clean myself up and so I've been doing that for the past year.

The answer for you is probably spinach and switching to whole grain everything in whatever breads and cereals you eat to make sure you get enough fiber.

That being said, maybe try to find a therapist that deals with picky eating? I started with a therapist and I'm beginning to eat "normally" i.e. healthily for the first time in 25 years. The tangerine peel in front of me is proof of that.
posted by Talez at 12:29 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd add to the advice up there about easing into vegetable consumption that putting a huge load of fiber in your system on one day when you're not used to eating much of it can lead to serious stomach pain and gas for a day or two. Ramping it up slowly gives your gut's microbiome time to get used to the new composition of your diet.

My mom's hack for vegetables when I was growing up was to just have us eat salads with dinner 5 out of 7 days, and my husband and I go in cycles of doing that for a couple of weeks every so often. My husband puts dressing on his; I usually don't bother as I don't really like dressing.

Darker leafy greens are more nutritious than the lighter, in general. If you have problems with the bitterness of darker lettuces like I do (I think I may be a supertaster), salt and lemon juice can help cut that. Down the salad before you eat anything else, and you've got it over with. The salad can be a combination of whatever greens and salady vegetables (onion, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, mushroom, carrot, celery, etc.) you find least objectionable. And many grocery stores sell these things pre-chopped, which lessens the amount of work to get a salad ready, although at a premium.
posted by telophase at 12:39 PM on March 3, 2014

Salads in general are not very efficient. So if you hate vegs, salads are a stressful way to get them.

Juices and smoothies are very good, but getting all your servings from juices will lead to other problems, so maybe just get one or two servings a day from a vegetable juice and/or a fruit juice.

Frozen vegs have lost some vitamins, but not so much it doesn't up-weigh the joy of not having to prep: have whole leaf spinach, green beans, peas, broccoli, kale in your freezer. These can be rapidly microwaved, steamed, fried, sautéed, cooked in cream. Whatever you do: remember the salt, pepper/chili, and if you are not using cream, add lemon or balsamic vinegar. Fried in butter is different from fried in olive oil. Find out what you enjoy.

Since you are male, you should be eating tomatoes like candy. The good thing is that those properties which protect you against prostate cancer are actually enhanced in cooked tomatoes, as in pasta sauces or pizza toppings (not joking!) You could also have a can of sundried tomatoes as a beer-snack, if you like beer. Tomatoes are rich in vitamins and minerals, and getting a good habit eating tomatoes will get you a long way.

Onions are amazing. You can eat them on anything, they make things taste better, wether they are raw or fried, and you get a lot of good nourishment from them. I find spring onions easier to deal with for raw onion toppings.

Garlic is very good even in tiny amounts. I have a job where I can't eat raw garlic (and smell of it), but the amazing properties of garlic survive most adulterations. Garlic bread with tomato and garlic and oregano is a vitamin bomb.

When I was young, I loved fruits, but now I find I have to force myself more and more to eat them. First of all: kiwis and bananas are the most cost-efficient fruits available where I live. As for other fruits, I've discovered I enjoy them more if I cut them up. Apples and peaches in quarters, oranges in thin slices with cinnamon as a spice. Pears in quarters with cheese. Plums and apricots in syrup with ice-cream, most berries with ice-cream, figs and melon with parma ham. My daughters eat fruit on their oatmeal or yogurt in the morning.

A bit more complicated, but still simple: vegetable soups are easy to make and very rich in nourishment; even though some of the vitamins are lost during the cooking process, there is still a lot to give. Minestrone is a basic soup that can be varied many ways, and has bacon. Using a pressure cooker or the microwave saves more vitamins.

During summer, salads might be more tempting, and then an efficient salad might be with green beans, garlic and a dressing of olive oil and lemon, or lightly blanched broccoli, almonds, and a vinaigrette.
All the veg-haters (including cauliflower-haters) I know love this cauliflower salad: make a dressing of equal parts creme fraiche and mayo, flavored with garlic or finely chopped onion (or both), mustard, salt, and pepper. (Use a cup of creme fraiche, or yogurt if you are on a diet, and adjust the other elements to taste. I use equal parts milk-product and mayo, and one small onion). Cut the cauliflower into tiny bits. Mix the whole and let rest for an hour. Add cherry tomatoes and parsley or cilantro to decorate.

Generally speaking, vegetables add more flavor to most dishes, but I sense that is not an answer to your question. I've spent a decade catering to my veg-hating dad and gran, and learnt a lot in the process, and sometimes when I am stressed, I cant really deal with vegetables, so this is my informed guess.

But I forgot Bloody Mary. I like them personally, but couldn't sell them to my dad or gran.
posted by mumimor at 1:33 PM on March 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Try to choose the most nutritionally dense vegetables. Make an effort to vary your choices. Purchasing seasonal items will help with giving you variety.

While juicing may seem to be an easy way to consume a large amount of vegetables the down side is you will not be getting the fiber - which is an important contribution that vegetables add to the diet.

This site is a terrific resource. You can simply choose the recommended foods or you can access the nutritional data. They also will send regular e-mails which focus on one food at a time.

I would suggest baby steps. Sometimes trying to make a big change fast can be overwhelming and implode. Start with a few items which are easy to prepare and work into your way of eating. Then add a few new ones per week. Frozen vegetables (without fat/sodium filled sauces) are good. Less waste and prep and they are ready when you are. If there is a Trader Joe's in your area check out their selection. They have some very nice frozen assortments!
posted by cat_link at 2:35 PM on March 3, 2014

Wait. Do you hate fruit as well? That's not clear in your question.

I made a pretty big switch from your diet to a fruit-and-vegetable based diet a couple of years ago and both lost 40 lbs and feel so, so much more energetic and alert and healthy. I can tell from the energy drop I feel if I eat a heavy meal nowadays that my ongoing diet has at least as much to do as the weight loss with my increased feelings of well-being.

One thing that may or may not be possible for you is getting really good produce. There's a giant difference in tastiness between good and bad vegetables. Not as much for fruit, but it's there as well. It's most noticeable for tomatoes, with the best ones being an almost religious experience and the worst almost inedible. I'm lucky enough to live in NYC where there's a lot of really demanding rich people, so I can go to a pricey Manhattan produce place and get really tasty vegetables practically any time of the year. That wasn't at all possible when I lived in Baltimore. Or England.
posted by overhauser at 3:11 PM on March 3, 2014

I should add that this change in my perception of food, where I think that the food is bad but it turns out that I just haven't had a good version of it, has happened several times to me. When I was young I hated coffee, then lived in Italy for a while and learned that in fact, Americans in the 80s just drank crap coffee, and good coffee is awesome. I hated beer until I lived in England and realized that in fact, Americans in the 80s just drank crap beer, and non-rice-based microbrew beer is awesome. And these last few years I realized that I didn't hate vegetables, I hate the crap vegetables that you get at a typical suburban supermarket. Real, fresh, organic vegetables are awesome. The stuff at Key Foods is revolting.
posted by overhauser at 3:17 PM on March 3, 2014

I have a lot of dietary issues and there are a lot of things I cannot eat. I don't necessarily eat a lot of variety daily in terms of veggies. But potatoes are a staple of my diet, preferably in the form of baked potatoes or mashed potatoes or some other healthy form (not just french fries and potato chips).

From what I gather, the reason the Irish Potato Famine was so terrible is because the potato is one of the few foods that you can nearly live off of with little else. It helped feed many large, poor families with very small plots of land who simply could not produce a really varied diet. Supposedly, if you add a little buttermilk to make up for something potatoes lack, you can be pretty healthy on just potatoes.

So not saying you shouldn't ever eat anything else, but if you include potatoes (raw or baked or some other healthy form of them, not just potato chips), that will be a good thing to do on your mythical trip to Mars.
posted by Michele in California at 3:43 PM on March 3, 2014

This applies to all foods, but may help you narrow things down some: NutritionData has a search tool where you can click on a grid according to how nutritious and filling you want your food item. It sorts the results, which you can look at individually for their nutrient balance.

As an example, you would be clicking in the upper right corner for most nutritious and filling foods (foods high in fiber are very filling, and fiber is one of the big health boosts that veggies provide). "Mustard greens" shows up near the top in these results, and if you scroll down a bit, you'll see that the Nutrient Balance Chart shows mustard greens are super high in a wide range of vitamins and minerals (shown in purple and gray), and have plenty of fiber (shown in green). Since you probably get plenty of B and D in your current diet, and you don't need it to provide any of the yellow bits (sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol) or blue (protein), mustard greens definitely qualify as your super-veg.

I'd suggest finding at least 3 or 4 of these foods that you can 1. tolerate and 2. cook/incorporate easily, and rotate through them, maybe on a weekly basis, as eating too much of any one thing can sometimes cause health problems.
posted by moira at 5:10 PM on March 3, 2014

You could consider discussing this with a nutritionist or dietician.

I read a book once that suggested these minimum requirements:
- Eat a large salad every day
- Eat at least half a cup of beans/legumes in soup, salad, or another dish
- Eat at least three fresh fruits a day, especially berries, cherries, plums, oranges
- Eat at least one ounce of raw nuts/seeds a day
- Eat at least one large (double-size serving of green vegetables daily, either raw, steamed, or in soups and stews.

Just sign up for a CSA and use what they give you. Or if there isn't one in your area, find the nearest CSA farm that lists their weekly contents online and use that as your weekly vegetable shopping list.
posted by aniola at 5:21 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can you handle green smoothies? Throw a cup of kale, a carrot or two, and add a pear and/or banana and maybe a slice of fresh ginger to taste in a blender (not a juicer) and you've just cheated your way into several servings of fruit and vegetables. Fruit definitely covers the taste of vegetable if you balance it right. (Though you may end up creating a sugar bomb, if you're sensitive to that.)
posted by blue suede stockings at 5:47 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since it is an ongoing problem to get kids to eat their vegetables, there are a number of cookbooks out there with recipes to make dishes that include vegetables palatable. These obviously work for adults as well. One you might try is called The Sneaky Chef. I mention this because books like these contain nutritional info. not just recipes and so may answer some of your questions.
posted by gudrun at 5:50 PM on March 3, 2014

Re: Above poster, Taro is reasonably nutritious vegetable. Add the coconut, you're pretty good. Didn't they eat Taro leaves as well?

Anyway, on topic:
Problem is, the idea still seems to be that vegetables are best in *quantity* in your life, because of one of the main things people need more is the fiber, and secondly, they're best in variety, because who knows what micronutrients you need.

What *do* you eat at the moment?

Let us know, and then maybe we can suggest some easy ways to sneak relevent and appropriate veges into your life.

Good frozen peas are one of the more nutritionally dense, lowest effort veges. Baby peas are surprisingly fresh and tasty (you may like them better as an adult if you didn't as a kid). Just add them as a side with salt/butter, or mix in with ground beef etc, and don't do more than basically heating them (no need to boil within an inch of their non-lives). Eat them like a carb.

Fresh veges do taste better, but go off sooner, and have a higher effort cost.
I suggest the classy rather than cheap mixes of frozen veges. The ones with mixes of like, edamame, mushrooms, capiscum, or broccolli, spinach, etc. In the freezer, so they won't go off, or require a bunch of chopping. Just buy them on special, and add a portion with whatever you are eating.

We've just been eating frozen mixes of cubed potato, carrots, and broccoli etc, that we chuck in the oven to roast, and then have pretty much instead of rice or pasta. So we've been having chilli or bolognaise on top of salted roasted, veges with cheese.
Or eggs, bacon, and a pan of mixed veges for weekend breakfast. Sometimes a can of chopped tomatoes thrown in for saucyness.
Red cabbage, lightly stir fried or steamed with some butter or sauce, instead of pasta as the bulk of a meal.

So, focus on replacing some carbs with mixed veges instead, and you should hit your target.

Also, taste buds continue changing, right through adulthood, if it helps. I can finally eat a bunch of things I used to not like.

To adjust, don't be afraid to add salt, butter, or sugar (yes, even a bit of sugar on cooked carrots), to suit to your tastes. Once you've acclimatised to the new tastes, you can back off on the additions.
posted by Elysum at 7:05 PM on March 3, 2014

Whole Foods has little signs posted that rates various foods by "aggregate nutritional density." The top scorers seem to be Mustard/Turnip/Collard Greens, Kale, Swiss Chard, and Upland/Watercress.
posted by hishtafel at 9:38 PM on March 3, 2014

Broccoli has been the one thing all my life that I have been told to eat, and found disgusting. Even/especially glopped with cheese. (I don't like lots of other veggies too, but the dark greens were always my nemeses). But I persevered and finally found one (one!) recipe that worked for me (which I won't link because you said you didn't want that, if you change your mind I will) and it basically makes broccoli taste like a delicious tangy garlicy toasty snack, instead of the slimy little trees of my previous experience. And now I crave it. Which freaks me out, frankly, but also it's nice to have something I can eat joyously and feel virtuous about.

Veggies in their raw state can be bitter to a lot of people, who also may be put off by the coldness/texture (I still dislike salads)/fibrousness of them. So the solution to making yourself eat them might be to figure out what exactly you hate, and then search for recipes that counteract that; not just by pouring on cheese (which does little) but by cooking/infusing/spicing up the offending plant with things you do like.

You like meat, bread, dairy. Do you like spices? Sweetness? Both? Dry and crunchy things? Soups? All of these can aid you in making horrible horrible green things palatable. It will require effort, and maybe you hate to cook. Not every dish will turn out. But, do you really want to grimly gnaw through nutrient loaf the rest of your life? I couldn't do it, frankly.
posted by emjaybee at 9:38 PM on March 3, 2014

Specifically, there are behavioral and other health issues I've been wrestling with for quite some time that have been very resistant to traditional treatment, and I am hoping that a more complete diet might help alleviate some of those difficulties. The thought of developing a practical (for me) dietary plan in anticipation of growing older is very attractive as well.

If you have come to the conclusion that your current diet is having some kind of adverse effect on your health, the solution is probably not "add the minimal amount of veggies you can choke down", but rather "have a professional examine your diet and recommend changes which might be beneficial".

Having said that, if I was going to Mars and could only take a limited variety of vegetables, I'd take carrots, broccoli, cabbage and potato. Granted, I like these for the taste and relative versatility but if you want concrete answers, there you go. Get those 4 veggies and rotate through, eating a different one each day. Serving size - I would say 1 small to medium sized carrot. Likewise with the potato. One or two "clumps" of broccoli, one or two outer sized leaves of cabbage, more as the leaves get smaller.

Also I hope you come back and ask for tips on how to prepare veggies so they taste nice, or at least are hidden. Forcing yourself to eat a food you hate because it might be good for you is no way to live.
posted by pianissimo at 9:41 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can put a crapton of fresh spinach leaves into pretty much any wet food dish (curry! cream sauce! pasta!) and they'll cook right down (and the flavour can easily be masked). If you're cool with Asian-style cooking, you can do the same thing with a pre-prepared pack of stir fry mix (fry it 'til you can barely see that it's vegetables) and overwhelm the vegetable content with sauce, protein and noodles/rice (if you do peanut butter then spicy peanut sauce in Asian food is incredible and easy). My go-to vegetable is frozen peas, as I find them inoffensive and they microwave in about five minutes. Canned corn is also great for convenience. Your mileage is probably going to vary based on whether or not you can stomach any of the above vegetables.

Disclaimer: I really like vegetables myself, but I'm also an incredibly lazy cook. I'm not saying you're a lazy cook, but if the problem is simply getting more of this stuff into your diet then convenience probably can't hurt.
posted by terretu at 2:20 AM on March 4, 2014

Also: roasted sweet potatoes are also super easy, super delicious and one of the best starches for you nutritionally. Plus you can put cinnamon/mayo/sour cream/marshmallows on them as you choose. Or toss them in spicy marinade if you like that kind of thing.
posted by terretu at 2:23 AM on March 4, 2014

I recently made a bean and beef chili with an entire head of cabbage (shredded), which was unidentifiable after a few hours of simmering. (I actually like cabbage a lot, so I was a little bummed!)

There are a lot of dishes like that. Google "dishes with hidden vegetables" and you'll see a ton of recipes. Many of them are directed at kids, but they're perfectly viable for adults.

And, although I don't like weird smoothies either, you can probably start by pounding one a day quickly!
posted by miss tea at 6:16 AM on March 4, 2014

Disclaimer: I love vegetables. I eat a lot of them.

What about a smoothie? It's extra easy if you like fruit, some milk (cow's milk, almond milk, whatever you like), frozen berries, and a handful of leafy greens like baby spinach is a decent way to sneak vegetables into your diet.

My dad really hates vegetables and is a big baby when it comes to them, so he started making smoothies with as many vegetables as he could and just chugging them. I don't think he really enjoyed carrot apple ginger smoothies and whatever other concoctions he made, but he argued that he didn't like vegetables and "didn't have time" to eat all of them.

Soup is another option. You can make a basic vegetable soup by cooking some hard vegetables in a bit of fat, such as carrots, onions, celery, and potatoes with some salt. Then add some vegetable stock and softer vegetables like zucchini, cabbage, tomatoes and let simmer for a while until everything tastes good. Add whatever kind of herbs and other seasonings you like. You can try to eat a bowl before every meal to get a big variety of vegetables in.

Do you like fried rice? There's a million recipes out there for cauliflower fried "rice." You basically grate a big head of fresh cauliflower use it in place of cooked rice in fried rice. And look at all the vitamins in cauliflower! I really do not like cauliflower very much on it's own, but it's pretty tasteless when prepared this way and takes on all the delicious flavors you put with it.
posted by inertia at 9:01 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's something that works for me: I make a chart for each week's dinners, one column for protein, one column for carbs, one column for vegetables. Each meal has to have a vegetable, and I can't repeat the dinner vegetables during the week. The vegetable has to take up about half the plate. I think the most important thing is to try different things and see what you personally can stomach frequently. Mandating that I have to have different ones over the week gives plenty of variety. Once you have spent some time experimenting, you hopefully will find ones that are easy for you to prepare.

This next tip was important to me for making vegetables palatable (which I know you say you're not interested in), but it was also hugely important for making vegetables easy to incorporate into my lifestyle. Learn a few failsafe techniques for making vegetables. A few examples: (1) sautee with a fat, salt, and an aromatic (like garlic or herbs) - this is for green leafy vegetables like spinach; (2) steam/sautee with a fat, salt and an aromatic - this is for firmer vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans; (3) roast - great for root vegetables like sweet potatoes especially because you can just throw them onto a sheet of tin foil in the oven, very little prep; (4) (this is my new favorite) parboil very quickly, and douse with a sauce (I like a mix of soy sauce and oyster sauce) - this is good for more delicate vegetables like spinach, baby bok choy, green beans. If any of these sound interesting, google around for recipes or videos. I learned these methods from "How to Cook Without a Book" which is my favorite cookbook (anti-cookbook?) ever and taught me how to cook. If you really don't want to mess with this, almost anything will be fine (and will retain nutrients) if either steamed or boiled just until tender and then topped with butter and salt.

I also try to incorporate veggies into breakfast and lunch as well, but let myself repeat. I have the same thing for breakfast every day - eggs and salsa on a bed of spinach with half an avocado. I give myself a pass for lunch and often have fruit instead of veggies (and fruit is just as good for getting your fiber and many vitamins) - berries and grapes are my favorites as they are very easy to prepare and throw together in a bowl. You don't seem to like fruit, so you could just do something easy like baby carrots.

TL/DR: Making veggies mandatory (every meal must have 1 vegetable, it must take up half my plate, no repeating for dinners) took a lot of the guesswork out of eating vegetables and finally just got me eating them on a regular basis.
posted by ReBoMa at 3:24 PM on March 4, 2014

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