One of the principles that I teach is to add in to crowd out. What it means is that instead of worrying about what unhealthy foods to cut out of your diet, focus on adding healthy food in. Over time, the good will crowd out the bad. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take steps to help ourselves avoid trigger foods that leave us feeling out of control and uncomfortable in our own skin, but focusing on positive steps and slow changes is more likely to create long-term change than a primary focus on what “I can’t eat”.
One of the best things we can add in, and also one that most of us are severely lacking in, is vegetables. A lot and a variety.
Here are some simple tips to add more vegetables into your diet, some of them hidden. My hope is to get you into the mindset that more vegetables can always be added, and that most dishes can take them or more of them. Ultimately, I encourage you to eat vegetables with every meal at such a level that they make up much of the volume of your plate.
- Add greens to a smoothie in the morning. Spinach and baby kale both work well. I often buy large bags at Costco, and if I have not used them up before they are starting to go bad, I put the bag in the freezer and just take out handfuls of frozen greens.
- All kinds of vegetables can go well with eggs. You can try a frittata (adding extra vegetables and going light on the dairy), or stir fry a ton of veggies and add a few eggs. I will often fill an entire fry pan with greens, which cook down to nearly nothing. I then add turmeric, salt, and black pepper and 2-4 eggs (if I use 4 then I save half for the next day). I add the turmeric because it is anti-inflammatory. The black pepper helps my body absorb the turmeric.
- Cut up vegetables when you have some spare time. Keep in a bag or container in the refrigerator as a snack, along with hummus or another dip that you enjoy.
- Salads are great for dinner or lunches (or both – I love leftover salad for lunch). Learn to make your own dressings and keep the ingredients on hand along with a jar to make extra. To make it easier on busy nights, chop up a bunch of vegetables ahead of time; or if you are really in a pinch then buy some pre-chopped vegetables to add.
- Soups can be filled with nutritious vegetables and other great healthy ingredients. Make a huge pot to eat throughout the week. Never hesitate to add extra vegetables that you have in the house.
- You do not have to be fancy with vegetables. Why not just steam some broccoli and cauliflower, or boil some brussels sprouts. Bake some kale chips. Cook up a squash. Bake a whole pan of sweet potatoes to eat throughout he week. Learn to cook and enjoy these plain, wonderful, vegetables. We often think of having ‘a vegetable’ with a meal. Instead, shift your thinking to different vegetable options. Maybe make 2 or 3 different vegetables for a single meal to accompany another main dish. Variety is great and you are likely to eat more. If you are not a veggie lover, roasted vegetables can be a true trick to start loving them. Cut up an onion, sweet potato, 2 carrots, maybe other roots such as rutabaga or a turnip, possibly brussels sprouts. Toss with 1-2 TBSP high heat oil (such as avocado oil) and spices of your choosing. Then spread a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until soft, approximately 15-20 minutes.
- If you like to bake and want to make sweet treats such as muffins and quick breads, make them with added vegetables and cut out most of if not all of the sugar. Shredded apple, zucchini, and carrots can all be great additions to muffins and quick breads, and you can add far more than a normal recipe calls for. Consider starting with a basic muffin recipe that includes shredded carrots (searching for morning glory muffins will probably lead you in the right direction). Add the apple and zucchini, and raisins too. The veggies, apple, and raisins will all provide sweetness so that you do not need the sugar. They will also make it really moist and yummy.
- Add extra vegetables to other dishes such as casseroles or grain salads. By now you get the point, they can be added to any meal. Get creative. One key is to stock your refrigerator each week with a variety of options. You don’t have to plan ahead – just have them available and use them as you go through your week. (I do not want to promote waste, so if you are learning, start realistic. Maybe buy just one extra vegetable that you plan to use during the week, and increase as you get used to it.)
I would love to hear from you! Do any of these ideas sound like something you will incorporate in the coming weeks? Do you have other tips to share? Or did you try a new vegetable but you aren’t too keen on it? Let me know and I would love to help brainstorm different preparation methods. Share in the comments or head on over to the community on Facebook or Twitter.