Poor veggies, such good intentions...such poor follow-through.
Ok so, I didn't ignore every veggie I purchased, but I was a busy career woman and by the time I got home from work most nights, there was no chance I'd have the energy to cook the swiss chard or broccoli rabe waiting for me in my refrigerator.
My breakfasts were eaten on the run, a protein bar (I lived on Think Thin bars for years!) or an egg sandwich, lunches were left to chance based on where client's wanted to lunch that day and dinners were scavenged from the easiest put together thing from the pantry/fridge. I'd get one, maybe two, servings of veggies each day. Yet, I was always on a diet. Always searching for the perfect combination, or rather restriction, of foods so I could drop the perpetual 15 lbs that needed to be shed.
I overlooked one of the simplest ways to level up my nutrition and take control of my metabolism. In fact, after working with dozens and dozens of women on dialing in their nutrition for weight loss, I've found that the singular focus on drastically increasing vegetable intake has had the largest impact on weight loss goals.
Vegetables, in fact, should be more than half of the total food volume of one's fat-loss diet. More than HALF. Yet, the Average American consumes less than 2 cups of fruits and veggies EACH DAY. When we are on the run, we seek the quickest, easiest food options...options that tend to be high in starch, sugar and fat. And, many of the healthier convenience options are fruit heavy...think smoothies and yogurts. Fruits, though delicious and nutritious, tend to be starchier (higher sugar) fiber options than vegetables.
Why does a higher veggie intake make such a big impact on my client's weight loss goals?
1. They feel more satisfied when their meal is over because fiber is filling.
2. Since fiber is digested slowly, it helps them to feel fuller for longer; curbing hunger and cravings that derail many diets (along with
3. They can eat more food! I know for myself in particular, I value snacks where I can eat higher volume, rather than portioning out 8 almonds to "enjoy".
4. The best part? By increasing your vegetable intake, you're reprogramming your mind to eat *more* food, rather than less, like every.other.diet.you've.ever.tried.
Here are my top 5 tricks to increasing your vegetable intake:
1. Pop them into smoothies.
Spinach and kale are great for this! Pop a handful or two in your favorite smoothie recipe for an added vitamin and mineral punch (Vitamins A and K, folate and calcium to name a few). If you have a smoothie for breakfast; BOOM, 1-2 servings of veggies down for the day!
2. Prepare them in bulk at the beginning of the week.
I like to buy a variety of root veggies each week like carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets, onions, etc. I wash them and chop them (potatoes with skin on) and roast (along with other veggies like broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts and squashes) so that I have them on hand for the whole week. Most weeks, I do about two full trays on a Sunday evening. I'll either warm the leftovers to have on the side of a protein for dinner, throw into the pan with eggs in the am, or top on a salad for lunch. To roast, simply chop in even pieces and lay out on sheet pans. Toss with extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, season with salt and pepper and roast on 425 for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally until browned.
3. Commit to one big salad every single day.
By committing to one big salad every day, you'll be getting a few servings of veggies all in one meal. Pile on veggies like tomato and cucumber, or a nice mild sliced Cubanelle pepper on top of pre-washed mixed greens with a piece of grilled chicken, for a super simple and quick meal packed with micronutrients! If this is the one meal that goes right in your day, you've had at 3-4 servings of veggies all in one sitting.
*Make salads interesting! I share this tip often in my fat-loss coaching groups because it's key for when salads feel boring and the leftover pizza in the break room or in the fridge starts calling my name. Every week during your grocery haul, grab a container of marinated olives, peppers, etc. and layer on top of your salads, along with a bit of cheese, for an extra flavor punch!
The thought of steaming my veggies makes me want to run in another direction. For this reason, I prefer sautéing my veggies so that I actually WANT to eat them. The quick sauté veggies that I like are; mushrooms, spinach, kale, beet greens, swiss chard, mustard greens - those typically cook down pretty fast in a pan on med heat with avocado oil or evoo and a little salt and pepper. More heftier veggies like broccoli, broccoli-rabe, broccolini, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green beans can be steamed for 5 minutes (either in a basket or right in the pan with a thin layer of chicken stock, covered until soft) and then sautéed with some oil, salt and pepper for a good finishing sear and flavoring. Sometimes, I prefer to pop veggies under the broiler in the oven (which I dubbed 'city grilling' when we lived in Boston and couldn't use a grill) to cook them quickly as a side for a meal, just watch because they cook fast and need to be turned.
5. Pre-portion veggie snack bags.
Keep it simple! Celery stalks, baby carrots, sliced peppers, cucumber...choose your favorite veggies and chop them up at the beginning of the week, putting them into serving size ziplock bags to take on the go. Once chopped, some veggies like peppers will give off a bit of moisture so simply pop a paper towel in the bag to avoid soggy veggies.
6. Buy a high-quality vegetable powder.
Some people struggle to find vegetables they actually enjoy eating. If this is the case for you, or if you battle to find time to prepare the recommended 9 servings of vegetables each day, this one's for you. Buy a high-quality vegetable powder like this one that I use daily, on the recommendation of my friend, Kim Shaper. This brand has the antioxidant equivalent of 24 servings of fruits and vegetables in just one serving! I will either add to a smoothie or drink blended into a 12-oz glass of water.