Eat more vegetables. This may be my favorite nutrition tip and it’s a positive wellness intention I focus on daily. I’m always encouraging myself to eat more vegetables. If you consider the risk to benefit ratio of this recommendation, it speaks for itself. Risk: minimal. Benefits: abundant. Plus, I love an intention that encourages me to have more versus less, especially when it comes to food. Enough of the deprivation people. Let’s be grateful for the food on our plate. That being said, for most of us omnivores, the idea of planning a meal around carrots sounds, well, lackluster at best. Fortunately, the concept of creating a vegetable-centric plate can and often does include meat, fish and poultry. The key is mindfully rearranging your plate so that the veggies are the star and the animal proteins play a more supporting role. Eat more vegetables. One of my 5 Intentions for the New Year and a great mantra we can use to kick off the month. Here are five tips to make this feel more achievable.
If you set a goal to start dieting in the New Year, this is a great time to throw it in the trash. Deprivation and self-loathing will get you nowhere. Instead, replace the guilt and the shame with self-love, self acceptance and vegetables. The vegetables may be the easiest part of that equation so I’m linking you back to one of my favorite self-love posts for some inspiration on that matter.
I get it. It’s hard to unlearn old habits so let’s keep it simple and just rethink the way you view your plate. You can continue to enjoy all the things you love but we’re going to ramp up the veggies and focus on their nourishing goodness. This little shift will gently crowd out a few other foods without having to omit them. Talk about food gratitude. This is beautiful stuff. Eat the foods you love. Care for your body. I’m liking the vibes we have going on here.
For those of you who don’t love veggies, I hear ya. The thing is, we can harness gratitude for the fact that they are so darn good for us. This is self-love people. This is self-care. I’m not saying you have to deprive yourself of the cupcake or chips or the ice cream. I’m just saying you could stand to eat more vegetables. We all can. And the vegetables, they make you feel good. Promise. They taste amazing too.
Repeat after me, “I Love Vegetables”. Say it again and again and again until you start to believe it. You should. They rock. It’s no secret that a plant-based diet rich in vegetables boasts health benefits like decreasing your risk of a slew of diseases. A plant-centric diet can be more cost-effective too. More money in your wallet. What’s not to love? Plus, decreasing your animal protein consumption will aid in decreasing inflammation in your body and it’s an infallible way to reduce your carbon footprint. Yet the most compelling reason to embrace a vegetable-centric plate, from the mouth of a veggie lover, is the robust flavors of fresh, beautiful vegetables.
1. Find inspiration. Most of us plan meals by choosing the animal protein that will headline the meal. Instead, challenge yourself to plan a meal around a vegetable that inspires you. A picture on social media, trip to the farmer’s market, peak in your CSA box or a few moments in the produce aisle at your grocery store are all great places to start. You can even survey your family to find out their favorite vegetable, or choose a vegetable that’s new and interesting to you. Search the web for plant-based recipes that incorporate your chosen vegetable(s), and then choose a complementary animal protein you can add to it. Or, be brave and skip the animal protein all together (even if just a few times a week). If you choose to incorporate an animal protein, visualize your rearranged plate for guidance. Aim for at least half your plate to be filled with colorful vegetables, and then fill in the gaps with other plant-based foods such as whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and beans. If you include animal proteins, limit the serving size to 1/4 of your plate – or a few ounces. Try this Smoked Paprika, Cauliflower and Kale Shakshuka with Za’atar
2. Eat Vegetables at Breakfast. It’s easy to omit the animal protein once you’re familiar with their plant-based counterparts – think nuts, seeds, beans and even whole grains. You can make homemade bean burgers, sprinkle nuts onto vegetables (think walnuts and green beans), or incorporate seeds into grains like quinoa with roasted vegetables and pumpkin seeds. Nut butters and seed pastes like tahini (sesame paste) are amazing additions to marinades and salad dressings. Speaking of salads – simply add nuts, seeds and beans to your favorite greens.
3. Eat real foods. When is the last time you had a vegetable at breakfast? I bet it’s been a while. On the upside, a meal with no vegetables offers you a great opportunity to add ’em in. If you abandon the idea of breakfast foods you can easily reheat leftover veggies to enjoy as a part of your morning meal. Sauteed greens. Sweet Potatoes. Roasted Cauliflower. Why not? If that sounds strange to you, try adding some greens to your smoothie like I did in this Nourished Green Smoothie Bowl. A family favorite smoothie in our house is Almond Butter, Banana, Spinach, Unsweetened Cocoa Powder and Unsweetened Vanilla Almond or Coconut Milk. Eggs are an easy vehicle for veggies too. You can whip up a simple veggie and egg scramble or try a make-ahead frittata. Clean out the fridge of any vegetable scraps, saute them up and add eggs then bake it. It’s so easy and you can reheat this on busy mornings. Try this Goat Cheese, Asparagus, Mushroom and Greens Frittata.
4. Embrace Frozen Vegetables. I love frozen vegetables. They are inexpensive and super convenient. I have been known to defrost a bag of frozen vegetables at the beginning of the week so that their is always a cooked vegetable on hand. With so many options these days, I use frozen butternut squash to whip up a quick soup or blend into a dip. Frozen greens make for a great smoothie add-in and frozen cauliflower can be pureed into a simple mash.
5. Plan Ahead. As with most intentions, a little planning goes a long way. I try to pre-roast vegetables at the beginning of each week. If they are cooked and ready to go I tend to incorporate them into meals and salads more regularly. Pre-cut vegetables are really helpful as well. Cut carrots, celery and peppers for snacking and dice them up so they are available for a quick saute. This Buddha Bowl is a great example of a vegetable rich meal you can create with items already on hand. I also enjoy adding sauteed vegetables to grains, pasta and of course soups and stews.