How to Eat More Vegetables

a.k.a. “Obsessions of an unemployed management consultant”

I quit my job as a management consultant 9 months ago, but that doesn't mean I've stopped thinking like one.

Almost daily I find myself applying frameworks and issue-trees where no such analysis is needed. For example, do I really need to optimize my grocery store route for efficiency?!

One recent obsession has been vegetables.

Namely: how can I eat more vegetables everyday?

In addition to some (hopefully) very useful advice, at the very least this article will give you an entertaining look into the mind of an unemployed management consultant. Enjoy!

The Situation — why I don’t eat enough vegetables

I know I’m supposed to make half my plate vegetables at each meal, but even with a conscious effort I doubt I get close to that on most days.

I actually like the taste of most vegetables, but I HATE the preparation process: buying, washing, peeling, chopping, cooking, etc. Few foods that require so much effort to produce so little output.

I start with a massive pile of fresh produce, and when I finish cooking it’s a shrunken pile of greens that is gone after one meal. Most people find it much easier to reject vegetables in favour of more calorie-dense alternatives: meats, potatoes, grains, pastas, beans, etc.

Recently, though, I have adopted a new strategy that has significantly increased my daily intake.

The Solution (part 1)

Most nutrition experts recommend and rank vegetables based on nutrient density. It seems like a logical approach, but here is the key issue: vegetable nutrient density is an inconsequential consideration when the average American is only eating 50% of the recommended vegetable intake.

In light of these facts, we need to switch the focus away from nutrients and make QUANTITY the #1 priority.

The Solution (part 2)

We need to go a level deeper to get some tangible advice from this line of thinking.

For most people, the biggest obstacle to getting adequate quantity is the TIME and EFFORT required to prepare vegetables.

Here’s where my new strategy comes in: instead of selecting vegetables based on their nutrition or taste, I now ruthlessly evaluate vegetables based on which will yield the maximum QUANTITY of food with the minimum investment of TIME and EFFORT.

The Implementation Plan — The [new] way I choose vegetables

Ok, let’s get to the practical implications.

I’ve ranked the most common vegetables into four categories based on quantity of food produced vs. time & effort required — best is at the top and worst is at the bottom. This says nothing of the nutritional value of the vegetables, as some in the lowest category are really healthy (but just extremely tedious to prepare).

I haven’t specified the exact preparation and cooking method for each item, but I typically use some combination of: wash/peel/cut and then steam/roast/boil/sauté.

For some of you, this list might be common sense. For others, this might be the simple mindset switch you need to eat more vegetables everyday.


Category #1 — No Effort Vegetables:

These vegetables can be eaten immediately with no preparation or cooking. Add dips and dressings if desired.

  • Baby carrots
  • Washed leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula, etc.)
  • Pre-cut packaged veggies (e.g. carrot sticks, celery, cucumber, peppers)

Category #2 — Low Effort Vegetables:

These vegetables require some minimal preparation like washing, cutting, or peeling but can be eaten raw.

  • Un-washed leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula, etc.)
  • Cucumber
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Celery
  • Broccoli (raw)
  • Cauliflower (raw)
  • Whole carrots (raw)

Category #3 — High Effort, High Yield Vegetables:

These vegetables require preparation like washing, cutting, or peeling as well as cooking, but yield a HIGH amount of food.

  • Pre-cut vegetables (sweet potato, peppers, zucchini, etc.) — best
  • Cabbage — best
  • Zucchini — best
  • Broccoli — best
  • Cauliflower — best
  • Asparagus
  • Bok Choy
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Whole carrots
  • Beets
  • Eggplant
  • Parsnips

Category #4 — High Effort, Low Yield Vegetables:

These vegetables require preparation like washing, cutting, or peeling as well as cooking, and yield a LOW amount of food.

  • Kale
  • Peppers
  • Green beans
  • Onions
  • Green onions
  • Leeks

Here’s how I use this list.

  1. Always keep at least 2 items from category #1 and/or category #2 in the fridge. This gives me no excuse not to eat vegetables since it takes so little time to prepare. For example, I always have a box of mixed greens and a bag of baby carrots available for making simple salads.
  2. A couple times a week, pick an item from category #3 and do a bulk-cook. For example, I'll buy a whole cabbage and chop and roast it with olive oil and garlic, and then eat it over the next few days.
  3. Don't buy from category #4 unless it’s for a specific recipe. History has shown that unless I have a specific recipe for these vegetables, I will be too lazy to use them and they'll spoil.

Hopefully this helps simplify how you think about vegetables so that you can increase your intake even if you're short on time.

Now, you let me know what you think:

Do you think I’ve mis-categorized any of the vegetables?

Is there anything else you've tried that’s effective at increasing the quantity of vegetables you eat?

Do you think I'm crazy for spending this much time analyzing vegetables?

Let me know in the comments below.