Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Lesson & Week 2 Goal

Week 2: The importance of Vegetables

Goal: Make half of your plate vegetables at every meal

The nutrition world is always buzzing with the next new thing. Diet crazes include low fat, low carb, low meat, low calorie, but have you ever thought to add something to improve your diet instead?

People always want to know if they only make ONE change in their diet, what it should be. They expect a long, complicated description of the perfect diet or a harsh warning to stop eating a certain food group. They are almost always surprised to hear the answer, eat more vegetables!

I love this recommendation for a few reasons. The first is that it’s ADDING to the diet instead of taking something away (which is what most nutrition goals ask of us). Secondly, by eating more vegetables, you automatically push out other, less desirable foods so you fill up on the good stuff.

This leads us to the last reason, vegetables are hands down, the most nutrient-packed food you can eat!

Goals are more likely to be met when they are positive and achievable. Knowing that you get to eat MORE of a certain food group is much more inspiring than feeling deprived. It’s the glass half full concept, or as I like to call it, the plate half full…of vegetables!

If you can try adding enough veggies to fill half of your plate at EVERY meal, you are well on your way to a healthy diet. No matter if you are following a Paleo, Diabetic, Mediterranean or other diet, vegetables are always the best food group. Focus on the variety of flavors, textures, and colors you’re going to be adding to your plate, a positive goal indeed! 

The displacement rule. Although we are focusing on the positive, it’s impossible to add something to each meal without pushing something out. Let the thing you displace be the “less desirables” of your current diet.

Cut out the processed, packed foods found in boxes, bags, cans, and cartons. Replace hormone-laden meats, the sugar-sweetened dairy products, the sweets and things that are generally known to be negative for your health with vegetables. The result won’t only be getting more of the good, you will also get less of the bad! Talk about a win-win situation!

Vegetables are amazing. When Hippocrates said, “let food be thy medicine,” he was surely talking about vegetables. They are the most nutrient dense thing we can eat. The term “nutrient dense” means you get the most nutrients for the least amount of calories.

Essentially the best “health bang for your buck.” Their benefits, however, are much more than just being low calorie! Eating veggies are one of the greatest things you can do to prevent disease. Plants have amazing compounds that fight oxidation, naturally, detoxify the body, turn on healthy genes, fight the proliferation of damaged cells, keep inflammation levels in check, and promote longevity. And that’s not all!

The pigments and phytochemicals found in plants are constantly being studied for their nutrient potential. Vegetables contain powerful polyphenols, betalains, chlorophyll, beta carotenes and other compounds that do more than just supply vitamins and minerals.

They are incredible for our bodies. If you want to geek out about the amazing potential of vegetable and feel inspired to eat more, go to worldshealthiestfoods.org. They have great facts, figures, recipes and better yet, all claims are backed by science with the links to literature to prove it!

I know what you’re thinking, “this all sounds great but I can’t eat salad for every meal.” So here are some tips and tricks to help you add more vegetables to your plates!

1. Use a peeler to peel fine strips of carrot. Use these carrot ribbons on top of sandwiches, in Pita’s or as an extra texture to your salads.

  1. Make a giant batch of roasted vegetables. Just toss whatever veggies you desire with some olive oil and bake until soft. Some of the best veggies to roast are red onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, asparagus or mushrooms but you can try anything!
  2. Try making your own fermented vegetables (kimchi or sauerkraut) all you need is salt and water! There are plenty of good tutorials online.
  3. Only have frozen veggies on hand? Make a stir fry with cashews to serve on top of brown rice.
  4. Try making your own veggie sprouts! All you need is a jar and the seeds can be purchased at a grocery store. Sprouts are great on sandwiches, pitas, in lettuce wraps and on top of veggie burgers.
  5. Puree vegetables and chickpeas to make flavored hummus
  6. Roast sliced vegetables very thin with some olive oil to make homemade chips (sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, parsnips, and rutabagas all work great, so does kale!)
  7. Make a veggie-packed falafel by blending parsley, lemon, green onion in a blender. Pan frying, then topping with fresh tomato and avocado.
  8. Make homemade tomato sauce and put it on everything!
  9. Make noodles out of zucchini, spaghetti squash, sweet potato, even carrots can be spiralized!
  10. Roast chopped pieces of red onion in some olive oil until caramelized. Mix with vegan mayonnaise and use as a spread on sandwiches or veggie burgers. It makes everything taste better!
  11. Cut winter squash in half, place face side down in a dish with an inch of water, bake until soft. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper (or paprika).
  12. Add veggies to muffins by shredding and adding to the batter. Carrot and zucchini work great!
  13. Add pumpkin puree to chili, savory muffins, or pancake batter.
  14. Three words: sweet potato fries! They taste great tossed with olive oil, salt, and chili powder and baked in the oven. You can also make “loaded sweet potatoes” by baking them in foil then topping with your favorite ingredients (chili and avocado are stellar!)
  15. Eat avocado on toast for breakfast!
  16. Roast beets by wrapping them in foil and baking until soft, once cool, peel off the skin and put in your favorite dishes. Beets go great with salads, quinoa, or a pita spread with hummus and stuffed with sprouts. 
  17. Make cabbage steaks by slicing a head of cabbage thin, layering on a baking sheet, drizzling the whole thing with olive oil, then baking until soft. Top with salt and pepper and serve as a side. Once cooled cabbage that’s prepared this way tastes great over rice in a Buddha bowl.
  18. Steam broccoli or cauliflower then refrigerate. Use them cold on top of salads for a new texture and mild flavor.
  19. Make fresh salsa and serve it with everything! Rice and beans, lettuce wraps, southwestern quinoa or some veggie loaded nachos.
  20. Make veggie loaded nachos by spreading tortilla chips on a sheet pan and piling peppers, onions, olives, black beans, vegan cheese, and baking until cheese melts. Top with guacamole!
  21. Pulse cauliflower in a food processor and sauté. Serve it in place of rice. 
  22. Use avocado in morning smoothies to
  23. Make curried cauliflower by sautéing in coconut oil and a blend of turmeric, ginger, and garlic salt. It tastes meaty and delicious and can be used in place of meat on salads, in wraps, or with roasted chickpeas and rice.
  24. Make stuffed peppers, soften them in the oven and then fill with your favorite ingredients. I love rice and beans flavored with a little cumin and garlic.
  25. Make vegetable soups, chili, and stews.
  26. Make veggie loaded guacamole with peppers, onions, tomatoes, and avocado.
  27. Add frozen peas, corn, or edamame to noodle soups or ramen.
  28. Make ratatouille (just bake peppers, zucchini, and eggplant in a casserole dish lined with tomato paste) and serve with crusty bread!
  29. Use butter lettuce, cabbage, or romaine in place of tortillas and make tacos, lettuce wraps, or spring rolls.