Are you getting enough veggies? If you are like most Americans, the answer is likely no! Including more vegetables is probably the most difficult nutritional change for most people to make. However, according to Run Smart nutritionist Alica Shay, if we do not eat at least 1/3 the volume of our lunch and dinner as vegetables, it is really easy to overeat and very difficult to get enough nutrients through food. “It is simply not possible to optimize health and recovery without the full spectrum of nutrients and antioxidants contained in vegetables, “ she says.
Shay says if we think about it, whole grains and fruit, while both are good for us, have twice as many calories and sometimes half the nutrients and antioxidants contained in vegetables. In order to achieve the nutrient intake we need without vegetables we therefore must eat many more calories of whole grains and fruits than we would need to eat in vegetables, increasing our total caloric load and the number of calories going to inactive tissue rather than fueling active muscle tissue. This is why Shay suggests that regardless of whether our goals are body-fat loss, recovering from injury, preventing disease, running a marathon or lifting 300 lbs., we will not succeed in a sustainable way unless vegetables are included in at least two meals per day in a relatively large amount!
I don’t know about you, but this is somewhat surprising to me. I consider myself a pretty healthy eater, but after working with Shay, I realize there is a lot I can do to improve my diet, and just adding more vegetables can go a long way to do that. There are literally thousands of varieties of vegetables, so we really should not have a problem finding at least a few we like. The following are some tips from Alicia Shay to add more vegetables to your diet on regular basis:
1. Whenever you make a salad at home (whether for you alone or for your family) make another smaller one in a Tupperware container and immediately put it in the fridge for a meal the next day. I love this suggestion because making salads can be a bit of a pain, but if I already have one made from the day before, it is a no-brainer and very convenient to grab for a quick nutritious meal.
2. Look at your plate and see if there are at least several different colors on the plate from vegetables and fruit. Not only does this ensure you are eating a good amount of both, it also can mean that those vegetables and fruit are taking the place of other not so healthy things.
3. If ordering a sandwich or wrap, always ask for extra vegetables or have some on the side.
4. When eating out, consider a large salad with some kind of grilled meat and some whole grain bread. Salads are actually just as filling as another entrée, and will ensure that you are eating plenty of veggies. Always ask for dressings on the side so that you can control the amount used.
5. When you come home from a grocery store run, cut up sliced veggies that you just purchased (such as red and green peppers, carrots, snap peas, etc.) and place them in a Ziploc bag so that they are easy to grab from the fridge as a quick snack with a low-cal dressing or a side of hummus or guacomole.
6. Make homemade soups and add whatever fresh veggies you have on hand. Then add some frozen ones and even a canned variety (as long as they are not all canned). With fresh whole grain bread this is another fabulous way to fit in your veggies. Frankly you could probably get a full day’s portion of vegetables from one bowl of soup. I am finally succeeding in convincing my family that soup is indeed an actual meal!
How about you? Are you getting the veggies you really need? What are some of the ways you are sneaking them in?