“I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to become a vegetarian”

I have just spent two weeks with our older daughter, husband and two of our grand-daughters skiing at Beaver Creek, staying in a luxurious condominium owned by a close and generous friend.

Beaver Creek Beaver Creek is an upmarket resort in Colorado, USA, just down the road from Vail.

Author: Rudi Riet; via Wikimedia Commons

Whilst we have a fully equipped kitchen, we have been dining out a lot as this is one of the fun things to do as part of the holistic snow experience, from going to a fun diner “Route 6 Cafe” in Eagle-Vail to gourmet dining at“The 10th” in Vail and “Blue Plate” in Avon.

These are great eateries, but one main thing that they have in common is that there is hardly a vegetable in sight, beyond the occasional salad as a starter.

There is a massive consumption of fast foods in the US, and what I find interesting is that there seems to be a belief that if you preface a hamburger and fries, or steak and fries, with a small salad that this turns an unhealthy meal into a nutritious and healthy one. I have no question that if the starter is a salad then the average calorie count of the two courses drops compared to a buffalo wings or pizza starter, but the fact that this combination is now considered to be part of a balanced diet is as crazy as believing that you can counteract a Big Mac with a diet Coke.

Even in the expensive restaurants the main courses tend to be served with something like Piemontese potatoes with sour cream, macaroni cheese or spaghetti as the accompanying “vegetable”. Americans really do love Italian food especially if served as a “side salad”.

via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t get me wrong, the food we have eaten here is really good, but as someone who had a bout of bowel cancer some 20 years ago, I am very conscious of the fact that a balanced, healthy diet must have a significant percentage of roughage or fibre. The attitude here in the US appears to be that you can eat anything that you want that is high in salt, sugar and fat, no matter how processed it is, as long as you supplement your diet with a daily intake of something like Metamucil, which is a bulk producing laxative and fibre supplement. I have nothing against psyllium, which is the major ingredient of Metamucil (although in the US this has to be sweetened to make it acceptable to the American palate), and I have been taking a small amount daily since my own hemi-colectomy in 1989, but not as a replacement for natural fibre from fruit, vegetables and grains, but as an additional part of my diet.

Author: Bastique (Cary Bass); via Wikimedia Commons

I questioned the head chef at one of the establishments about this lack of vegetables, and he initially pointed out to me that there was a vegetarian option on their menu, being tomato and basil linguini. On pushing a bit harder, he told me that customers felt cheated if a significant part of the plate was covered in vegetables, as this would be seen as being “mean” with the main ingredient, being the featured protein. Based on the fact that the main course plates are usually about the size of a Mack truck hubcap, I couldn’t buy the argument, so I sought out and chatted to the manager of the local food supermarket, who was very helpful. The sales of fruit and vegetables in his establishment represent less than 3% of his total sales, being heavily dominated by reheatable, and nukeable fast foods. The major criteria seemingly being speed and simplicity of preparation in movement from fridge/freezer to table.

By Salimfadhley; via Wikimedia Commons

The state of Iowa decided that they would try an intervention to increase the sale of fruit and vegetables by targeting 8 supermarkets over an 8 month period. (see the report at

From the report “The intervention consisted of: (1) one-page supermarket flyers that identified fruits and vegetables on sale, gave recipes and menu ideas for using sale foods, and gave a store coupon worth 50 cents toward the purchase of any fruit or vegetable; (2) store signage to identify fruits and vegetables featured on the flyer; and (3) consciousness raising activities such as food demonstrations and nutrition related signage.”
Whilst awareness of the flyers was 43%, discount coupon use was 36% and 18% had used one of the supplied recipes, sales of fruit and vegetables did not go up at all.

It appears that Americans just do not like fruit and vegetables.

The US department of agriculture estimate that less than 30% of Americans actually consume the recommended 5 daily serves of fruit and vegetables, and that even fewer people in their middle and later years adhere to this advice than they did two decades ago.
I find this fact particularly unusual based on the American obsession with dieting.
With about two-thirds of the American population being overweight and one-third considered obese, it is estimated that nearly 50% of women and 30% of men go on a diet every year.

I find it interesting that most Americans appear to be really worried about how much they eat between Christmas and New Year. It appears that they would be much better off worrying less about this specific time period, and becoming more concerned about what they eat between New Year and Christmas instead. Just replacing the spaghetti side dish with some freshly cooked vegetables would go some of the way in helping to improve their diet.

As comedian George Miller (1941-2003) said “The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.”



  1. Frank says:

    Les, The Yanks haven’t changed in the 40 years I’ve been visiting. In January ’75 I arrived in Kansas City on a year’s transfer with Andersens (now Accenture). My project was at Hallmark Cards, The Hall family owned much of KC, including the Crown Plaza Hotel (crown being the Hallmark logo too). I remember sitting at the hotel restauraunt table, 2 large women at the table next to me, talking diets, and yes I learnt an American diet is everything you would normally eat but adding a salad and a diet it hasn’t changes. Best veggies (and ribs) in KC are at Bryants, a huge plate of hickory smoked ribs and veggies? a big afro american’s hand scooping fires in a bowl to go with the ribs. Even American style Thai, seems to skimp on veggies. But US is a great place for my meat fix! love their meat. Good story, rgds Frank

    • leshayman says:

      Frank, I am with you about the US for great meat … I love the ribs and the steaks … I have just never thought of eating them with a side of macaroni/cheese or a side of pasta that in any other country would serve a family of four and still leave a snack for the dog. Les

  2. Tim Collins says:

    Vegetarians? I have nothing against vegetarians, every cow i ever ate was a vegetarian.

  3. Sean Allison says:

    I almost choked on my Dunkin Donuts reading this. Lucky i had some “Pigs in Mud” (Choclate covered Bacon) to help me get my appetite back!

    • leshayman says:

      Sean, I am not sure what I would prefer for my last meal …chocolate covered bacon or deep fried mars bars in batter … So much gourmet choice so little time. Les

  4. Vicky says:

    Excellent as always, Les. It’s apparently supposed to be more than 5 a day, but ‘they’ didn’t want to put people off trying by making it too difficult – how sad it that…………..

  5. leshayman says:

    Vicky … I doubt that it would make any difference if the recommendation was lowered to 2 serves per day … I feel that Americans would still not eat fruit and vegetables over burgers, pizza and chicken wings (with a pasta side of course). Les

  6. leshayman says:

    Caroline, this would be incredibly funny if it wasn’t so scary. It is hard to believe that 6-year olds cannot recognise a tomato yet all know of ketchup, and know French fries but not a potato. I bet they can all recognise macaroni/cheese. Les

    • Tim Collins says:

      I live in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand (great place to run a South East Asian enterprise software company from BTW!). Every Saturday I conduct a fun & free 1 hour English class for the kids in my moo baan – from 5 to 9 YO. I just checked the flash cards for fruit and veggies. Every item on the Jamie Oliver clip is there, plus a few more, not only do all the kids breeze through identifying them all, they scream them out in English – Maepenrai USA, Amazing Thailand!

      • leshayman says:

        Tim, wonderful to hear … keep some Pad Pak Ruam for when I visit. Les

      • Tim Collins says:

        That would be nice – I have had a steady stream of old colleagues coming by – Joe Peters was here in November, he is working with me at out of Melbourne, neither of us can afford to retire, too many glaringly obvious (with hindsight) errors in the past to overcome, anyhow “The Game” is still fun ….And there are some truly great restaurants and resorts here. Life’s good in the Land of Smiles.

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