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What do you count as a vegetable?

I'm asking this primarily from the perspective of a nutrition standpoint as opposed to a scientific classification basis.

In addition to excluding starchy "veggies" like potatoes, corn, green beans, and peas - I also am prone to discounting vegetables that have been pickled from "veggie" classifications since I view them as having lost many nutrients and gained a lot of salt. While I view vegetables that have been fried or are covered with cheese as less healthy ways of eating vegetables - I have a hard time of even considering a pickle as a vegetable. Also, while I know that an avocado is a vegetable and has positive health attributes - I end up thinking about them like nuts as being healthy in moderation due to their fat content.

Is this just the result of growing up with a dietitian as a mother who defines foods as "real" and "fake" vegetables - or are there other people out there who do this?

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  1. I am a very healthy eater and eat a lot as an endurance sports athlete. I try and track my daily consumption by breaking down the foods I eat into categories similair to what you are doing (i think)- fruits (carbs), grains, veggies, protein, dairy and fats.
    The 'veggies' that I put into the carbs category are potatoes (although I only eat sweet potatoes not white potatoes), corn, peas, squash, beans (including lentils, garbanzo) and beets are the ones that I can think of off the top of my head. Avocados I categories as fats but keep in mind my category of fats are all healthy fats- nuts, olive/canola oils, seeds, flax, fatty fish, etc.

    1 Reply
    1. re: forzagto

      Yeah, I'm gonna guess that this is just the result of an over health conscious mind. I forgot to count lettuce and celery as "non vegetables" because they have little to no nutritional value.

    2. Green beans as a starchy veg? Avocado I do think of as a fat, but the vitamin/mineral profile is also good. Agree about corn, peas and potatoes as starches but they are still heads and shoulders above processed white starches. The closer to the origin works for me in making my hierarchy.

      1. Do you classify ketchup as a vegetable?

        3 Replies
        1. re: comestina

          No - with the exception of salsa - most condiments, despite many having veggies in them, fail to meet "veggie" classification.

          I'm quick to admit that this comes from how I was raised. When I was 11 I asked my mom if I could have onion rings - and she just gave me a look that continues to give me a sense of shame if I'm in the vicinity of them.

          1. re: cresyd

            I think you missed the joke. During the Reagan administration, one bureaucracy in the Federal government tried to classify "ketchup" as a vegetable, so that a school lunch of hamburger and fries would meet the federal guidelines of "meat and two vegetables". An obscure talk show host by the name of Johnny Carson had a field day - field month, actually - with this.

            1. re: KevinB

              Ah, well there's a bit o' age showing. During the Regan administration my bedtime didn't come within a sniff of Johnny.

        2. My father died recently at 93. The only "vegetable" I ever saw him eat, besides potatoes, was V-8 juice.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jimingso

            Interesting to hear, jimingso.
            Makes you wonder whether your father was able to get away with that just by virtue of superior genes.
            We've all been indoctrinated with the notion that you must eat multiple servings of veggies every day to keep in good health. I have to wonder how much of that is valid, and how much is just propaganda (like the dairy products propaganda).

            Veggies are certainly less expensive than many other alternative sources of nutrients, so they're worth including in the diet for reason alone.

          2. Avocados are, technically, fruits. Green beans are not starchy vegetables.

            Vegetables are, broadly speaking, the roots, stalks, leaves, flowers and immature seeds (like green corn aka sweet corn) or seed pods (like green snap beans) of vegetable plants.

            Then you have mature seeds, nuts and fruits.

            But the definition of what a vegetable is has nothing to do with its nutritional profile.

            Look at things from the perspective of a gardener rather than a dietician.

            And pickled vegetables have nutritional value - they've been used for centuries to prevent diseases like scurvy (sauerkraut, famously so).

            2 Replies
            1. re: Karl S

              Karl S is right on target with his definition of vegetable. A vegetable is an edible plant. Whether you chose to eat some and eliminate others merely because of their nutritional value has no bearing on the definition of the word.

              1. re: Karl S

                Yes, pickled vegetables used to be what got people through the winter without becoming malnourished.