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Onions. Do you "count" them as a vegetable when planning a meal?

Please don't refer me to The National Onion Board http://onions-usa.org/

Here's what I mean -- I'm prepping dinner. My usual strategy is protein-starch-veg-veg. Last night, for two:
egg noodles, turkey meatballs, sauce.
Sauce started with an entire onion caramelizing, then a pseu-dal-fredo plus a dollop of pesto.
Super yummy.
However, I'm groping through my head For A Vegetable for Dinner!!

Looking around. Spinach? That might be good, but would be another stir-in. Something on the side completely?

Now, I'm not asking for a suggestion for a side for my dinner, which is completed and providing us with its nutrition : ).

What I'm asking is -- generally when you cook, do you "count" onion as a vegetable? I know there are onion sides like au gratins and chutneys and salsas and soups... but when you put onion INTO a dish, does that meet the "vegetable check-box" for you guys?

EDIT: I guess I'm really thinking about nutritional balance in terms of a complete meal.

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  1. If the onion constitutes an actual side, then I count it as a vegetable. It's a question of quantity and substance. The au gratin dish you mentioned qualifies. As an ingredient in a sauce, no. As a topping for a burger, like caramelized onions, I count it as a condiment, not a vegetable.

    1. Depends on the amount. If I make fajitas, everyone ends up with a significant quantity of onion. But, if it is only a little bit, no. It doesn't have to be "on the side" for me to count it though.

      1. No. And I've never looked at what nutritional benefit they offer.

          1. re: John E.

            Yes, but are they "enough" to count as one of the veg at dinner?

            1. re: Kris in Beijing

              Purely from a nutritional standpoint, however we may feel about it, one cup of raw onion counts as one vegetable serving. I really love onion, seriously love, but it's not often I get that much in one meal, except when I make caramelized onions; even then I might fall a little short. But who's counting when it comes to onions? They're good for you, they're tasty, they go with just about everything but dessert! :)

                1. re: c oliver

                  In terms of nutrition, no - just a bit of their Vitsmin C gets destroyed by heat. The other values don't change too much.

              1. re: Kris in Beijing

                I don't always include a starch at dinner. I would not count the onions in a bolognese saucexas a vegetable. We had pork ribs last night. I served carmelized onions with the smoked ribs, but I didn't consider them as a vegetable, I didn't really consider them at all, except that I like to eat them with meat.

                1. re: Kris in Beijing

                  Think steamed 'peas and carrots' together in a serving bowl. Now think peas and (sweet) onions or carrots and onions or beets and onions etc etc.
                  Same with adding whole steamed cloves of garlic as part of a veg. dish.
                  I do it all the time.

              2. Pretty much every time I grill about anything, I'll grill THICK slabs of onion... as a side dish.

                1 Reply
                1. I think your eating enjoyment might be increased exponentially if you were to count less.

                  Relax a bit. Loosen up that apron.

                  Not every meal needs to be "complete". Life's too short.

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    If my XL apron's too tight, it's definitely because I don't count enough!!!

                    1. re: Kris in Beijing

                      C'mon, Kris.

                      Really? Are you going to feel somehow less of a person b/c the dish you cooked has one less vegetable than your platonic ideal of a complete meal?

                      Living and eating in such a monastic style will never lead to a true sense of completeness.

                      Seriously, my fellow 'hound, live a little. Life's too short and precious.

                      Like tonight. I had gelato and homemade granola and about 2 pints of fresh blueberries and called it a evening. Complete meal? Hardly. But it made feel complete, and that's all that really matters, no?

                      Cheers my friend.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        No one meal with make or break you. Your dinner sounds wonderful.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Lol. I think you've reversed my problem; adventurous eating or abundance or playing with ingredients or flavours are not my issue. However, I feel I don't cook "real meals" often enough at home for TeenHound; we're more often foraging for some Hole In the Wall place representing some kind of food I've never had. But, I don't want her off in college in a short 14mo and thinking that shin ramen is an acceptable dinner 5 nights a week.
                          Anyway, my question was "do you Hounds consider onion enough of a veg to Be a veg-at-dinner."

                          1. re: Kris in Beijing

                            Onions are vegetables.

                            Whether you use a whole bag, or one ring, in your dish, there is an additional vegetable in your ultimate creation.

                            How you wish to tally that up is purely between you and the person in the mirror.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Ipse: wow! so that IS the Godhead, Judge and Creator in the mirror! I always thought so but mom always said I was exhibiting tendencies of socio-pathic narcissism and to knock it the hell off...

                              onions are thought to have great restorative qualities. in Frank McCourt's book "Angela's Ashes" an onion stewed in milk with a little salt and pepper is a home cure for croup/bad cold. so while I use them in some moderation (especially raw) I come down on the 'highly influential vegetable' side.

                              1. re: hill food

                                I'd love it if someone offered some science here.

                                  1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                    Very good but I don't think I'm going to add it to my daily diet :)

                                  2. re: c oliver

                                    my great grandmother used to slap onion poultices on us when we had chest colds. Smelled to hell and back, but it seemed to work.

                                    During a really horrible flu outbreak when we were in France a few years ago, friends and neighbors told us to set onions around the house -- whole, uncut onions to absorb the germs and then throw them away after a week.

                                    I don't really believe it worked for a heartbeat, but so many people were sick I figured WTH, onions are cheap....we weren't unscathed, but it was way less devastating at our house than at folks who laughed at it.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      My grandparents out saltpork on cuts and wounds suffered by their children. I told my dad that his wounds healed despite the saltpork and not because of it. He never tried that with his children (I don't know if he ever suggested it, but if he did, my mom put a stop to it.) i think there is some part of him that still bieves the saltpork 'drew out the poison' of an infected wound.

                                      1. re: John E.

                                        I dunno, getting OT but it used to be common to slap a cheap steak on a black eye...

                                        1. re: hill food

                                          I"ve seen that on cartoons, but I don't think the steak does anything that a bag of frozen peas or ice wouldn't do.

                                        2. re: John E.

                                          The salt *would* be beneficial. Having a skinned knee exuding pus never prevented childhood me from going to the ocean beach. When I got home, the pus and inflammation would be gone, leaving just a clean scab. Rubbing salt into a wound might be painful, but soaking in salt water isn't, and works. Your dad was partially right.

                                          1. re: greygarious

                                            with caution -- daily swimming in saltwater can just leave it waterlogged and very prone to infection.

                                            Ask me how I know.

                                            1. re: greygarious

                                              I don't know about the process you describe, but there were no scabs involved that I know of. My dad's specific story involved a deep cut that was still bleeding. I think pressure and a clean bandage would be a better alternative.

                                        3. re: c oliver

                                          The onions in the film Holes seemed to help Stanley and Zero.

                                        4. re: hill food

                                          <"an onion stewed in milk with a little salt and pepper is a home cure for croup/bad cold. ">
                                          That was my mother's cure-all for a cold, etc. She used to put a bit of butter in it too and served it piping hot.

                                      2. re: Kris in Beijing

                                        weather shin ramen is 5 nights a week, while in college, is the least of your worries. Or should be and/or will be.

                                  3. re: ipsedixit

                                    "Not every meal needs to be "complete". Life's too short."


                                    Mostly, as in probably 98% of the time or more, we have substantial veggies to go with the meat and starches. But not always. Depends on the mood I'm in, depends on what I'm making. The husband doesn't care as long as he gets his meat and it's nice and spicy. He doesn't even like half the vegetables I feed him (he's kinda picky), but he eats them because it's the healthy thing to do. But if he doesn't get veggies once in a while? Who cares?

                                  4. and here I thought I was going to start the allium wars....

                                    1. No, for us, onion is a flavoring agent.

                                      If we were to consume enough to count as an actual serving of vegetables, Rolaids would become the flavoring agent -- everybody likes onion, but none of us can eat a whole serving without suffering for it later.

                                      tonight, for example, was a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp. Technically only one veg, but lots and lots of it.

                                      1. onions are more condiment or flavorer than veggie - regardless of what the National Onion Board might say. Onions are a veggie the way that tomato sauce in pizza is a veggie.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: ahuva

                                          i agree here - i don't see the main nutritional value in an onion as many other veggies (of the non-green variety). that doesn't prevent me from putting it in everything but just my 2 cents.

                                          1. re: ahuva

                                            I think it depends on the onion application. If onion were used in a sauce, I think of it as a flavoring agent. But if I'm serving, say, whole baked onions as a side, I would think of it as a vegetable. Same with leeks. But in my personal nutritional accounting, it's not the same as say, kale.

                                            1. re: ahuva

                                              I have to agree with this from a strictly gut feeling.

                                              Onion rings, a gratin - none of that would raise to the level of "vegetable" in my meal planning. If a burger/patty was being served with raw onion as a topping - wouldn't consider it a "vegetable". Not to mention something like pickled onions or onion chutney would be seen as a condiment and count in the same way that relish wouldn't count as a vegetable .

                                              Now I say this from a 100% non-nutritional perspective. But coming at it from a nutritional perspective, I'd be concerned that the quantity of onion needed to be consumed to be nutritionally valuable might not get there. Or in the cases of a gratin or onion ring, that the addition of all that dairy fat or deep frying - the health benefits of onion might be outweighed.

                                            2. For me, onions are an aromatic. ALWAYS present in the rotation.

                                              1. I think of onions as "garnish" and potatoes as "starch". DH considers them both to be "vegetables" :D
                                                So, with your menu, I'd be adding a vegetable, preferably sauteed greens, frozen peas or some green beans.
                                                OTOH, if you served spaghetti squash instead of egg noodles... that's your veg!

                                                1. Mcsheridan makes a good point: if you prepare onions in a quantity sufficient to be a side, there is no reason to overlook its nutritional profile when trying to prepare balanced meals. Most of us commonly use onions as an aromatic, but the carrots joining those onions in a mirepoix are no less a vegetable when served as a full side simply because they are occasionally a flavoring ingredient.

                                                  1. I personally do not consume enough onion to count it is a whole serving of vegetable....

                                                    Well, unless onion rings count :D

                                                    1. Depends on how much I use. If it's added to soup or sauce, it's more like a seasoning. But it onions are the main ingredient, then yes. Like if I caramelized a whole onion and put it into a quiche piled it on a sandwich, then it counts as a vegetable too. :) Alternately, add an extra veggie into another meal to compensate.

                                                      1. No, I don’t consider onions as a vegetable serving. Considering the agita that a cup of onions would give me, I’d rather go with a cup of green beans with fewer calories and sugar. https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/foo...
                                                        That said, it was just me, my spoon and a pint of pistachio gelato for dinner last night.;)

                                                        1. Onion is a seasoning, not a vegetable - you don't generally use enough of them for it to count (the exception being if you're roasting or caramelising etc and using more than one regular-sized onion per person. (I don't count one slice of tomato as a 'vegetable' either, that's a garnish... it needs to be a significant portion to count nutritionally.

                                                            1. Hi,

                                                              Onion technically is a vegetable, just as tomato is technically a fruit, etc... but I digress. Despite this, it is often/usually considered a condiment because of the smallish amount that is consumed. I think that if you increase its serving size to a "regular serving size" (such as you'd do with peas, or green beans, or asparagus, or whatever) it would be a vegetable--at least as far as portions are concerned. The same would be true if you only at a spoonful of peas, carrots, or artichoke: would that count as a vegetable?

                                                              1. I don't count is as a veggie if it's in something-sauce, quiche, meatloaf, etcetera. But if it's a serving in and of itself? Yes. I am thinking caramelized, grilled, stuffed, and the like.

                                                                So basically it is the serving size that warrants whether I consider them a serving of vegetable.

                                                                ETA This holds true with most veggies tho. A couple of leaves of lettuce on my burger does not a serving make.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                  < A couple of leaves of lettuce on my burger does not a serving make.>

                                                                  Agreed. But if in addition to that lettuce, there's onion, sliced tomato, and a dollop of coleslaw or a pickle on the side, I'd count that as adding up to a single, half-cup serving. And don't forget the ketchup, which Reagan taught us is a vegetable...'>/

                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                    <<But if in addition to that lettuce, there's onion, sliced tomato, and a dollop of coleslaw or a pickle on the side, I'd count that as adding up to a single, half-cup serving>>

                                                                    Of course but that was not the question nor my answer.

                                                                  1. I do, and I use a lot of onion. The whole allium family is quite beneficial. In my world, the pesto counts too.

                                                                    Last night I made pasta with leftover grilled chicken, raw onion, basil, and parmesan. By some calculations, that was a meal without vegetables ... but not by mine.

                                                                    1. I don't.

                                                                      Not even when making an onion tart or onion soup!
                                                                      May not be botanically correct, but I still think of veggies as GREEN (spinach, broccoli, kale...).
                                                                      I'm also a visual eater. So I would balance out a "white" dish (potato/leek soup for instance) with a large green salad, tossed with orange carrot slivers and red radishes.

                                                                      No such thing as "too many vegetables" in my kitchen.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                        I look at it as "fruits and vegetables" and I want some representation at virtually every meal, including those eaten in restaurants. I like to buy purple potatoes so they can have more "weight" in the equation (plus they're gorgeous). Sometimes if I'm out of veggies and don't want to run to the grocery store right that second, I'll serve fruit with dinner. I'll try to think about the rainbow when planning menus for the week. If one meal is tomato-based, I make sure the next is not. Or sometimes I'll invent a seafood salad, for instance, that hits all or most of the different colors. I feel I was raised to think about "green vegetables," but am pretty much past that now. And white vegetables are part of the rainbow too! (But if they come in another color, I will give that preference, as I figure it gets me the best of both worlds.)

                                                                      2. First thought is that pesto counts as a vegetable in my book.
                                                                        Second thought is I don't check boxes or really care what the USDA says.
                                                                        If I eat a chef salad on Sunday I really don't think I need to worry about greens for a few days. Vegetables are highly over rated and are fine fresh and seasonal. Fruits work just fine and I have never gotten scurvy .You sound like my 80 year old mother. "Where's the salad!?"

                                                                        1. Nope. No matter how many veggies go in the main I tend to serve 2 (sometimes 3) veggie sides and try to make them different colors. (We skip the starches.)

                                                                          1. What are you counting? If you use and consume a variety of unprocessed foods - things especially that grow in the ground - you don't have to keep track of anything. Every meal doesn't have to be "nutritionally balanced" if your diet is diverse and basically made up of healthy foods.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: chicgail

                                                                              In theory yes but I get where the OP is coming from, especially having a kid in the house. Its one thing when they are small and you control all the foods. I never had to worry about a balanced meals because thats what we ate. I looked at his intake over a week/weeks and knew he was eating well. But then they enter school with cafeterias, they have pocket money to buy crap and/or friends who are junk food junkies so you make a point of serving well rounded meals when they are home-dinner and breakfast.

                                                                              I never say anything or make a big deal about it but I figure between the early years and current family meal time I am modeling "If you use and consume a variety of unprocessed foods - things especially that grow in the ground - you don't have to keep track of anything. Every meal doesn't have to be "nutritionally balanced" if your diet is diverse and basically made up of healthy foods."

                                                                              1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                nooo...nowadays there's an online account, so your kid never gets the joy of sweating blood when he realizes that the $5 mom gave him for lunch has fallen out of his pocket, or had that sinking feeling of dread as she realizes that her lunch ticket just went into the garbage....

                                                                                Which means that Mom and Dad can turn on or turn off the snack account or limit it to 1 snack a day.... (bwaaaahaaahaaaa)

                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                  ha! At my son's school the meals are included with tuition. The food is actually pretty good and they eat family style but still his lunches end up being less then, er, nutritionally balanced.

                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                    Ha! or spending my lunch money on a pack of cigarettes and going hungry...until I got home and raided the ref.

                                                                              2. Yes, it counts. Especially the way I sometimes use onions.

                                                                                In meat curries, not so much, but that's because the amount of onion used is so small relative to the amount of meat.

                                                                                1. OP here -> (sigh, stirring the pot)
                                                                                  can you guys tell me why so many responders fixated on a "nutritional balance fixation" they assumed for me … instead of just telling me if they thought onions counted as a vegetable!?

                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                    Yes, I can ... it's the Chowhound way ;)

                                                                                    Don't just answer the question ... make a bunch of assumptions and judgments, offer opinions based on those, and if you can jump on the OP, better yet. Best is to make the OP so uncomfortable they never post again, and then bemoan how the OP "never came back to see all these helpful responses we've posted."

                                                                                    1. re: foiegras

                                                                                      Yeah, yeah. I get it. I've been here for a while, and stepped away Several times, too.
                                                                                      What I've learned is that the more "story" I tell, the more fodder for OT. I like to give background info, but sometimes that seems more like setting up a target range.
                                                                                      And, no, no, noooo this thread has Not gotten bad, but some certainly do.

                                                                                      And, FG-> I was thinking of you, or rather, your 'Hound moniker, all day yesterday:

                                                                                      1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                        I've seen a burger like that on a menu, but haven't tried one yet :)

                                                                                        Meant to mention that when serving burgers, I put more of the veggies on the plate--the rest of the tomato, additional onion slices, and more lettuce.

                                                                                        I also have a theory that pungency counts for more. Like garlic, raw onion, herbs ... I figure there's a nutritional 'hit' that goes along with.

                                                                                    2. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                      Because you asked!

                                                                                      <EDIT: I guess I'm really thinking about nutritional balance in terms of a complete meal.>

                                                                                      1. re: EM23

                                                                                        Yes, okay, fine.
                                                                                        Silly me for clarifying poorly on CH? (This Is Sparta!)
                                                                                        I just didn't anticipate the twin paths of "why are you worried about that" and "you're too worried about that."

                                                                                      2. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                        Actually Kris, I have followed your posts for some time. You know what you think about onions being a vegetable but are just asking.
                                                                                        With a soon to be senior in high school in your home, a balanced plate of food is the least of your worries. Trust me, I'm a grandpa and I know these things.

                                                                                        1. re: genoO

                                                                                          Lol, well, grandpa, I'm a school administrator and a teacher and have 2 in college (And if you want even more cause for concern, a single mom and a Christian)… so I've seen a few things to worry about along the way…
                                                                                          However, On ChowHound, when speaking of my TeenHound, then, yes, "nutritional balance" is pretty close to the top.
                                                                                          The rest of my concerns I can "hash" with others mostly IRL.

                                                                                        2. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                          «can you guys tell me why so many responders fixated on a "nutritional balance fixation" they assumed for me»

                                                                                          I believe it's because you might have been less than clear as to the quantity of onions you were consuming in your example meal:

                                                                                          Example 1: If I was making a patty melt topped with a bunch of caramelized onions, I would count the onions as a vegetable, if I was counting vegetables in a meal (which I don't usually do).

                                                                                          Example 2: If I was making spaghetti sauce with onions as an ingredient, I wouldn't count the onions separately, I would count the quantity of sauce I was eating in terms of servings of vegetables.

                                                                                          1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                            An entire onion, for two servings.
                                                                                            I didn't make that super clear.
                                                                                            And, no, I never said "baseball sized" onion, either : ).

                                                                                            1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                              Okay, we're getting somewhere now. :) Exclusive of the onion, what was the serving size of the rest of the sauce? If you could count the onion-less part as a serving of vegetables, I'd count the addition of a half an onion as a serving of vegetable, and call it a night.

                                                                                        3. My dad takes an entire raw onion (yuck) and can eat it like an apple or slice it up and eat it just like that. In fact, this is one of his favourite snacks. For him, yes I would count it as a vegetable but I really don't know many (or anyone else really) who would do that!

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: pumpkinspice

                                                                                            I had forgotten. My grandfather did that with his garden-grown somewhat Vidalia(sp) mild onions.
                                                                                            But I think maybe that was just to freak out Mom and Aunt.

                                                                                            1. re: pumpkinspice

                                                                                              my grandfather did that! or he would make onion sandwiches... bread, onion, mayo. did not appeal to me, but it sure made him happy. :)

                                                                                              1. re: pumpkinspice

                                                                                                My father. Sort of. He'd chop it up, put it in a bowl, add a tin of sardines, and chow down.

                                                                                              2. Only in Greek salad or if I'm sautéing peppers and onions as a side.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                  Sautéed peppers and onions is likely the only way I'd consider onions a vegetable side. Otherwise, the quantity usually isn't sufficient to qualify as a serving. That said, there have been plenty of unbalanced meals at my house!

                                                                                                2. Interesting question. It never occurred to me to count the 2-3 onions I put in my pirogi/onion/ham dinner as a veggie. I made this last night, and also steamed some haricot vert and baby carrots.

                                                                                                  a related question... do you count tomato based pasta sauce as a veggie? DH does, i don't. I always want a veggie side when we have spaghetti marinara or bolognese for dinner.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                    I absolutely do count tomato-based pasta sauce. Mine always has other good stuff in it too ... onions, garlic, basil, celery, etc.

                                                                                                    It sounds like you guys don't count vegetables fractionally, which I do. If I have a little of this, that, and the other thing, I figure I'm covered. And with pasta sauce, I figure I've probably got two servings of fruits and vegetables ...

                                                                                                    1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                      I was beginning to think I was the only one who counts the total volume of plant-based food as my vegetable content for the day...and no, I'm not one of those folks who count potatoes as vegetables

                                                                                                  2. I never count the onion as a vegetable, nor do I include tomato sauce (say, marinara on pasta for instance). As much as I like onions, I am guessing most dishes I eat them in wouldn't contain enough to count as "1 serving" of veg like a cup of broccoli would. As for the tomato sauce, I have no rhyme or reason why I don't count it.

                                                                                                    1. No.
                                                                                                      Eating enough onion to constitute a full vegetable serving creates digestive....issues.
                                                                                                      However, including shredded carrots, zucchini, and onion in the sauce would probably be one serving.

                                                                                                      And IMO something like an onion gratin wouldn't really count because there's more cream and cheese than onion- for me a veg side should have primary front and center ingredient as veg vs the dairy in a gratin.