So, you’ve heard vegetables are kinda good for you and you feel like you should maybe start adding them into your diet – that’s great!
There are a lot of conflicting nutrition camps out there – Paleo, Vegan, Keto, Vegetarian, Mediterranian etc – but the one thing that most everyone can agree on is the importance of vegetables in your diet.
But maybe you’re not sure where to start, how to cook them so they don’t taste like dry cardboard or what the fuss is all about anyways. I mean, they’re just silly vegetables. What’s so special about them anyways?
Well, I’m glad you asked 🙂
In this Simple Guide To Eating Vegetables, we’re going to cover:
- What’s So Special About Vegetables Anyways?
- Vegetables & Weight Loss
- What About Fruit?
- I Don’t Like Vegetables, Can I Just Eat Fruit All Day Instead?
- Ok, I Get It, They’re Important – So How Much Should I Eat?
- Vegetables, Vegetables, All Around
- The Vegetable Challenge For People That Don’t Like Vegetables
So, strap in because here…we…go…!
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT VEGETABLES ANYWAYS?
Basically, vegetables are plants we humans can eat that grow out of the ground like magic, filled with all kinds of crazy things like vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber and even water!
The magical part about it is that all of those crazy things are actually incredibly important for our human bodies to operate and perform all of the functions it performs to keep us healthy and alive.
For example, according to LiveScience.com, phytonutrients provide our bodies with anti-inflammatory assistance and may also enhance immunity and the way our cells talk to each other, repair DNA damage from exposure from toxins and detoxify carcinogens.
The U.S. Department Of Agriculture (USDA) also notes that “consuming a phytonutrient-rich diet seems to be an ‘effective strategy’ for reducing cancer and heart disease risks.”
WOW! And that’s just the phytonutrients in vegetables.
When we start getting into vitamins and minerals it becomes even more clear why vegetables (and other nutrient dense foods) are so crucial to our long term health and well-being.
Vitamins like Vitamin A, C, D, E, K and all of the B vitamins, as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, sodium, iron and many more, are essential substances our bodies need to develop and function properly – and vegetables are FILLED with them.
Having low or inadequate levels of any vitamins or minerals for an extended period of time can have a dramatic and sometimes fatal effect on our bodily functions, causing all kinds of disease or disorders.
Fiber is the part of the plant that our bodies actually cannot break down, but is still a very important compound for healthy digestion.
Because our body doesn’t break it down, fiber acts kind of like a brush cleaning out our digestive tract as it flows through keeping our digestive system clean and healthy, easing bowel movements, and flushing cholesterol and harmful carcinogens out of the body.
So, are you convinced yet?
If not, there’s one last special benefit of vegetables and we’re going to discuss it next…
VEGETABLES & WEIGHT LOSS
If you’re trying to lose weight, one of the biggest struggles is trying to figure out a way to eat a little bit less food without feeling like you’re starving all of the time.
One of the simplest ways to get around this is, you guessed it – eat more vegetables!
As we’ll discuss later on, there’s really no limit on the amount of vegetables you can eat.
One reason for this is because vegetables are mostly made up of water, making them incredibly low in calories.
For example, take a look at this comparison between 200 calories of broccoli and 200 calories of a chocolate bar…
I could pop that chocolate bar in my mouth in less than the time it takes you to say “Snickers” and still be really hungry, but I’d have a pretty sore tummy if I tried to eat that 200 calorie serving of broccoli.
This simple difference makes vegetables a must-have for anyone trying to lose weight without having to rely on willpower, feeling restricted or starving the entire time.
Can you eat chocolate bars and still lose weight? Of course. As long as you’re controlling your calories you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight. But trust me, it’s a lot harder to stop at 200 calories of that chocolate bar than it is to stop at 200 calories of broccoli.
Vegetables have a built in calorie-control function.
You can fill up on vegetables, eat until you can’t eat anymore and rest assured that you’re not overeating.
WHAT ABOUT FRUIT?
For some reason fruits tend to find themselves in the middle of heated debates between the various nutrition camps.
The main reason for this is the sugar content in fruits.
You see, fruits have all of the same magical benefits of vegetables but unlike vegetables, fruits also contain fructose – one form of sugar – gaining them the nickname, “Nature’s Candy”.
While I agree, eating too much sugar is definitely not a good idea.
However, there’s a big difference between the sugar content of a soda drink and the sugar content of an apple.
With the apple you’re getting the fructose (sugar), but you’re also getting a heavy amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber and water for a very low amount of calories.
With the soda drink, you’re getting mainly sucrose (another form of sugar)…and that’s pretty much it.
Now, you might be thinking, “well OF COURSE an apple is better than a soda drink! But what fruit juice??”
In my opinion, the worst to best equation would look like this:
The apple still wins out.
One reason for that is the same as above – it’s a lot easier to down a 200+ calorie glass of apple juice than it is to eat 200+ calories of whole apples.
Like I always say, nobody ever became overweight or unhealthy from eating too many apples.
I DON’T LIKE VEGETABLES, CAN I JUST EAT FRUIT INSTEAD?
Sure. You can do whatever you want…but I would suggest you consider this:
Vegetables still carry a lower calorie load than fruit with less overall sugar.
So when we start talking about portion sizes it’s going to be better to load up on vegetables as your main course and use fruit as dessert.
But I get it, maybe you just really don’t like vegetables. That’s actually super common, so you’re definitely not alone.
In that case, I would urge you to shift your mindset away from “I don’t like vegetables” and more towards “I don’t like THAT vegetable” or even “I don’t like THAT vegetable YET”.
Taste palettes change and evolve over time.
I used to “hate” olives. I thought they were gross and I just wouldn’t eat them.
This wasn’t a big deal, it’s not like olives are hard to avoid.
But then I started to realize how many amazing nutrients are in olives and thought maybe I should try to incorporate them into my diet.
So that’s what I did. I literally forced myself to eat green olives.
One at a time, over the course of a few months I went from “hating” olives to actually LOVING them. Now they’re one of my favourite foods and I can’t even imagine how I used to “hate” them.
The same thing happens for Blue Phoenix Fitness Online Coaching clients all the time with foods they “hate”.
If you don’t like vegetables now, check out the Nutrition Challenge below and use that as a gateway into the Wonderful World of Vegetables.
OK, I GET IT, VEGETABLES ARE IMPORTANT, SO HOW MUCH SHOULD I EAT?
The beautiful thing about vegetables is that there really is no limit to how much you can or should eat – so load up!
Vegetables should take up the largest section of your plate, but there are a couple measuring methods for those of you that like something to shoot for.
The easiest method is to simply take a look at your plate and make half of it filled with vegetables.
Another option that’s a little more customizable is to use the hand-based portion sizes made popular by Precision Nutrition. This is the method we use most often with our Blue Phoenix FItness Online Coaching clients.
Here’s what to do:
STEP 1 – Look at your hand
***Congratulations, you just made it through the hardest part!***
STEP 2 – Make a fist with your hand
***You’re doing sooo good already!***
STEP 3 – Aim for 1-3 “fist-sized” portions of vegetables with every meal, OR 5-9 “fist-sized” portions daily
Pretty simple, right?
For people trying to lose weight, I typically recommend aiming for the top end of 7-9 “fists”/day or 2-3 “fists”/meal.
If you’re just looking to eat healthy and feel good all around, you could probably get away with the lower end of 5-7 “fists”/day or 1-2 “fists”/meal.
Now, you might be thinking – “Holy smokes, I have a big fist and that’s a lot of vegetables every day!”
You’re right, that is a lot of vegetables every day. And when you’re eating that many vegetables every day, the chances of you still being hungry and filling up on “not-so-healthy” foods is a lot less.
I’m a big fan of focusing on eating MORE of the good stuff instead of telling you what NOT to eat. Get it?
Ok, so now you know why vegetables are awesome and how much you should eat. Now let’s get into what these vegetables actually look like.
EAT THE FULL VEGETABLE RAINBOW
This is by no means going to be an exhaustive list, but I wanted to give you a few examples of what kinds of vegetables to look for. Maybe this will serve as inspiration for you when you feel like you’ve tried “every” vegetable already.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, fruits and vegetables come in all kinds of different colors and the different colors actually carry different nutrients. This is why it’s important to “eat the rainbow” when thinking about your fruit and vegetable selections.
I’ve included fruits in the list below for reference, but remember to focus on mainly vegetables for your 5-9 “fists”/day.
Choose something from each color to keep some variety in your meals and to ensure you’re maximizing your nutrient intake!
- Green Beans
- Snap Peas
- Green Cabbage
- Bok Choy
- Collard Greens
- Salad Greens or Mixed Greens
- Brussel Sprouts
- Green Tea
- Red Peppers
- Red Cabbage
- Citrus Fruits
- Sweet Potato
- Green Tea
- Black Tea
- Purple Potatoes
As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to getting your 5-9 “fists”/day of fruits and vegetables.
THE VEGETABLE CHALLENGE
This vegetable challenge is super simple!
All you’re going to do is take a look at where you are right now with vegetables, and aim to do a little bit more.
If you eat 0 vegetables right now, you’re just going to aim for ONE vegetable every day this week.
Maybe you already eat 1 “fist”/day, so now you’re just going to aim for 2-3 “fists”/day this week.
Are you already having a sandwich for lunch? Let’s try throwing some lettuce, cucumber and tomato on that sandwich instead of just deli meats.
Already making a smoothie in the morning? That’s awesome! Let’s make it a Super Smoothie by adding some spinach and blueberries to it.
This challenge is all about doing a little bit more, a little bit better when it comes to your vegetable intake this week.
Get creative with your vegetables. Try new cooking methods – steamed, sauteed, braised, baked or even just raw.
Explore the spicy world of spices and start experimenting with different flavors.
This is all about finding YOUR path and what works for YOU. Finding what vegetables and meals YOU can enjoy.
So have some fun with it!
Let’s Kick Things Up A Notch!
This Simple Guide has no doubt given you plenty of tools and strategies to begin eating healthy and living your best life!
But if you’re wanting to go a bit further or you’re looking for more help, I have 2 options for you…
If you want step-by-step, personalized guidance on exactly what you need to do to reach your fitness or weight loss goals…
- Customized workout program
- Specific lifestyle-based nutrition plan
- 100% access to your personal coach at all times
Then you’ll want to apply for one of our awesome 1-1 Blue Phoenix Fitness Online Coaching Experience:
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Stay strong and live awesome, my friend.