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How to Eat Your Vegetables

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I once knew a man transformed by vegetables. When I first met him, he claimed he could barely stand to eat them, and rarely did so on his own initiative.

Six months later we both ended up at the same party, and I wouldn’t have recognized him if he didn’t recognize me. He looked like a fashion model.

During our conversation I brought up the vegetable question, and he told me that he had conceded to eating them at every meal and that they weren’t that bad. He still didn’t love them but he recognized their superpowers.

I always liked vegetables, or at least I thought I did. I began to question this belief when I started experimenting with the old suggestion of “filling half the plate with vegetables” at each meal. The idea is that it’s easy not to overdo the rich, non-vegetable foods as long as they’re at least matched, if not dwarfed, by a large serving of veggies. The vegetables are so voluminous and calorically sparse that it’s hard to overindulge in anything else, namely the dense and delicious carbs, meats, cheeses, and sauces that sit beside the pile of plants.

It’s an elegant solution, although not for everyone, to the so-called “omnivore’s dilemma” — what to eat, and how much, in order to stay healthy and satiated.

So far I’ve found these half-veg meals to be filling enough that I don’t need to rely on willpower not to overconsume the richer foods. I don’t hit an afternoon wall. My skin looks better. I crave snacks less. My whole system seems grateful. Superpowers, I tell you.

In preparing so many varieties of veg, however, I quickly noticed I was always adding something to make the vegetables “good.” Salads must be dressed of course, maybe with some toasted sunflower seeds, or perhaps a judicious crumble of feta or blue cheese. Steamed cabbage is much more palatable with a quarter-pat of butter and some garlic. Broccoli is best roasted, after tossing with olive oil. (Seriously try it.)

I’ve always identified as a vegetable lover, yet I apparently seldom just eat a vegetable. Even my humble cucumber slices seem to need salt and pepper, or maybe some balsamic dressing. It’s as though something in me assumes vegetables must be improved in some way, at least a bit, before I deign to eat them.

Or maybe it’s in the culture. If you look up vegetable recipes, or just look around at what people eat, it’s clear that this is the customary way to eat vegetables. You don’t just eat them. You sneak them past the taste buds by way of disguise. You literally dress the nutritious foods in delicious foods — salt at the very least, but more often a coating of oil, sprinklings of nuts, cheeses, dried fruit. Anything but their naked selves.

Making vegetables delicious is all fine and good, but then we’re right back to the game of trying to strike a “balance” between deliciousness and nutritiousness (a dusting of parmesan on the broccoli is reasonable; but shredded cheddar is too much, etc). This tension spoils the elegant “fill half your plate with veg” heuristic, because the veg half is always smuggling in stuff from the other half.

It probably sounds like I’m making too much of this vegetable management stuff, and maybe I am, but this problem isn’t precisely about vegetables. Modernity has us used to the idea that almost everything can be made comforting or stimulating, and that nothing major is being traded off to do that. We can drive everywhere, and not sacrifice our health or longevity to do so. We can browse world news all day and not have our heads explode. We can make every instance of eating enjoyable, and not be taking on grave new risks.

The modern belief that food is primarily about enjoyment is so pervasive that society rejects purely utilitarian eating, which is something every other animal does. You would get strange looks, for example, or maybe a full panel interrogation, if you sat down with bare broccoli on your plate, or a salad with no dressing. Yet the dutiful daily consumption of unadorned vegetables might be as close to a magic pill for many of our modern diet and nutrition challenges as we’re ever going to find.

What I’m advocating is the subversive practice of eating a plant just to get it into your body, at least once a day. In a society that rejects any food that doesn’t entertain while it nourishes, this is a revolutionary act.

(I do have a friend who eats lettuce straight from the head on the way home from the farmer’s market, but she’s one in a million.)

Omnivore with no dilemma

In other areas of life, we accept that adulthood necessitates doing a certain amount of stuff that’s tolerable but neither pleasant nor interesting, and which we do only for its situational benefits. Somehow, with the act of eating, it’s got to please us too. It’s as though each meal has to win at two food games at once: it must successfully nourish (or at least not harm you too badly), and successfully stimulate/entertain. If you Google “nourishing things to eat,” you will find loads of elaborately-dressed salads, sesame kale chips, and power bowls, but nobody saying “hey just eat a cucumber.”

What I’m doing now is making sure that at least one thing on my plate is pure, unadorned vegetable. I eat it with the same spirit with which I would change a lightbulb or wipe the kitchen counter. Such tasks are completely tolerable experiences, with worthwhile benefits; I’m glad I can do them, and on some level they feel good to do, but they don’t entertain or stimulate me, and that’s perfectly fine. It also means I don’t have to worry about doing them too much.

In other words, I’m learning to simply eat my vegetables. It’s exhilarating to put a raw broccoli floret directly into your mouth, confronting fully its tannic juices and bitter enzymes, and its complete indifference to pleasing you, in order to consume it purely for the nourishment, with no attempt to make the experience enjoyable.

For once, if only for part of the meal, you’re not trying to play and win both food games at once, and the relief is palpable.

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Photos by Mockup Graphics and David Cain

{ 64 Comments }

Krista December 7, 2022 at 9:27 pm

Well, I love this idea! I have gotten the strangest responses to the fact that my children have always liked to eat crudité at dinner like they’re at a cocktail party–just plain carrots, broccoli, and snap peas with nothing in the way of dip or sauce. I’ve actually had one person assume I was somehow lazy for not “cooking” the veggies they eat often, but it was honestly a huge win for me. Easier on busy nights to just do raw veggies, and healthier for them. I never really needed to justify it to anyone, but I do think I’ll be able to do so easier with this reasoning–not everything has to be entertaining, some things are just fuel. And I can join them without feeling like I should have done more to prepare them. Love it!

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:39 am

That’s excellent. I am so glad to have had a vegetable-rich childhood myself.

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Patti D December 8, 2022 at 1:34 pm

I too had kids who like raw veggies. Everyone thought they were so weird because they disliked condiments, especially Ranch dressing (which they still will not touch even as adults)!

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Veronica December 8, 2022 at 3:40 am

Yes, it makes so much sense!
I think it starts as children and is very much a cultural thing too. I am from Argentina, but live in Australia and my children are Australian. Once, I was visiting Arg and my friends were horrified when I bought plain yoghurt for my toddlers!
A few years back, my son refused to eat any veggies/fruit at school, so we made a deal: I would give him a bowl full of war veg/fruit after school each. This caught on and have been doing it from the last few years with both my kids. They get, they their ‘fruit plate’ (the dis guide is not in dressing up the veg, but calling it ‘fruit’). They absolutely love it: no salt, no butter, no nothing added. They key to this was consistency: making sure I did it every single day. Now, they ask for it and even make it themselves sometimes.
Great article!

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 9:38 am

There’s definitely a lot of cultural stuff going on with food norms for sure. I remember having a discussion with some English travelers about adding vinegar to chips. They insisted that malt vinegar is perfectly find but white vinegar is only used to clean floors. Norms can be specific to people and families too though. When I grew up I thought it was super weird that my friend ate a bowl of applesauce with cinnamon for dessert. But then at my house, ketchup was offered as a condiment to go with perogies, so… there are definitely no right ways, just norms on various levels.

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kieran December 8, 2022 at 4:10 am

After a serious health issue five years ago, I was motivated to drastically improve my diet. i now eat a ton of vegies almost every dinner, along with a piece of fish (mostly) or steak or chicken. My method is simple, and I never tire of it. I steam a whole variety, making sure I add them in stages so quick-to-cook vegies are not overdone. I have a big bowl to add them to once cooked, and I splash a generous amount of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Toss, and add to your plate. Tonight for example, I steamed onion, garlic, zucchini, mushroom, pumpkin, red capsicum and spinach. The lemon and oil dressing makes everything delicious.

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 9:40 am

I feel like I am moving towards something like this. Do you avoid starchy foods for the most part?

Steaming is great because it makes a vegetable more palatable and approachable without making it more stimulating.

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Deb December 8, 2022 at 4:55 am

I’ve been eating whole food plant based (Nutritarian) for several years and am much healthier for it. At age 67 I take no prescription medicines. The trick is to give up the salt because that’s what desensitizes your taste buds. It takes 2 or 3 weeks for your taste buds to completely and literally change out. Then you will be able to really taste the flavors of foods and you don’t need to dress them up with oil and salt. If you’re looking for some good recipes for vegetable meals try the Forks Over Knives website. BTW, cutting back on the amount of meat you eat is also good for the planet. You’re onto something very good here, David!

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 9:42 am

Question: does that mean you avoid restaurants (which usually add a lot of salt) or do you just leave it out in your own cooking? In the latter case, do restaurant meals taste too salty, or do they feel like a nice indulgence?

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Deb December 8, 2022 at 3:41 pm

I don’t eat at restaurants as often as I used to but I do enjoy getting together with friends and going out to eat once in a while. Usually we go to a place where I can get a big salad and I bring my own flavored vinegar for a dressing. Once in a while I do order something else and yes I can taste that salt. You know when you’re eating vegetables at home you don’t have to eat them plain. There are lots of herbs and spices that are good with vegetables. Lemon pepper is one of my favorites to put on vegetables

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Deb December 8, 2022 at 3:44 pm

And no the salt does not taste like an indulgence.

Igor December 8, 2022 at 5:26 am

Agree 100%. Often we overdress vegs, I’m trying to use only olive oil with balsamic vinegar and this is enough.

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:28 am

Oil and balsamic is the way to go compared to store-bought cream dressings for sure. I am arguing for consuming the occasional totally nude and rude vegetable though, to break free of the “we must find a way to make it taste good 100% of the time” rule that shapes our eating behavior (and consequently our health situation) so much.

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Aga December 8, 2022 at 6:36 am

Just a small reminder that many of the vitamins in our vegetables are fat soluble so the little bit of adornment actually helps us get more nutritional benefits from our veg.
Having said that, I find this hatred of vegetables a uniquely North American idea. Kids in other parts of the world don’t seem to treat vegetables with the same sort of disdain/fear as they do here and I wonder why that is.
As for roasting – yes! all vegetables taste better roasted!

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 9:45 am

I usually include enough fat on the other half of the plate.

Childhood vegetable hatred is definitely part of the culture here, and I thought it was weird because we ate vegetables all the time. I don’t know if it has any meaningful cultural basis or if it was just a thing that caught on, like it was on an episode of Leave it to Beaver or something.

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Si December 8, 2022 at 6:57 am

Thank you for yet another insightful post, David. Fortunately, not too imposing a task for me as I am big on veg’, anyway. I usually sautee my daily panful with some extra virgin olive oil, black pepper and herbs. I would hope that these ‘smugglings’ are acceptable and nutritious yet still preserve the vegetables’ natural flavour and with minimal masking.

Also, by reducing our tolerance to salt, sauces, etc., we can truly appreciate the sweet, bitter and tannic qualities on offer rather than endure them as a kind of culinary penance. This is easier, of course, if you are already a fully fledged veg’-head but still achievable should you be less inclined towards our colourful, mealtime allies!

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 9:49 am

Reliance on salt and butter can kind of act like “cheat codes” in that way, for sure, and then we never acquire a taste for the thing itself.

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Cynthia Fleming December 8, 2022 at 7:20 am

Hum…I feel there is a middle way. The freshest veg, lightly cooked, a squeeze of lemon, a dab of butter (which helps to absorb the vitamins in the veg) and a hint of sea salt. Quite simple and the sum so much more than the parts. Life is full of enough hair shirts without making food dull when it needn’t be, to my mind. But we all find enjoyment in different ways.

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:00 am

To be clear, this post is tongue-in-cheek and I am not saying dressed-up foods are bad. I just think there’s value in regularly eating a vegetable with no adornment whatsoever, so that we can occasionally win the make-it-healthy food game with no regard for winning the make-it-taste-good game.

What the culture advocates is _always_ winning the make-it-taste-good game, every single time, and trying to win the make-it-healthy game often enough that we don’t get serious health problems. The odd serving of boring vegetable helps break the stranglehold of the make-it-taste-good game on our eating habits.

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Rodrigo December 8, 2022 at 7:22 am

This is such an interesting post due to cultural shock. When Dave writes “You would get strange looks, for example, or maybe a full panel interrogation, if you sat down with bare broccoli on your plate, or a salad with no dressing.” I was dumbfounded: “isn’t just the way you usually do?”. Putting cheddar or any other cheese on your broccoli? What kind of person does that?
I’m from Brazil and tough not necessarily everyone eats vegetables here, my whole life they were a part of all main meals and most of that time there was no dressing involved. I eat lettuce just like your friend (on my plate, not from Farmer’s market tough). Non-leafy vegetables are usually just steamed or seasoned with olive oil and garlic. Sometimes “curried”. Carrot, beetle, cucumber etc. sometimes are just eaten raw.
On my first trips to North America I found it difficult to get “real meals”. Everything is full of creamy sauces, oversseasoned and greasy. It’s a cultural thing, I guess.

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:02 am

There are such interesting cultural differences with respect to food norms, and I’m speaking to an American/Canadian culture mostly. I’m pretty sure there are no undressed salads in my country.

It is very hard to get a healthy meal here that isn’t made in a home kitchen.

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Rocky December 8, 2022 at 7:41 am

Well….This is a whole new way of looking at the day. Typically I wouldn’t feed these raw vegetables to the dog.
I tried once….He just stared at them.
I don’t think he’s ever really forgiven me. But for some reason, this idea really resonates with me !
Maybe it’s the way you sugarcoated it.
Or perhaps it was the “fashion model”
story. I think things taste better with a story on the side….
Thanks David!

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:03 am

Oh man I know a dog that LOVES cucumbers

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杨浅 December 8, 2022 at 8:21 pm

哦,伙计,我也认识一个,不过它爱吃南瓜。

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Linda December 8, 2022 at 8:01 am

For some time now, I have eaten some veggies without topping – e.g. baked potatoes or cauliflower/broccoli with nothing – you can taste THEM, not the topping. More flavours for your meals! Toppings, even salt, are just what we are accustomed to eating here. It’s not that I don’t like the toppings, I do, I just also like the vegetable itself.
But lately I have also been questioning this assumption in our society that vegetables are primarily what you should be eating, that they are truly what is good for you. You might want to check out the following books to read (& then digest their thoughts! ). The End of Craving: Recovering the Lost Wisdom of Eating Well by Mark Schatzker and The Big Fat Surprise: Why Meat, Butter, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz. And then have your own thoughts after reading them.

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:10 am

Cauliflower is something I always liked raw and undressed. It has its own unique cruciferous flavor that sauces cover up.

I am also full of questions about what’s healthy and not so healthy, although I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say non-starchy vegetables are bad for you. It seems like that that whole spectrum, from carb-heavy vegan diets to meat-heavy paleo diets, use vegetables without reservation.

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SkiptheBS December 8, 2022 at 8:04 am

The real secret to loving raw veggies is to grow them yourself, well fertilized. There is enormous difference between sulfurous store broccoli and fresh broccoli just picked from the stem. Everyone knows that the home grown tomato is superior to any commercial article. The list goes on and on.

If that is out of the question, get a co-op or community garden membership, or make a deal with someone who does.

Sub orange or tangerine for the lemon juice when you use butter, and add a smidgen of grated peel if you like. It transforms broccoli or brussels sprouts.

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:11 am

I belong to a local farm-share for half the year, and the difference is incredible. Right now it’s winter so I’ve gone back to supermarket stuff, and I miss the good stuff so much. I grow a few things in the front yard, but I’m not a dedicated enough gardener to scale it up.

I will try the citrus trick.

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ItsASecret December 8, 2022 at 8:43 am

“What I’m doing now is making sure that at least one thing on my plate is pure, unadorned vegetable.”

Does this mean one token raw carrot, with the rest cooked and dressed as usual? Or are all the carrots on your plate raw?

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:13 am

Usually I use two separate vegetables to fill half the plate, and one of them will be raw and plain. Usually sliced cucumber or zucchini. I am kind of in love with the ultra-minimal prep. The other will be steamed or roasted, sometimes involving a fat and seasoning.

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Pam December 8, 2022 at 9:00 am

I always enjoy your articles. Any criticism I offer is not with mal intent. I just want to be part of the conversation.

Nutrition is one of those things that depends on a person’s goals.

If you’re trying to lose weight then yeah, I can see how you’re shooting yourself in the foot by dousing your salad with ranch dressing.

But if your weight is healthy and you’re eating vegetables to increase your fiber, shoot, you can put brown sugar on your sweet potato and it’s not going to take away the fiber content.

I will meet you halfway and say that sometimes a boring/ uncomfortable practice is also good for us. Flossing, sending that email you want to put off, getting the oil changed.

But I was raised in a church that assumed uncomfortable=good for you and I’m not willing to go there. I’m talking about people who say discomfort somehow purifies you on a spiritual level. You know, fast and pray for 30 days to get closer to God type practices. Give away all your money because it’s making you too comfortable.

I know that’s not at all what you were saying. it just got me thinking about how different people view comfort and discomfort.

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:18 am

If you’ve got your nutrition dialed in, then there’s no reason to change anything, of course. I think that’s rare though.

My point is really about the value in voluntarily eating something for which no regard has been given to stimulation or pleasure, to break the monopoly that the “it-always-must-taste-good” cultural rule can have on our eating habits. Spiritual purification through discomfort is an optional perk — it’s really about completely surrendering the make-it-taste-good goal (which usually gets its way by default) for the make-it-nourishing goal, now and then.

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Tara December 8, 2022 at 9:17 am

My thinking is along the lines of Pam and Cynthia. If I feel like having a plain raw carrot or radish, that’s great. Eating is already just fuel for me as I’m not a foodie, it’s more of a job. Being naturally thin and having a small stomach, I can’t eat large amounts of food at a time, so I need to eat calorie dense things like cheese and butter (I’m vegetarian). I try to get a balance of protein, fat and carbs and avoid obvious junk foods. Having olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar on my steamed leek is a win for me.

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Pam December 8, 2022 at 10:12 am

Tara,
Yes, underweight people have to ignore a lot of conventional advice because it doesn’t fit with our goals.

Like “drink an entire glass of water before meals so you’ll eat less”. Girl, no. I need calories.

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:21 am

If what you’re doing satisfies all of your food goals, then there’s no reason to change anything. Most people I know seem to experience some level of tension between the often-diverging food goals of nourishment and stimulation/pleasure.

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Ginzo December 8, 2022 at 9:30 am

Oh yes, we tend to get the mind/emotion duo involved in most of what we do. Its not just the simple act of eating each day; it expands to how we think/feel about taking a crap, driving our car, getting an illness/injury. We pretty much think we have to make judgements about everything that comes our way. I have to like it or something’s wrong. I like how you tackle these topics such as eating in a refreshing way.

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:24 am

Thanks Ginzo. That’s is what I’m getting at — food that doesn’t please or entertain us is deemed categorically unacceptable, regardless of what it’s like on the health side. The opposite isn’t true. Taste has the monopoly on our behavior, and I think we can benefit from breaking that up just a little.

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Mary-Lynn December 8, 2022 at 10:14 am

“its complete indifference to pleasing you”. I love this so much. Such confidence has broccoli.

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David Cain December 8, 2022 at 10:21 am

Broccoli has no patience for your games

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杨浅 December 8, 2022 at 8:19 pm

哈哈哈

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Therese December 8, 2022 at 10:29 am

aA brilliant fun article. A thousand thank yous

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Clay Nicolsen December 8, 2022 at 10:48 am

Great essay! And I always like your “lite” non-pushy approach!

Yeah, just because everything can be “improved” doesn’t mean everything needs to be improved.

Clay

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Mary Anne December 8, 2022 at 11:46 am

Check out whole food, plant-based diet, which also means no added oil or sugar.

There’s a great Facebook page for this: https://www.facebook.com/livingwfpb.

We switched to this 5.5 years ago. I will say going full steam ahead on this diet is time-consuming as it’s a whole (pun intended) different way of eating and cooking, not to mention meal planning and grocery shopping. Over time your taste buds adjust to no seasoning or different seasoning depending on your tastes. The earliest WFPB recipes tended to be Mexican or Indian-based, not my favorite. Finally found easy cookbooks with recipes we enjoy as-is or with a few mods. My husband will be 80 next year, and he looks and functions as if he’s twenty years younger (he also exercises 3x a week). Congratulations on making this effort–it will truly make a difference!

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Janet December 8, 2022 at 2:08 pm

You make a very interesting and worthwhile point…that food does not need to be a sensory swoon, and we should embrace plain foods that just nourish us. Surely our overdressed/buttered/seasoned dishes are behind much of our culture’s over-consumption issues?? I am reminded of the dear old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”!

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杨浅 December 8, 2022 at 8:18 pm

作为一个中国人,看到这样的观点,视角好新颖,因为我们处理蔬菜的方式太多了,比较常见的就有八大菜系。但我觉得我可以尝试一下。

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David Cain December 9, 2022 at 9:06 am
Kel December 8, 2022 at 9:04 pm

I have never been a veggie eater but when I started growing my own, I found eating them raw straight out of the garden to be such a treat. The flavour! When you eat local fresh veg, it makes such a difference.

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Rachel December 11, 2022 at 8:26 am

My kale intake increased dramatically when I started growing it, just to keep the damn stuff from invading the house. It was scary, like I’d planted triffid seeds or something, every time I looked up it had grown a bit. (I have now discovered the art of sowing fewer seeds at once)

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David Cain December 12, 2022 at 9:52 am

I would love to be overrun by kale like that. I will fill my little garden plot with kale next year.

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Vedant December 8, 2022 at 10:50 pm

I have never thought about this and even though I do enjoy the occasional raw tomato and carrot, I have never been mindful about it.

And the way you point out the dual way in which the modern world tends to consume food was quite eye-opening for me.

What an excellent write up.

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Valerio December 9, 2022 at 2:22 am

This is very much a cultural thing. James Clear makes the point that in order to build “good” habits (I prefer the word “skilful” or “useful” but this is a topic for another time) a big role is played by your environment: in this case, the availability of certain foods and the behaviour of people around you play a big part.
I’ve had the same issue with the gym. I had a good spell last year until I got injured, and this year I find myself struggling. Not having anyone to go with is also a problem.

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Rachel December 9, 2022 at 3:26 am

Ha! Don’t know about Canada, or the USA, but at Christmas it is traditional here in the UK to eat Brussels sprouts. It is also traditional that everyone hates Brussels sprouts. So at this time of year, magazines, newspapers & supermarkets are all going on about how wonderful the sprouts really are, if only you fry them with a ton of bacon and chestnuts….

Out of interest, when you’re doing your utilitarian veg eating, are you doing anything else at the same time? I’ve noticed I never just eat, I always have to read or watch TV (or have a conversation) at the same time. Which is sort of like adding dressings, I suppose.

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David Cain December 9, 2022 at 9:11 am

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a home-chef friend of mine. He said he loved Brussels sprouts too, but also that minced bacon is a must. Usually I have them steamed with salt and pepper, or halved and roasted with olive oil.

When I’m alone I often do something else, yes. Often reading, sometimes watching something.

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Omer December 9, 2022 at 3:27 am

Hey!

At first I thought I’d reply tongue in cheek and write, vegetables by themself aren’t tasty enough? Sounds like a decidedly USA problem! Having sampled them in Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain, I feel comfortable concluding veggies just taste good around the Mediterranean.

More to the point and while I’m replying, I’m perfectly fine with rejecting raw utilitarian eating. I may have found myself a few times in my life eating in this manner and survived to tell the tale, but in my day to day, why should I?
There’s an endless variety of tastes and experiences I can get from food, limited only by my capacity to eat. Why should I waste this precious capacity on some Stoic practice?

Also, y’know, Olive Oil, Balsamic Oil, Salt & Pepper — these are healthy nutrients. It’s pretty hard to eat too much olive oil; It’s hard to eat too much raw salt, the salad would get too salty and taste bad…

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David Cain December 9, 2022 at 9:15 am

The quality of the produce is another factor for sure. I live where it’s below freezing almost half the year so everything is imported.

“Why should I” is a good question, and maybe I’ve expressed it more directly in the comments. Basically, occasionally eating something with no regard for how pleasurable it is breaks the unwritten rule in our minds that food must always be gratifying. I believe that the conviction that food must _always_ be gratifying draws many of us into overconsumption. If we remind ourselves that its primary function is that of nourishment, and only secondarily about entertainment, then it’s easier to let go.

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Vilx- December 9, 2022 at 4:11 am

Hmm… I think you’ve got it backwards. For most of us, life is CHOCK FULL of things we tolerate but find neither interesting nor pleasant. Eating is one of the few pleasures we have left.

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David Cain December 9, 2022 at 9:24 am

Interesting. I would argue that no matter what we do, we cannot escape the fact that at least part of eating is tied to our adult responsibility to eat stuff that doesn’t make you die earlier / give you nightmares / make you feel bad. It’s never purely a pleasure, because how we go about it is always going to have major life consequences that can’t be ignored (for long, anyway). It is an inescapable reality that part of eating is fun and part of it is unpleasant serious business that is most efficiently managed with a certain stoic sense of adult responsibility.

My argument is that it pays to do that second part, on occasion, with total disregard for the first part. If the first part (that it must taste good) is an unassailable conviction that must always be satisfied first, it only creates more of life’s unavoidable, unpleasant, stoic duties, namely dealing with the health and behavioral consequences of treating food only as a pleasure or escape from everything else.

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Judd43 December 18, 2022 at 12:14 pm

I seem to remember a post of yours from a few years ago about trying Soylent and other meal replacements? That seems to be this idea of utilitarian eating taken to its natural extreme. Food that is just sustenance, and absolutely nothing more than that. I feel like this idea that everything we eat must be delicious all the time is what directly leads to the obesity epidemic, knee replacements, sleep apnea, and all the rest.

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David Cain December 19, 2022 at 3:20 pm

Food does have other roles than nutrition, like social, cultural, etc. We definitely don’t need that at every meal though. I agree that the belief that food has to always be gratifying is a major contributor to eating-related health problems.

For me Soylent didn’t ultimately deliver as a utilitarian food. Because it’s a powder, it digests too quickly, and gave me blood sugar crashes a little while after consuming it. For me it’s better not to bother with breakfast and sometimes even lunch. I get enough nutrients from just a meal or two.

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Dávid December 26, 2022 at 6:51 am

Hmm, I’ve been thinking about making a small lifestyle change and this article gave me the perfect boost. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, always a pleasure to enjoy your posts. Greetings from Hungary!

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Cara Vogl December 28, 2022 at 7:19 am

You know you’ve reached a new level when a post about vegetables can garner over 60 comments :) But it’s not really about vegetables, is it. Simple, insightful and brilliant as always. I love thinking about this kind of mental reset and now I’m (a little?) excited to try it. My vegetable consumption has dropped drastically since moving to Mexico and renting an apartment with no oven (what!? You mean I can’t ever roast any of the things?!?) This reminds me that there’s really no valid excuse for kicking vegetables aside (tacos and burritos are awesome, but not a valid excuse). We have beautiful fresh markets with organic produce where I live and while the variety isn’t near the same as what I’ve gotten used to / spoiled by in Canada, there’s certainly more than enough to keep me well nourished, and maybe even get me on the track to looking like fashion model :)

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David Cain December 28, 2022 at 10:20 am

A trip to a Mexican market to buy fresh vegetables sounds like the loveliest thing possible, on this cold winter day in Winnipeg. Enjoy!

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تکنیک بازی انفجار January 24, 2023 at 9:54 am

Great essay! And I always like your “lite” non-pushy approach!

Yeah, just because everything can be “improved” doesn’t mean everything needs to be improved.

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سایت بازی انفجار January 24, 2023 at 10:27 am

I have been following you since 2014 and I am at a loss for words as to how you dish out quality content on a regular basis. Thank you for helping me be a better human, David. I won’t let you down.

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