10 easy strategies to increase your vegetable intake
Vegetables. Oh, vegetables. You have been my personal nutrition struggle for much of my adult life. You've always seemed so boring and tasteless, to the point that I just wanted to ignore you... Why do you have to be so good for me?
I'm being a bit dramatic here, but intentionally dramatic to prove a point. My relationship to vegetables has not been strong, and because this relationship has not been strong, it's impacted my nutrition choices for years.
Of course, as a personal trainer and a nutrition coach, I know how important vegetables are. I mean, 95% of the time, my first recommendation to anyone asking for nutrition advice is: "more vegetables!"
This article's not going to be about why vegetables are so good for us (you can find a million - probably more - articles that will give you all this info). We're going to make the assumption that vegetables are really, really good for us and more is better.
Rather, I'm going to share how I shifted my thought process about vegetables. So if you've been told "eat more vegetables" and have had the experience of, "yea, yea I know," but never really made the significant changes you know you should make, keep reading. This article is written for you.
Over the past 7 months, I've been practicing making shifts in my thought process and how I choose my foods. One area I've decided to conqueror once and for all is this one: to build a habit of more vegetables in my life. And, to try to like them.
One thing I've noticed in this process is that I associate vegetables with bland, burdensome, and just not exciting. I would force myself to eat the side salad so I could get to the good stuff...
Now, I could go the route of one of my heroes, Dan John, and just tell myself (and everyone else) to suck it up and "just eat like an adult". End of article.
No. Instead, I've decided NOT to suffer through the side salad for the rest of my life.
And, rather than trying to replace all my normal dietary choices with salads (which I've tried in the past. Low and behold, salads for every meal is not sustainable for me…), I've instead adopted some creative ideas that help increase my vegetable intake with how I already eat.
What's been really rewarding is the majority of these strategies are outside the "force myself to eat vegetables" world. Instead, they mostly enhance the meals I'm already eating, allowing me to eat certain foods I love and make them a bit healthier.
The number one rule I've discovered when it comes to getting more vegetables in my diet: They must taste good! A steamed plate of broccoli won't cut it for me…
As I've experimented with new ways to introduce vegetable into my diet, and the habit has become built, vegetables in my meals has become more automatic. And, I really enjoy the way I feel when I stick to this habit. So much so, that I find myself WANTING to order a salad when I'm out to eat at times…. Folks, that's a BIG deal for me.
So, whether it be your vegetable intake, or another area of nutrition that you struggle with, do yourself a favor and put some intense focus on this area for the next month. Stay aware, practice new strategies, and notice your brain begin to shift…
Now, here are my 10 easy strategies to help you get more vegetables in your diet - without replacing every meal with a salad…
1. Double the veggies on your sandwich
This one is so easy, and it makes your sandwiches so much better. Add more lettuce, more tomato, more of every vegetable you put on your sandwich! Load it up and enjoy.
2. Vegetable soup
Make it, order it, or buy it. Vegetable soup can be prepared in so many ways, with lots of different flavors and variety. It makes an amazing side to most meals.
Plus, it keeps for a long time. You store vegetable soup in bulk and have an easy vegetable filled side ready to go in minutes.
Find my mom's super simple (and tasty) vegetable soup recipe at the end of this article.
3. "Finger vegetables"
Stock your refrigerator each week with carrots, baby cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, anything that you can munch on when you're craving a snack. All this strategy takes is a little foresight before you go shopping.
A handful of tomatoes here, a carrot there adds up throughout the day...
4. Throw veggies into your morning egg dish
Spice up your mornings with an omelet or stir fry. Eggs go well with so many vegetables: mushrooms, spinach, peppers, onions and tomatoes are musts.
5. Protein shakes
I personally don't do a ton of protein shakes. But, if you do, a handful of spinach won't change the flavor. Plus, you get some extra greens.
What's great about chili is you can make it in huge batches, freeze it, and have it ready for a quick meal when you're in a pinch (or too tired to cook).
Most chili recipes are meat heavy. Replace half the meat in the recipe with cauliflower, broccoli, and/or carrots. It adds some great texture to the chili and there's little to no change in the flavor... win/win/win!
7. Zucchini noodles
Use a mandolin slicer to make zucchini noodles. Then, replace half of your pasta noodles with the zucchini noodles.
Of course, you can use all zucchini noodles if you wish, but I personally found the texture a bit too weird for me. The 50/50 approach does wonders.
8. Top off your protein
Throw some braised mushrooms, cooked down tomatoes, or grilled onions on top of your protein source. It will make your protein even better. Promise.
Another option is to prepare a sauce full of vegetables. Of course, be sure the sauce you're using makes the dish healthier... Try this easy mushroom sauce from Mark's Daily Apple.
9. Go ahead and get the burger...just replace the fries
When out to eat, practice choosing to replace unhealthy sides with a vegetable option. A burger with a side of roasted vegetables will do a lot less harm than a burger with an extra large serving of french fries… Most restaurants will offer this option.
Alert: I'm in no way saying you should go have a burger for every meal. But, when you are going to have the occasional treat, this is the way to do it.
10. Buy a salad book!
One of the best books I ever received from a client was this salad book. As a recovering vegetablephobe, salads just never appealed much to me. That is, until I was introduced to salads that frickin' rock!
That's it for now. I hope my personal journey gives you some new perspective and strategies to help you get more tasty, exciting, vegetables into your diet.
And, I'd love to hear from you! What creative ways do you add vegetables to your diet?
Share your ideas in the Powerful Body, Powerful Life: Live a life worth training for FB group, or reply to this email and let me know!
P.S. as promised...a vegetable soup recipe that cooks while you're at work:
Mom's Veggie Soup for the Crock Pot
- 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
- All your favorite veggies chopped up
- 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Water to fill remaining space in crock pot.
- Optional: 1 lbs. your choice of beef cut into cubes
Place all ingredients in the crock pot. Set on high for 6 hours or cook until meat is done and the vegetables are soft.
Veggie soup cooks while you are at work and is ready to eat, freeze, or meal prep when you get home.
Coming July 18th, 2017
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