Over the last 15 years, I have seen many meal plans and food logs. While everyone has areas to improve their nutritional health, the overwhelming thing everyone can improve is their vegetable consumption. It sounds so easy to add a veggie every time you eat. In practice though, it isn’t always that simple.
If you are eating for optimal performance, we should have a discussion about which veggie is better than another, and which veggie is really a fruit. For someone like me, with autoimmune conditions, we do need to watch how much of inflammatory foods we eat, like night shade vegetables. The overwhelming majority of people, eating any veggie or fruit is better than not eating a fruit or veggie. Those that fall into the autoimmune category, you will learn by trial and error if you should limit/abstain from certain foods.
I cannot count how many times I have heard someone say they don’t know how to add a veggie to their breakfast. My go to response is to think about omletes and skillets at restaurants. Yes, there is cheese and meat, but so many veggies. Asparagus and swiss cheese, denver means onions and peppers, even spinach is common the the egg dishes. If your breakfast is a bagel, I am going to first suggest you switch to something more nutrient dense. A well rounded meal is going to contain protein, fat, fiber, and complex carb. A bagel is a simple carb full of calories, but not much substance when it comes to satiability. Maybe you have a parfait type dish for breakfast. One option would be to add a scoop of greens to your yogurt. My second option is to think of your breakfast as two courses. Eat a side of sauteed spinach, mushrooms, onions, and garlic as your first course. Then your second course can be the parfait. This takes away the thought that your foods must “go together”.
Some people are really good at snacking on raw veggies. They can be quick, on the go, finger type foods. When I first start working with people, I remind them they are probably better off dipping a raw veggie in ranch or hummus than continuing to snack on goldfish out of the kids stash. Those that like nuts, you can often find a mix that has dried fruit. Why not add dried sugar snap peas or chips made from freeze dried broccoli and beets to your own trail mix.
Those having a late afternoon snack of chocolate, or a post dinner munch on a frozen yogurt bar might find it harder to add a veggie to that. However, that is also kind of the point. Before you have your fro-yo, eat a veggie. If you no longer want the sweet snack, no loss there. When you do still have the desire for a sweet, having the fiber of the non-starchy veggie will help in your blood sugar regulation as well as your hormone production of ghrelin.
The USDA, as of October 2021, recommend 4 to 5 servings of vegetables per day. For most vegetables, one cup, prepared or raw, constitutes a serving. Eating a veggie every time you eat will get you to this goal a little easier. Those that do not currently eat many veggies, a full cup is going to take some adjustment.
There is a getting healthy philosophy around “crowding out the bad”. Putting a vegetable on your plate at every meal is a great way to enact this system. You will naturally eat less of the other foods as you fill up on the increase in vegetables. Vegetables, especially non-starchy carbs, are nutritent dense, high in vitamins/minerals while low in calories.
Convenience is a huge help when it comes to adding more of something. If you aren’t going to take the time to wash and cut the food after the grocery run, pick up a veggie tray. You can even pick up a bag of fresh prepared stir fry mix, and eat them instead of cooking them. I will say, roasted and air fried vegetables taste so much better than boiling frozen ones. When it comes to convenience though, look into the steamer bags in the freezer section of the grocery store. Start your microwave, and presto, you have cooked vegetables in a snap.
What is your objection to veggie on every plate? Drop it in the comments, and I’d love to work with you on a way around that.