How To Eat More Veggies

" On any given day more than half the US population eats no fruit or vegetables."  John Hendrickson, in From Asparagus to Zucchini.

I've heard a lot of people saying they wanted to eat more vegetables, but had various reasons that they weren't. That's cool. The hard truth is you get one life. ONE. Who wants to spend their one life in poor health, overweight, and then end it early? NOT ME!!! Besides, vegetables are good!

No matter what kind of diet you like: vegan, vegetarian, paleo, South Beach, Weight Watcher's, low-fat/high fiber....fresh fruits and vegetables are a large and necessary part.

Here's the USDA's new Food Plate eating plan. The part about half your plate should be fruit/veg is right on. I know the pic shows both fruit and veg at a meal, but really that "half of your plate" could be all veg. Plus, many things we call vegetables ARE fruits, but culturally we refer to the sweet ones as "fruit". I lump them all into the same category, personally.

Foods to Increase
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
Make at least half your grains whole grains.
Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

The most important part there is about the fruits and veg. I would encourage a person to make a goal of all whole grains, when/if you decide to eat them. The milk part is up to you. There are varying philosophies about the necessity of reducing fat in dairy products.

*The way I grew up, vegetables were boiled alone with butter, salt and pepper, or boiled in soup. Or, maybe raw in a salad. Hmmm. Ok, I like those well enough, but when they become the necessary main part of your everyday food, that really doesn't cut it...it gets boring FAST!! Plus, if you've tried those and found them lacking, that may be what has led to a vegetable deficiency in your diet.

*Some people in our society suffer from what are now lifestyle diseases, not quite as common 50 years ago. Lifestyle diseases are preventable, and can significantly impact the quality of your life: they sap your energy, can effect your emotional well-being, can impact the quality of time spent with loved ones, can drain you of your money for health care and medicine.  I linked Wikipedia, but do your own search for "lifestyle diseases".

*To get an idea about how vegetables can improve your health, watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.(on Netflix Streaming) The narrator uses juicing to get his veg, but that's not the point of the movie. Don't dwell on the juicing (unless you want to take it up, your call).

*Another learning opportunity is Food Matters, also available to stream on Netflix. Don't think you have to do everything in the movies, or change up a bunch of stuff, just educate yourself. The more times you expose yourself to the info, the more it will sink in and become YOUR knowledge, not just a fleeting piece of info.

There are tons of books available, magazines, websites, etc. I like Prevention &  Vegetarian Times for their recipes and nutritional information

As far as implementing vegetables in your diet, a good way is to join a CSA, or participate in Bountiful Baskets if it's available in your area (find them  Facebook).

ORGANIC, or not?:
There is a lot of info about buying organic, but this info from PBS is pretty good. It tells which fresh produce is most important to buy organic (it's more expensive). One cheap(er) way to get organic produce is to participate in either a CSA or Bountiful Baskets.
The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen
If I were just now starting to eat vegetables, I would buy conventional in super small quantities, but I've read several articles stating that people who joined CSAs increased their vegetable consumption by 45%.  So, whatever's right for you. I fear waste.

List what vegetables you know you like. (potatoes, pork n beans, ranch style beans, corn, etc don't count)
Pick one NEW thing per week you would like to try.

Find HEALTHY recipes for your vegetables that do not include deep frying, lots of breading, lots of dairy products (sour cream, cheese, etc)..

Healthy preparation methods will be sauteed, roasted, stir-fried, steamed, baked, and grilled. And, raw, of course. My fav are roasted, or marinated then grilled.

Places to find healthy veg recipes easily on the web: Vegan recipe websites and blogs (they're mighty clever with vegetables!), Vegetarian Times, Kalyn's Kitchen (altho she does get a bit cheesy, and has some meat recipes, too), Fat Free Vegan, any recipe site that allows you to choose vegan as a search option will help you, too, and some have other nutritional info. Paleo recipe blogs are good, too, if you eat meat. They typically don't use any grains or cheeses.

For cook books, again, look for vegan, EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT VEGAN, as they have the best recipes. My fav is From Asparagus to Zucchini (altho it's not vegan, most of the recipes are). There are also tons of magazines available, too, if you like looking at those.

To add them to your daily diet: PLAN YOUR MENU. this saves money and time, anyway, AND your sanity on nights when your kids are driving you crazy or you're tired. You don't have to think about what's for dinner because you've already decided and have all the ingredients and recipes ready to go. Make sure you plan intelligently and don't choose some complicated and difficult dish on soccer practice day.

How to plan a menu: list all of the foods you like or want to try, by category (veg, fruit, grains, protein). Assign them to days. Get all of your recipes together and make your shopping list. Plan for snacks if you're more used to having chips, crackers, cookies or cakes for snacks. Plan for a fruit or veg instead. Apples can really satisfy a carb craving and sweet tooth, and are just as handy. Save your menus on your computer or in a binder, so after a time, you'll be able to repeat, or at least draw on them for ideas.
HERE's a TEMPLATE, on this website

I plan two vegetables for every meal, but a lot of them are leftovers. I make a lot at once then eat it for a couple of days. I eat vegetable soup of some kind every day for lunch from a big batch I make weekly. If you aren't sure what vegetables you like, I would only make enough for one meal so you don't have waste.

Meal Planning Info...I love this.

Most of my dinners are the main course and two vegetables. If I don't plan a second veg, I just have more vegetable soup. A lot of times my main dish is another vegetable plus a protein, sometimes a whole grain. And a piece of fruit, because I have a "fresh fruit at every meal" rule. If you like cheese, the main course is a good place to have it, but remember HALF of your plate needs to be veg/fruit.

For instance, last night I had marinated tofu, zucchini, mushroom, and onion, grilled on skewers. One the side, Sister Mary's Zesty Carrots (my recipe, on here). I don't eat a lot of grains or dairy, but there were bread crumbs, butter, and mayo on the carrots. Viola! Food Plate accomplished. You could easily substitute chicken breast or shrimp here, paneer, or beef, so you can see it's not about being vegetarian. The protein source doesn't matter: eat what you like there, just get the veg in!

***most importantly***
Start slowly. Making sweeping changes to your eating habits can cause frustration and lead you to give up. If you don't currently plan your menu ahead of time, start there. It will be easier to see where you tend to err. After a couple of weeks of that, or a month, change one more thing: maybe add a vegetable dish, eat potatoes once per week, or use fewer products with white flour or high fructose corn syrup. Go nice and slow! If you're getting healthier, you'll live longer and have plenty of time.

If you do try for a while and give up, go right back. Even one day per week of eating healthy when you haven't been can make a difference...every little bit counts and is important! A side effect will be improved health!

Good luck! and, finish your vegetables!!

1 comment:

Hani said...

I needed that pep talk! I was a member of fat free vegan way back when, and I always forget what a great resource it is.


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