I’ve been totally ranting on about vegetables for the last two posts. Broccoli this, cabbage that.
By reading those posts alone, you would might never guess that between the ages of 6 and 10 the only (and I mean the only) vegetable I would eat was iceberg lettuce, drenched in ranch dressing.
Served with buffalo wings, breaded shrimp and a jello pot.
Guess what decade I was born in?!
I wouldn’t even eat the tomato sauce on pizza, and one of my clearest memories is throwing a tantrum in front of the Domino’s delivery man because my pizza had arrived WITH tomato sauce. Cool kid.
Anyways, given that I now average about three platefuls of vegetables per day, it’s pretty obvious that I believe anyone can increase their vegetable intake. And start to enjoy it! If I can do it anyone can… and that means anyone!!
How Much To Eat:
I’ll come right out with it and say that a lot of nutrition experts believe the ’5 A Day’ campaign was wrong. In fact, even the people who came up with it thought it was wrong, they were just trying to set the targets at achievable levels. Which is great, but if you actually want to experience tangible benefits (as well as feel justified having that cheeseburger!) you are actually going to need to shoot for more like 5 – 8 servings of vegetables per day.
In all honesty though, this is not nearly as hard as it sounds!
Point One: A serving is not that huge. One serving equals:
- Small handful of steamed greens, or finely chopped vegetables (for example, steamed spinach, diced cabbage, sliced tomato)
- Large handful of raw leafy greens, or whole vegetables (for example, raw kale or lettuce, whole broccoli florets, chunky chopped carrots)
Point Two: Although it’s great to get a variety of vegetables, you do not have to eat 5 – 8 different vegetables per day. You can have double servings of a single vegetable!
And, although its essential to eat vegetables from all the different groups, you do not have to do this on a daily basis.
Or even a weekly one. Or even, at a massive push, a monthly one.
Vegetables from each group are available year round …. for example spinach in the summer and kale in the winter. However, some seasons put more emphasis on certain groups than others. Sometimes in winter I’ll go a month or so without ‘fruit vegetables’, and in summer I’ll often go a long period without tubers… or even vegetables in the ‘lily’ family. Just try to make sure get a few servings of leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, per week.
Increasing Vegetable Intake:
…. which is nowhere near as hard as it sounds!
To illustrate by example, here’s what I now do!
Lunch is always my killer vegetable meal. This is where you should cram in as many vegetables as possible, because lunch is a meal most anyone can have control of.
You can either:
Bring super cheap seasonal salad from home…. which combines good sized servings of at least 3 vegetables. Good ideas =
Winter: roasted broccoli, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, aubergine, onions etc…
Summer: cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions, celery, peppers ….
Year Round: carrots, celery, red peppers, red onions, cucumbers ….
Top it with whatever finishings you like (chicken, cheese, beans, rice etc) … or just eat it alongside a sandwich or some soup. This is a great option because the vegetables can be carried around in a ziplock bag, which is way easier than tupperware.
Or you can:
Cook large vegetable soup (with beans and potatoes) at the weekend, and bring in with tupperware. Make sure its packed with vegetables – every season has options!
In either case you’ll get 4 – 5 servings of vegetables in at lunch, without much effort. Because vegetables are so filling and energising, they are a really great food to base your lunch around.
Plus, the really great news is that if you eat enough vegetables for lunch, dinner can be way less of an issue.
Dinner is a meal I usually eat at home, and I basically follow the approach of filling half my plate with vegetables. Dinner is definitely the easiest meal to fit in dark leafy greens, because they taste great with foods like stew or lasagne … and can basically become part of the meal. It’s also a really easy meal to fit cruciferous vegetables into!
On the other hand, dinner is not a meal I always eat at home, and the great thing about having eaten so many vegetables at lunch, is that eating vegetables at dinner is no longer an essential. My least favourite thing to have to do when eating out, is to frame what I eat around getting vegetables (this may not be the sort of thing that keeps you up at night)… not to mention the fact that most places you eat are not generous with their vegetable portions. By eating such a vegetable rich lunch, it’s still easy to get 5 servings even on days when you eat out.
All in all, although 5 – 8 servings per day sounds like a lot – it IS totally do-able. Admittedly by eating this way, vegetables will form the basis of your diet… but there is a pretty strong argument that this is actually how we were evolved to eat.
For me, eating lots of vegetables is definitely not any kind of a chore any more, and the only possible downside is all the prepping …which can easily be done at the weekend for lunches. Although I definitely view the vegetables as a good anti-dote to the sausages I might eat beside them, I actually look forward to them just as much now!
Seriously and I promise!