There are three main reasons why you might not be eating vegetables in your daily life.
First, maybe you do eat some vegetables, but you’re just not eating enough of them. The CDC has done studies and, according to their data, has found that 87% of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables regularly. It’s simply part of American culture to focus on meat as a centerpiece to a meal.
Second, maybe you just don’t like them. Maybe you grew up eating canned spinach and steamed-to-death broccoli, and you never developed a taste for them. Eating them is an unpleasant enough experience that you just choose alternatives, filling your meals with meat, fish, and bread instead.
Incidentally, if this is the case, we recommend giving them another try. A lot of vegetables admittedly taste awful when they’re cooked poorly. Instead of steaming them, try roasting them with a bit of lemon and spices, for example. “Vegetables” is a really broad category, and you can always try different preparations to find something you like.
Plus, hey, sometimes vegetables just taste better now. Did you know that a group of scientists in the Netherlands have spent over a decade selectively breeding Brussels sprouts to make them taste better? It’s true! If you have bad memories of the bitter, cabbage-like balls from your childhood, well, they’re practically an entirely new vegetable these days.
The third reason you might be avoiding vegetables is when you’re focusing on a carnivore diet. There are a lot of diets that preferentially focus on meat, like Keto, Paleo, and Primal diets, but they still work in plenty of veg. Carnivore diets, meanwhile, focus entirely on meat and exclude plant matter, as a sort of anti-vegan dietary movement.
One potential, albeit rare, fourth reason to avoid vegetables is allergies. Some people are legitimately allergic to some vegetables, like alliums, nightshades, or pollen food syndrome. This is really quite rare, though, and if you think you’re allergic to vegetables, we recommend seeing an allergist to get tested and figure out what, specifically, is actually triggering your allergies.
What You’re Missing Without Vegetables
If you’re not eating vegetables, or you’re not eating enough vegetables, you’re going to be missing out on a selection of key nutrients that your body needs to survive. Some of them you can live without for a long time, while others will increase things like fatigue levels or your risk of diabetes. Others might simply induce unpleasant side effects, like diarrhea. So what might you end up missing, and how can you get it from non-veg sources? We’ve identified the ten most prominent ingredients you’ll need to supplement.
The number one element you’re missing with a low- or no-vegetable diet is fiber. Fiber is something you’ll notice you’re missing pretty quick, but you might not draw the connection. A lack of fiber leads to either diarrhea or constipation.
Fiber is a “prebiotics” and a binder for the material that passes through your intestines. It fuels your gut flora and allows your digestive system to function properly. Modern studies are even indicating that fiber may be better than probiotics themselves at regulating your gut biome.
Most dietary fiber typically comes from plant matter, so if you’re not eating enough vegetables, you’re going to want to take some kind of fiber supplement. Science recommends around 25 grams of fiber every day for women, and 38 grams daily for men.
You can get fiber supplements in various forms, including methylcellulose, psyllium, inulin, and wheat dextrin. You can also simply strive to eat more vegetables that are high in fiber, such as beans, lentils, and artichokes. If you want something sweeter, raspberries are also high.
2. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is sometimes an issue with carnivore diets, and sometimes not. It depends on what specifically you’re eating. Liver, for example, is high in vitamin A on its own, so you can eat that and be fine without a supplement. If you prefer leaner meats like chicken, though, you’re going to want to get your vitamin A somewhere else.
Obviously, you can pick up a vitamin A supplement anywhere you can get vitamins. If you’re interested in a compound or multi-vitamin, look for something with a sufficient quantity of Retinol.
The vegetable-based option is typically beta-carotene. This compound isn’t vitamin A itself, but the body breaks it down into vitamin A when you digest it. You can get this from everything from carrots to grass-fed steak.
One thing to note, though, is that you don’t want to take too much vitamin A if you’re a woman who is or is looking to become pregnant. High levels of vitamin A have been linked to some birth defects.
3. Vitamins B7 and B9
There are a whole bunch of different B vitamins, and they all interact with your system in different ways. They come from a variety of different sources, as well. Other than the typical Bs, there are some less common B vitamins you might pick up in your diet as well, but they aren’t a primary concern.
Vitamin B7, also known as biotin, is an important vitamin for hair health and skin health. Vitamin B9, aka folate, is meanwhile a potent vitamin for regulating healthy blood.
Neither of these vitamins is rare in meat, but you have to either eat vitamin-rich meat or other protein sources, or you should top them off with a supplement. For food sources, you can get more of these vitamins from liver, eggs, and salmon. Alternatively, eat more leafy greens to get more than enough of both of them.
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As far as supplements go, you can’t go wrong with a B Complex multivitamin. The B Complex typically includes B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12 in an appropriate mixture to get you your daily intake in a single capsule.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a critical vitamin that you probably know all about as a driver of the immune system. Well, it might not be quite as potent as folklore will have you suggest, but it’s still critical to eat enough of the vitamin to avoid deficiency. Deficiency in vitamin C causes scurvy, which is definitely not something you want to experience. Unless, you know, you’re a fan of bleeding from your gums.
Vitamin C is something you’re not going to find in meat pretty much at all. Even when you find it, you won’t be getting a lot of it, unless you’re eating non-standard organ sources. We’re talking things like lung, spleen, and thymus here. Worse, cooking the meat destroys the vitamin C, so you need to eat them raw.
Rather than that, why not eat some fruit? Vitamin C is present in citrus, tomato, and kiwi. You can also get it from peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. And, of course, you’re always able to just pick up one of those tangy chewable vitamin C tablets, or a more condensed and swallowable supplement tablets.
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is one of the more common antioxidants you can get from your diet. It’s most often used in the body when your body burns fat for energy, which is what you’ll be doing if you’re on a carnivore diet. A diet full of carbs, less so. A lack of vitamin E can lead to high levels of oxidative stress, tissue damage, and other issues.
Vitamin E can be found in a few meat-adjacent foods, like snails, fish eggs, and salmon, but you’re going to have to eat a decent amount every day to get the vitamins you really need.
To get vitamin E from food-based sources, you’re typically going to want to eat seeds and nuts, usually those that have fat or oil in them. Sunflower seeds, almonds, and pine nuts are all good choices.
You can also simply take a supplement. Vitamin E is a core component of a lot of multivitamins, and you can, of course, just get it as a stand-alone vitamin supplement as well.
6. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is a crucial vitamin your body needs for healthy bones, bone healing, and blood clotting. Without it, you’ll end up with osteoporosis and bleeding issues. Most people tend to get their vitamin K from leafy greens, with smaller amounts present in a variety of other foods.
In a meat-focused diet, you can sometimes get enough vitamin K from eating enough chicken and pork regularly, though you may have to eat enough of it to reach that point. This can be tricky if you’re also eating a bunch of liver and beef to get other nutrients. You can also get some vitamin K from tuna, though you’ll need to eat 200+ grams to get enough per day.
Vitamin K supplements are not hard to come by, both as your typical multivitamin or as a stand-alone supplement. Since so much of your potential deficiencies are vitamins, a multivitamin might not be a bad idea. However, you may want to do a blood test or two to figure out if you’re overdoing it on any particular vitamins and should do a few individual supplements instead.
Calcium is a critical mineral for bone health, as well as blood pressure regulation, muscle function, hormone signaling, and nerve health. It does a lot.
The trick with calcium is that a lot of foods are fortified with additional calcium, like dairy and cereal. However, calcium alone isn’t going to do you much good. Why? Without vitamin K, your body can’t absorb much of that calcium. It just passes right through you. It would be like trying to fish without a hook or a net. There are plenty of fish there, but you have no way to catch them.
Calcium can also be found in boney fish like sardines, beef tripe, and a few other meat-based sources. You can even get a little bit from Himalayan salt, but you’d have to eat a LOT of salt to get a sufficient amount of calcium, and that’ll hurt you more than help.
If you need more calcium in your diet, drinking some dairy is generally the easiest way. If you want a supplement, make sure you’re getting enough of both vitamin K and calcium so you can absorb them both.
Potassium, in your body, is used to regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Too much potassium can lead to kidney issues, but too little of it can cause kidney stones, high blood pressure, and an irregular heartbeat. You’re going to want a lot of it too; the daily recommended amount is 3,400-4,500 mg.
Potassium is naturally found in a lot of fruits and vegetables, but it’s also available in some quantity in red meat. Potatoes, beans, and greens are good sources as well.
A potassium supplement will not be hard to find and, of course, a good multivitamin will include both vitamins and minerals to make the most out of your single supplement.
Magnesium is an essential mineral, which means your body cannot produce it and you have to get it from your food. It’s also one of the most prevalent and most necessary minerals; it has fingers in pretty much every part of your bodily pie. It’s used in metabolism, in DNA synthesis, in mood regulation, and a whole lot else besides.
Magnesium is usually found in nuts and beans, but you can also get it from mollusks, salmon, and bone broth, but only if the bone broth has been boiled for at least 12 hours to extract the magnesium from the bones.
Magnesium is easy to find as a supplement, particularly in the bioavailable magnesium citrate. Be careful not to take too much, though, because mag citrate is also used as a laxative, and it works quite well.
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While not technically a single nutrient, polyphenols are a range of antioxidants you get from plants. They help protect against heart disease, nerve damage, and a range of other problems.
In order to get polyphenols, you’re going to want to either get them from plants directly or as supplements. You can pick up some curcumin, lycopene, or pterostilbene supplements fairly easily. You can also get a bunch from green tea, and green tea extracts found in some supplements.
— Update: 14-03-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article What Do I Do If I Don’t Like Vegetables? from the website www.beachbodyondemand.com for the keyword diet for those who don’t eat vegetables.
It’s not the end of the world if you don’t like vegetables, but they are the pinnacle of health when it comes to your diet — these fiber-filled rockstars are key players when it comes to healthy digestion, weight management, satiety, longevity, and disease prevention.
But good news for veggie haters!
Over time, your taste buds reduce in number and size, thus rendering your taste senses less sharp so things you hated as a kid you might actually enjoy as an adult.
You still might not go from veggie hater to veggie lover overnight, but with a few simple mental shifts and some handy tips in the kitchen, you’ll be on your way to becoming a big fan.
(Pro tip: Adding Power Greens to your daily Shakeology is an easy, delicious way to add more greens to your diet. Find your favorite recipe here!)
The Benefits of Eating Vegetables
You’ve been told to eat your peas — and other veggies — for as long as you can remember.
But do you know why? Here are three good reasons:
1. Vegetables provide a nutrient bang for your caloric buck
A side-by-side comparison illustrates that for almost the same number of calories, you can either consume 32 baby carrots with two tablespoons hummus or an ounce and a half of pretzels.
Both are crunchy snacks, but carrots and hummus are a more nutrient-rich snack choice.
Not only can you eat a bigger portion, but it also provides fiber, healthy fats, protein, quality carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients.
In her research, Dr. Barbara J. Rolls, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State University, found that eating vegetables promotes satiety, thus resulting in fewer total calories consumed.
In laymen’s terms: Foods like big, bulky salads or vegetable soup may help you feel more satisfied, even if you’re eating fewer calories.
2. Fruits and vegetables can help you stay “regular”
Talking about fiber might not be sexy, but when it comes to feeling full and losing weight, eating enough fiber can help make that easier.
Fiber is the indigestible portion of plants and takes longer to move through the digestive system, which can promote that “full feeling.”
Fiber also adds bulk to your stool, which helps keep things moving along.
But most Americans only get approximately 16 grams of fiber per day, significantly less than the USDA Dietary Guideline’s recommendation of 25–38 grams.
This is mostly due to an overconsumption of packaged, processed foods void of fiber, and a diet lacking in fiber-rich fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
If you’re looking to add more fiber to your diet, for every fruit serving, aim for two veggie servings, until you reach seven to nine total combined servings per day.
3. Vegetables are versatile
Stay with me here: You may have grown up eating soggy boiled green beans or overcooked broccoli, but as an adult, you have the power to stop cooking veggies until they turn into mush.
A new cooking method (roasting, perhaps?), seasonings and sauces, or simply combining different colors and textures can take your veggie game to the next level.
How to Make Vegetables Taste Good
Find your “starter” vegetable
There are all kinds of vegetables out there and they all taste different.
If you don’t already have a favorite veggie, take advantage of opportunities to taste-test different ones at a restaurant or at a dinner party — or if you’re feeling brave, get in the kitchen and start experimenting.
When you come across something that you like, this is your “starter” veggie. Common vegetable varieties include:
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, romaine, arugula, dandelion greens, bok choy)
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts)
- Allium (garlic, onion, shallots, leeks)
- Root vegetables (sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, celery, radish)
- Gourds (squash, pumpkin, zucchini)
- Nightshades (eggplant, tomato, white potato, okra)
- Beans and legumes (black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, soybeans, lentils)
Once you’ve found your starter veggie, you can start experimenting with different preparations until you find the right one for your taste buds.
Experiment with cooking techniques
Which sounds better, boiled carrots or roasted rainbow carrots with maple glaze? Steamed broccoli or roasted broccoli with peanuts?
When you’re iffy on veggies, roasting them is usually a good place to start because it brings out the natural sweetness of each vegetable through a process called caramelization.
Not a fan of roasting? Consider using the grill. Grilled kabobs may spark fond memories of backyard barbecues.
Associating vegetables with happy times can help reframe your disdain for them.
Add sauces, herbs, spices, and dips
While it may be counterintuitive to add calories just to get you to eat your veggies when done within an overall healthy diet, you can still achieve the weight-loss results you want — and eventually, you may find you don’t need the dips and sauces at all!
Dip raw celery or jicama in hummus, spread some all-natural peanut butter over celery sticks (add raisins for that classic ants on a log treat), or kick up your green beans with fresh garlic.
Or try this recipe for Miso-Glazed Acorn Squash or these Balsamic-Glazed Brussels Sprouts.
Some people have a certain taste receptor gene that can increase sensitivity to bitter flavors found in certain vegetables like brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale.
But with the right flavorings (lemon or cinnamon) and preparation methods (sautéed with fresh garlic or roasted with coconut oil), an otherwise bitter leafy green or floret can become a must-have sidekick to your main dish.
Mix it up
Try multiple veggies at once instead of singling them out.
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Something like this Winter Superfoods Bowl can help you combine various flavors and textures into a mixed dish that may suit your taste buds quite nicely.
Go stealth mode
We all know that cheese and bacon can make anything taste ten times better and sure, you can smother cauliflower in cheese and call it Cheesy Cauliflower Nachos, but why not add veggies to the foods you already love?
Researchers have found that “hiding” veggies in your favorite recipes can help boost your vegetable consumption decrease total daily caloric intake for the double win.
Some sneaky ideas:
- Add puréed veggies to your pasta sauce.
- Mash cauliflower into mashed white potatoes.
- Blend baby spinach into your fruit smoothie.
- Add puréed pumpkin to your pancake batter or prepared oatmeal.
- Top your pizza with mushrooms.
- Mix half spaghetti noodles with half zucchini noodles.
- Add chopped mushrooms or carrots to your hamburger patty, or better yet, be brave and make a black bean veggie burger.
How to Buy Vegetables
Whether you buy fresh, frozen, pre-cut, or canned depends on how you plan to cook your vegetables — and how much time you have to prepare them.
“Fresh is best” — most of the time. When looking for the perfect produce, select vegetables that aren’t wilting and still look vibrant.
If your grocer doesn’t carry what you’re looking for, head over to the freezer section.
Frozen produce is basically fresh produce that was frozen at peak ripeness, thus “locking in” all the valuable vitamins and phytonutrients.
In addition, stocking up on frozen produce can help minimize food waste with its longer shelf life compared to fresh fruits and vegetables.
If you’re pressed for time, pre-cut vegetables may be your saving grace.
Heat, air, and light are three elements known to degrade certain nutrients, so keep in mind, the tinier the pieces, the more surface area is exposed to oxygen, thus resulting in nutrient loss.
If possible, choose a package that was freshly prepared at the market and store it in a dark, cold refrigerator.
Canned vegetables often mimic your worst nightmare when it comes to this food group — limp and lifeless.
Plus, the preservation process degrades many valuable nutrients.
The only exceptions to this rule are puréed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!) and butternut squash, tomatoes, and canned beans.
Check the label to make sure your canned veggies are low-sodium or no-salt-added.
If you’re concerned about exposure to BPA (bisphenol A), then look for BPA-free cans or glass-jarred veggies.
How to Prepare Vegetables
Pro tip: Make your veggies resemble something you already adore.
Turn cauliflower into cauliflower rice or mashed cauliflower. Create “noodles” out of zucchini.
Transform carrots into “fries” — you get the idea. Need more?
Try cauliflower pizza crust, broccoli tots, cauliflower breadsticks, or sweet potato toast, or swap portobellos for a burger patty and top it with some lettuce and tomato.
Here are five cooking methods, ranked from top to bottom in the order you’re likely to enjoy most:
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut your veggies into similar-sized pieces. Items that cook quickly (broccoli, cauliflower florets) can be roasted without additional chopping.
Other vegetables and items that take a little bit longer to soften (beets, sweet potatoes) should be cut into about 1-inch cubes to help everything cook evenly.
Arrange in a single layer on a large parchment or aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with coconut or olive oil, then toss to coat.
Add herbs or spices like fresh rosemary, thyme, chili powder, or cumin for additional flavor.
Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the type of veggie, turning once or twice during cooking to brown evenly and ensure they don’t get too crispy.
Note: Softer, smaller veggies require less time than dense veggies like roots and tubers.
Prepare grill to medium heat. Cut vegetables so they are large enough to lay flat on the grill without falling through.
Lightly coat veggies with coconut or light olive oil, and add a dash of salt and pepper. Grill to desired tenderness.
Cook times vary, depending on the type of veggie, approximately 4 minutes (asparagus) to 10 minutes (bell peppers).
Wash and chop vegetables so they are evenly sized. In a large skillet set on medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive or coconut oil and chopped garlic.
Add vegetables and continue to cook and stir until desired tenderness (you can easily insert a fork, but not overly mushy), about 5 or more minutes. Season with herbs and spices.
Note: Leafy greens will wilt faster than other vegetables so add those in the final minute of cooking.
Add about an inch of water to a large saucepan. Place a steamer basket into the pan and fill with vegetables in their ready-to-eat form.
Just like roasted vegetables, dense ones (like root veggies) will take longer to cook.
Cutting these into smaller half-inch cubes helps reduce the amount of time to doneness.
Cover with the lid and steam on medium-high for 2 to 15 minutes, depending on the size and type of vegetables (spinach and asparagus take less time to cook than tubers or root veggies).
Be careful not to overcook to the point that green veggies turn brown or bright veggies turn dull. Cook to the point where a fork can be inserted, but the veggie is still a bit firm.
Almost any veggie works well when steamed. Season to taste.
Wash, chop, and chow down. You may want to dunk these in a healthy dip or combine in a salad and drizzle with dressing so they’re not so boring.
However, if munching on raw celery or carrots is your thing, then, by all means, carry on!
The Bottom Line
Even if you’re a lifelong avoider of vegetables, take heart: With an open mind and a little creativity and crafty cooking, you can start adding more of this healthy food group to your diet.
Want more expert nutrition advice? Check out BODNutrition.com and learn how Beachbody nutrition programs and products can help you lead a healthier lifestyle.