I spend a lot of alone time on my bike, cycling with just my thoughts. I don’t have an iPod or ear buds, it is just me and the road. So…I do a lot of thinking. I think about the stupidest things. But most often, I think about things that really affect my life: Food, Sleep and Money. No matter if we like it or not, these things are a huge factor in our day-to-day living. Don’t get me wrong, I also think about how blessed I am and how lucky I am to have a job, friends and family. I don’t always just think about $$.
I said last weekend I wanted to give some tips on incorporating more vegetables into your diet. When I say diet, I don’t mean X amount of calories or X amount of protein, I mean diet as in the way you eat to live.
Even if you can’t change your fitness, you can change your food. I think this is important to remember. Even if you are physically unable to workout, we can change your health by what we eat.
Healthy eating has been a work in progress for me and it has taken me over a year in my ongoing healthy journey. I am (obviously) not a doctor or nutritionist but wanted to share what works for me in hopes it might give someone some ideas. Also, it should go without saying but I am far from perfect. I mess up all the time. It happens. Just get back up and go again.
Before my healthiness journey (I don’t know what else to call it), I would tell myself I ate healthy during the week and was relaxed on the weekends. But let’s be honest. I was “good” Monday-Thursday and the weekend was Friday-Sunday. That is about half a week, hello! And I was seriously bingeing on weekends. It was no thing to eat a bag of chips or a whole pizza or both. I am embarrassed by that, but it is the truth. That, on top of sweets and drinking it is no surprise I was overweight. I most definitely do not want to slip into those habits again, so planning has been a big part of my healthy eating.
I read a lot on the internet and get a lot of my ideas on the internet. I think you can find great info online, but it is hard to know what is true and what isn’t. I mean – HELLO – for the longest time the United States thought, and was told, that we would be healthy if we ate low-fat foods. So we loaded our plates with highly processed, high-carb, high-sugar items and paid the price with expanded waistlines, diabetes, heart disease and more. This was information from our government no less so it’s hard to know what is true. In hind sight it is easy to see that was wrong. That is why I try to go by eating REAL FOOD is best. Less processed food, no added ingredients, healthy fats (fat is OK!), etc. Moderation is key. I obviously still love to bake but don’t eat the whole pan. I still sample though!
I’m a huge fan of vegetables and it has been a lifelong learning curve. I am astounded by the serving size of vegetables when I go out to eat. IF it is even an option on the menu other than in fried form. Even at what I deem “nicer” restaurants you might get like 3 sticks of asparagus. Thanks. I eat at least 1/2 a pound per serving at home.
Tips for incorporating more vegetables into your diet:
- Look for sales. I search the Krause’s ad each week to see what produce is on sale and incorporate those items into my meals. Eating healthy is expensive. It’s true. You can go to the store and get soda, chips and pizza for far less than what you would for some lean protein, vegetables and fruit. It is sad. Not only that, fruits and veggies aren’t marketed to adults or kids so we are constantly bombarded with ads for cheaper and faker food. I encourage you to take money you might spend eating out on the town (at least $50+) and use that to buy a weeks worth of healthy food. Start there. You will be surprised at how far it goes!
- Portions. Fill your plate with mostly good food. If you want to eat pasta salad (not always the best option), that is OK, but load up the rest with veggies. You get the best of both worlds.
- Cut your veggies into fun shapes. OK, what are we, 3 years old? Hey, whatever it takes. This is zucchini you see below. It can be fried, baked, roasted, grilled, whatever. Sometimes you might not like a big bite of zucchini, but these noodles are fun and you can easily season them how you like. I have found they are excellent sautéed quickly with lemon juice and topped with feta cheese.
- Eat what you like. Do you like asparagus too? It isn’t going to hurt you to eat that with your dinner every night. Variety is nice, but it is important to make sure you get your servings every day. So load up on what you know you like.
- “Hide” veggies. I use that in parenthesis because obviously you will know it is there. I like slushburgers (sloppy joes) and taco salads. To up the health factor, I make nearly half veggies to half meat. For slushburgers that means sautéed onion, celery, tomatoes and maybe some peppers. For taco salad I add a ton of peppers, corn, tomatoes and onions and serve it on spaghetti squash or lettuce.
- Add flavors. Don’t go overboard, but sprinkle some cheese on your cauliflower, season veggies with oil or salt. Plain vegetables can be boring. I know this. I like mustard, salsa or hot sauce for added flavor without a lot of added calories. If you must, veggies cooked along with bacon is always a win.
- Eat what is in season. Besides these items being on sale, they also taste the best when in season. I LOVE salads all summer long topped with fresh veggies. In the fall, look for squash and during winter you can use frozen veggies to make big pots of soup.
- Swap ingredients. One simple way to change your eating is to make a recipe more healthy. I have done this before with taco dip – a fairly standard recipe you might see at a party. Use low fat sour cream or yogurt, less cheese and beans and more veggies. You can still eat it with tortilla chips but this small change will make a difference.
- Recreate your favorite dishes. Below is orange chicken which is a healthy take on what you might find in your favorite fried food Chinese buffet. You still get the satisfaction of eating out, but the added ingredients are controlled by you. I had a healthy serving of the chicken but I made sure to match it with veggies that I like.
- Cooked or not? Eat veggies how you like them. I don’t care much for raw broccoli or cauliflower but I will eat cups of them cooked. Even better? Roasted vegetables. This is an excellent way to eat more. Lightly coat your veggies with olive oil, season and roast in the oven at a high temp until done and crisp. Cut the veggies small to start with so you don’t have to take a huge bite of something you think you don’t like.
- Give it time. Your taste buds will change. I imagine they have changed since you were a kid, right? I encourage you to try a 5-7 day “clean” eating challenge with yourself. Don’t eat out or binge on junk food and prepare and eat food at home that is healthy. You will struggle at first, but at the end you will find you feel so much better and will be craving more healthy foods. I promise.
- Prep. To make it easier for you to grab veggies, once you get them home, wash them, cut them and store them so you can grab them just as easily as you could a bag of chips. I generally always on Sundays prep my food for the upcoming week. It will take you time on Sunday, but save you so much time during the week. I take it even further and make most of my meals and snacks for the week.
- Sleep. You might think this is out of place here but remember, I think about sleep a lot. For me personally, it is so important I get a good nights rest. I know we are all different but if you are well rested you make better choices and decisions. Shut your phone down and go to bed.
- Your mindset. Don’t think of food as good or bad, fat or skinny. You should choose food that improves your health – pick something nutritionally sound. You don’t feed junk to your pets so don’t do it to yourself. We can all agree that eating French fries everyday isn’t the best idea for your health. Try a baked potato next time instead.
I hope this tips gave you some ideas!