Vegetable food refers to any type of plant material that humans consume as food. In this sense, it includes all the vegetable material grown by a plant, whether it grows on the ground or in a container. The original intended meaning still generally applies and is widely used to describe plants together with other edible vegetable material, such as the stems, leaves, flowers, roots, and even seeds. However, the term “vegetable” can be used in much more specific terms, depending on the situation.
The term “food system” is also often used interchangeably with “nutrition.” However, this term actually refers to the overall process of growing and preparing foods. Food systems are often used to refer to whole food systems, including processing and retail sales. In many cases, whole food systems refer to food categories like organic and natural or sustainable foods. These systems have been developed for the purpose of promoting health and the environment, as well as for the benefit of consumers.
There are two major food groups within the vegetable group. These are the legume group, which includes black beans, peas, lentils, and brown rice; and the vegetable group, which includes green and leafy vegetables, potatoes, squash, yams, carrots, spinach, artichokes, and cucumbers. There are a number of subgroups within each group. In some cases, these include root crops (such as radishes, asparagus, kale, and garlic), flowering plants (including onions, garlic, tomatoes), and leafy greens.
Within the vegetable food group, there are two further subgroups. The first consists of “pre-packaged foods,” which are usually prepared at a facility other than the home. These include products like ready-to-eat snack foods, bottled water, instant oatmeal, powdered milk, and various other similar products. The second subgroup includes “organic foods,” which are foods that have not had pesticides used in growing the vegetables in question, but that come from suppliers who adhere to an additional set of guidelines regarding what should be included in organic vegetable production.
In addition to the vegetable group, there are two further classification levels within the vegetable food group. The first level is “organic for meat and poultry.” This essentially means that the animals fed the food are free from drugs used to control animal growth (such as steroids), hormones, antibiotics, and other medications used to promote growth. The second level of classification corresponds to vegetables that are “gluten-free.” This simply means that the vegetables themselves contain no gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other types of grains. This is the most popular type of gluten-free vegetable food, as it is safe for most people to eat.
The last four subgroups of vegetable protein food groups are “sugar-free,” “low-fat,” and “vegetarian/vegetarian.” These vegetable groups are broken down further into their individual food categories. Within each category, you’ll find things like “whole-food” products and “quick-to-make” foods. While they don’t technically fall under a subcategory of the main vegetable groups, they do fall under a subcategory of animal protein sources.