Paleo or vegan, conventional nutritionist or holistic healer, USDA lab rat or NY Times columnist - when it comes to how to be healthiest, there is a lot of disagreement but the one thing every expert* will tell you to do? Eat more vegetables! (Oh and drink water. Fine, that’s two things.) And yet when researchers tally up what people say they eat and what they really eat, almost everyone falls short on their servings of greens. The reason for this is simple: Popeye has been usurped by Iron Man. Actually, it’s because veggies don’t taste like cake. You may have noticed. But from my own experience and from raising four picky little humans, I can tell you that you can learn to not only like, but love, your plant matter.
The other day my friend showed up on my doorstep with two big bags of farmer’s market veggies saying, “For some reason when I think vegetables, I think Charlotte!” Best compliment ever! As I sniffed the Thai basil and caressed the baby bok choy, I realized how happy vegetables make me. One of the most important things I’ve learned from Intuitive Eating is that foods are powerful medicine. Coming from an eating-disordered mindset where food was always forbidden or punishment it’s a total paradigm shift realizing that food can heal, strengthen and fortify in amazing ways – with vegetables being at the top of this superfoods list.
Over the last month or so I’ve been making an effort to eat more vegetables – not in an effort to eat “low carb” or “low fat” or even to lose weight or any other form of restriction but rather to increase the amount of powerhouse foods in my diet. I first got the idea for this from watching “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” on Netflix. It’s about two severely obese men who completely overhaul their health by going on a juice-only diet. While I am still a little dubious of all the movie’s claims, it did make me more interested in the subject so I checked out Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, the main expert in the movie. It was awesome. He recommends a non-strict vegan diet but what I really liked was how many different ways he had to use vegetables. From restriction to inclusion! (I should add: by way of the bathroom. Even though I started with a high-fiber diet, I’ve definitely had to spend a lot more quality time with Mr. John since starting this experiment. Ahem.)
Veggies contain powerful cancer fighters, immune boosters, mood enhancers and a plethora of other amazing things. But then you don’t need me to tell you this (just like you don’t need me to tell you how adorable Pregnant Beyonce is!). Most of us know that plants are good for us but how to make them good eating is another story entirely.
3 Tips to Incorporate More Veggies Into Your Diet
1. The green smoothie. Dr. Fuhrman has a green smoothie recipe he uses but of course I can’t follow a recipe! However would I ruin perfectly good food? It started with your basic yogurt/protein powder/spinach/berries blend but as I added more veggies it morphed into a vile concoction that I had to gag down – until I discovered unflavored protein powder! I bought a bag from PureBulk.com (cheap too!) and now I put in a random assortment of veggies – today was 1 bunch of bok choy, 1 large handful spinach, a bunch of romaine lettuce from my garden, 2 celery sticks, 1 small cucumber, a tomato – and blend in my Vitamix with a scoop of plain protein powder. Soooo basically I’m drinking gazpacho as my post-workout recovery drink. Who doesn’t love lukewarm gazpacho after a hard lifting workout? If you’re just starting out with green smoothies, I recommend trying one of the variations on the Green Monster Smoothie that are so popular in the fitosphere! (Angela of Oh She Glows even has an entire site dedicated to the Green Monster.)
2. Cauliflower rice and other substitutions. You can sneak veggies into your food a la Jessica Seinfeld or you can use substitutions. I have done both but I found a recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple for “cauliflower rice” and was intrigued. Basically you grind up a head of cauli into rice-sized chunks, steam it al dente and then use it like rice. I added sauteed onions, cilantro and lime to mine and was pleasantly surprised at how awesome it tasted and how much like rice (couscous, actually) it felt. Other popular subs include cauliflower “mashed potatoes”, sweet potato “chips”, eggplant “lasagna noodles”, and squash “spaghetti noodles” etc.
3. Everything’s a salad. “When you said you eat a lot of salad, I didn’t know you meant at every meal,” my sister said in awe at our family reunion as I polished off yet another container of spinach. I’ve found that you can dump pretty much anything on top of salad greens and it tastes great. My current favorite combo: grass-fed ground beef, 1 tbsp full-fat sour cream, a big glop of jalapeno-tomatillo salsa and chopped jalapenos (it’s not a meal if your lips aren’t burning!) all plopped on top of a HUGE plate of salad greens, cilantro and sliced bell peppers. I’ve also topped salads with marinara sauce, Mexican bean & corn casserole, chili, salmon and dill sauce and scrambled eggs.
What’s your secret weapon for getting more veggies onto your plate? Do you have a great Green Monster recipe or a fave food substitution or a killer salad combo I should try?? (Feel free to post links in the comments!)
*Except sometimes for Gary Taubes et al who do on occasion recommend an all-meat diet. Yes, I’m serious.