One of the most common questions I get as a coach is how to eat more vegetables. Whether you are a lover of all things green or you can barely eat vegetable tempura, you know they’re good for you (and important to your nutritional consistency). Whether or not you like veggies, they are a super important part of your diet, full of micronutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins.
BUT do you know how important they are for fat loss? In fact, it’s probably the first thing a nutrition coach will tell you, EAT MORE VEGGIES. Why? It all comes down to one fact.
They are nutrient dense but not calorie dense.
For every calorie of vegetable you eat, you get a LOT of nutritional value. Think about how much vitamin c, calcium, and fiber are in just a two cups of spinach. Compare that to the nutrients you get eating a donut. The donut has tons of calories but not a lot of good-for-you stuff (but that doesn’t mean you should feel guilty about eating a donut – here’s how to end food guilt).
And because they’re not calorie dense, portion sizes are So. Much. Bigger. Using the spinach and donut example, 27 cups of spinach has the same number of calories as a standard, 3-in diameter donut.
Why does nutrient density matter?
If you are aiming for fat loss, satiety is the name of the game. Being hungry kind of sucks, so ideally you will find a diet that doesn’t leave you ravenous the entire time you’re working towards your goals. You’ll be trying to eat a lot of nutrient dense and non-calorie dense foods (like veggies and plenty of protein). This will allow you to eat more AND make sure you aren’t missing out on any key nutrients. In layman’s terms, low calorie density = large portion size.
This is why I recommend my clients eat at least one serving of veggie at every meal and snack. This is a lot of veggies, especially if she’s been following the standard American diet, and we’ll work up to it, as needed.
Now, even if you know veggies are important, how do you eat more vegetables? Here are three tips to get in your veggies.
Tip #1: eat the rainbow
If you’re new to paying attention to your veggie intake, just focus on a colorful plate as much as possible. Your plate should not be shades of brown but rather covered in different colors. Ideally, each meal should have a colorful fruit or veggie AND a dark green one. This ensures you’re getting a variety of nutrients and balances out your day. Here are more suggestions on how to eat healthy every single day.
Tip #2: start strong at breakfast
If you start your day with a meal that supports your goals, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to stay true to them all day. This is why breakfast is sooo important. But, it is also challenging to eat more vegetables at breakfast. This is when you’ve gotta get a little creative. Some of my favorite ways to add veggies to my breakfast?
- Add frozen spinach to a protein shake (you won’t even taste it)
- Canned pumpkin or cauliflower rice in your oatmeal
- Grated zucchini can be added to any sort of pancake, waffle, muffin, or even oatmeal
- Roast veggies like zucchini, broccoli, or bell peppers to bring out their sweetness and serve with eggs and toast
- Mix veggies, eggs, and egg whites into a veggie scramble
If you’re unable to eat vegetables at breakfast, even with these tips, consider adding a greens supplement. I think of it as a nutrition insurance policy, and I strongly recommend Onnit’s Earth Grown Nutrients.
Tip #3: one salad per day
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know one of my daily nutritional rules is to have a #BAS once a day. This helps keep you full throughout the day due to the high volume of food you can eat. That’s why I recommend that you eat one salad per day to help you eat more vegetables.
Just be careful with more calorie dense toppings, like nuts, dried fruit, and cheese. Load up your bowl with as many fresh veggies as you’d like, top with protein, and your favorite dressing. If you find yourself choosing low fat dressing, be sure to ask yourself this question.
New to salads? Start with a “beginner” salad, like a Caesar salad with chicken or a cobb salad. Build the habit, then make it a little healthier. You can grab this at any restaurant or fast food joint, too.
I hear from women all the time that they have a hard time eating on the go. Drive-thru’s, happy hours and travel can botch even the best intentions for healthy eating. SO, I put together this super simple cheatsheet for dining out and how to stay consistent with your nutrition wherever you go. No crazy meal plans, just the handful things you need to implement daily to eat moderately, completely stress-free. Grab a copy of the FREE #ConsistentNutrition Cheatsheet here.