Category Archives: HEC

10 Easy Ways to Eat More Veggies

I have never been one to like vegetables, especially when I was growing up.  And my mom was always great about making some sort of vegetable with dinner.

Unfortunately for me (or so I thought at the time), mom and dad were also great about not letting me leave the table until I ate a pre-determined amount of the particular veggies served at dinner that day.

I distinctly remember one time sitting at the table for what felt like 3 hours after everyone else had finished their food because I did not want to eat the potatoes and carrots in the stew mom had made.  But as they should have… my parents won that battle, and I ate the veggies.

On that occasion and on several others too…lol 

For years, the only vegetables I really liked were corn – but not on the cob cause it got stuck in my teeth/braces – and sautéed peppers and onions.  If you want to count it as a vegetable, I liked Prego tomato sauce a lot too.

And FYI, Prego is soooo much better than Ragu!!  But I digress…

There were only a few veggies I liked and were willing to eat.  The list of veggies I didn’t like was even longer.

One veggie in particular that I hated with a passion was cooked broccoli.  I could do raw broccoli if dipped in Ranch dressing, but steamed was awful.  Still is.  I share Newman’s feelings on the subject (you know, the postman from Seinfeld)…

Hahaha!  ”Vile weed!”  SO true!

So yeah, vegetables and I don’t have the greatest history, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to recognize their health benefits.  Also, the fact that they help keep me feeling full between meals, keep my HEC (Hunger, Energy, and Cravings) in check, and that I can eat large quantities without consuming tons of calories have encouraged me to eat them more often.

So because I love ya and want you to live a long healthy life, I’m gonna share with you what this vegetable hating gal has done to increase her vegetable consumption.

1.  Don’t assume that what you hated as a kid you will still hate now.
I hated sweet potatoes growing up.  It was only 3 years ago at Thanksgiving that I finally tried them again and WHOA!! Delicious!!  My favorite way to cook them now is to peel, cut into wedges, season with cumin and plenty of chili powder and bake till crispy.  Mmm mmm!  Earthy, spicy, sweet potato-y, french fry goodness!

2.  Be willing to try new veggies.
I tried brussel sprouts for the first time ever last fall at this restaurant in downtown Detroit called Roast.  Word on the street was they had these KILLER brussel sprouts that even haters would love.  So I had to try em and ended up loving them!  Moral of the story?  Restaurants use tasty recipes that may open you up to other veggies you might not like otherwise.  You can recreate them at home and modify if they aren’t quite fat loss friendly.

3.  Eat vegetables at every meal – including breakfast!
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  And while most people wouldn’t think it, breakfast is also a great time to get in some veggies.  I find that when I incorporate plenty of vegetables into my first meal, I stay fuller longer than when I don’t.

There are a few ways to get them into breakfast.  You can make up a veggie egg white omelet – stuff it full of onions, mushrooms, peppers, and spinach.

Another idea is to blend up 1-2 handfuls of spinach or chard into your protein pancake batter or your protein shake.  I PROMISE you – the greens only change the color, not the taste.  Honestly, this is one of the best ways to get more veggies in cause you don’t taste them and you don’t have to chew them either.  <– Yes, I have a lazy jaw sometimes, lol  :P

4.  Ease your way into eating fat loss friendly versions of veggies.
So you’re a huge fan of peas slathered with butter and salt but you can’t do just plain peas yet?  That’s ok.  Each time you make them, slowly decrease the amount of butter and salt you use.  Also, invest in Mrs. Dash seasonings.  They’re fantastically delicious and salt free.

5.  Substitute veggies for other refined carbs in your diet.
This can help you not only get more veggies but decrease your refined carb intake.  One of my FAVORITE substitutions is to use spaghetti squash in place of regular spaghetti noodles.  Also, I love my snacks and dips, so I slice cucumbers nice and thick and use them as “crackers”.

6.  Use them as convenient, on-the-go snacks.
Chop a bunch of raw veggies for the week or buy containers of pre-chopped vegetables and bring a bag with you to work each day.   Some great options are celery, carrots, baby tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers and thick sliced mushrooms.

7.  Try paleo versions of foods you love since they often substitute vegetables for grains.
The internet is FULL of great ideas for paleo-izing your favorite recipes, so take advantage of it!  A couple of things I’ve tried?

Using zucchini slices as “noodles” in a lasagna (I also used an almond mozzarella cheese so it really was paleo and it was SO good).

My favorite paleo-ized recipe I’ve tried so far though was a cauliflower hummus, and it was the perfect dip for all my raw veggies!  You can get the tasty recipe from Paleo Plan here, and this is what it looked like when I made it…  YUM!

 10 Easy Ways to Eat More Veggies

8.  Make pureed vegetable soups.
This is a great way to mix it up a little.  Last time I did this, cauliflower was my vegetable of choice but lots of other veggies can work.  Get creative!

Start out by seasoning and roasting some chopped cauliflower (a tiny bit of salt, pepper and cumin).  When it’s about done, saute some onion in olive oil until translucent, add no sodium chicken stock and the cauliflower.  Blend the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth.  Season with s&p to taste and cook over medium until heated through.  Easy peasy.

9.  Keep fresh and frozen vegetables in your house.
When you have plenty of options in your fridge and freezer, it makes it much more likely that you’ll actually cook them.  If you have everything else for a meal except the veg, then you’re probably not going to run to the grocery store to pick some up.  I know I sure wouldn’t!!

10.  If at first you hate it, try try again.
Translation: try a vegetable more than once.
Just because you don’t like a vegetable raw doesn’t mean you won’t like it cooked.  Plus, it helps if you cook them different ways and give other recipes a chance to win you over.

Steamed broccoli is still a “vile weed” to me.  But if I coat broccoli in a little olive oil, sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper, just a smidge of parmesan cheese then roast in a 400 degree oven for about 15 min?  Oh it becomes divine…

 

So there you have them!  Ten ways this veggie hater learned to eat, like, and eventually love [certain] vegetables!

Let me know in the comments below what veggies you love to eat!

<3, Lauren

 

 

 

Destroy your Cravings Without Destroying your Diet

Things in my life have been a little bit crazy recently.  Ok, they’ve been A LOT crazy.  I am finishing up projects for a job assignment that ends the first week of June and am preparing for my next assignment with the same company that will take me from Michigan to the New England area.  Eek!

I’ll be working in New Jersey, but this nutty Midwestern gal has decided to live in New York City for the next 9 months.  I’ve always wanted to live in a big city for a while, so why not go for the biggest one, right??  Lol, yeah I have no idea what I’m getting myself into… I realize this :)  

While this is all SUPER exciting it’s kiiiiiinda stressful at the same time.

[Apparently, the unknown freaks me out a little even though I can manage it pretty well.  Lol]

Anyway, with all of this and trying to finish projects and orchestrating a pretty big move, my stress levels have been higher than normal recently.  This means then that my appetite is funky and mainly that my cravings for chocolately and any sweet things are through the roof.  And that is telling because my close friends and family all know that this girl normally craves salty stuff – potato chips, hamburgers, fried foods, etc. 

So the fact that I’m craving sweets means my stress has taken over…  My brain is probably dying for some dopamine or seratonin or something. 

Cravings like these make it kinda tough for this former athlete to lose weight, and I don’t want them to derail the progress I’ve made so far!  Soooo….

When cravings, especially for sweets, are this strong I turn to cocoa powder.  Pure unadulterated, unsweetened, 100% cocoa powder. 

This stuff is the bomb.com.  For realz. 

It is a miracle worker on my cravings and crushes them within almost minutes (usually the cravings have chilled about 30 min after I first start consuming the cocoa powder). Why does it do this?  Cause it’s awesome.  And cause it stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain. 

See cocoa powder contains some pretty cool compounds like seratonin, phenylethylamine, and anandamide

-We know seratonin levels are related to eating patterns (higher seratonin levels often mean less food intake). 

-Phenylethylamine is like an identity theif - it passes as dopamine in the brain and carries out transactions like dopamine would.  It’s waaaaay sneaky.

-As if these weren’t reasons enough to consume cocoa, anandamide has actually been referred to as “chemical bliss” for its ability to find and push the “buttons” in the brain that create feelings of euphoria (slightly more technically, it binds to receptors in the brain that stimulate euphoric feelings). 

This is why cocoa is such a power player when it comes to crushing cravings.

Now the question is — How to incorporate it into your diet?  Until I found this suggestion from Metabolic Effect, the only way I knew to incorporate it was to bake brownies or chocolate mint cookies.  And since that’s kind of counter-productive to our weight loss efforts, well then we need other options…

Metabolic Effect suggests making it into a hot drink.  Stir 1 tablespoon into hot water and then sweeten with stevia, xylitol or other low/no cal sweetener. 

Be aware, it’s bitter when you first try it.  Now I can do my drinks with just a smidge of stevia and 2 Tbs cocoa in ~10oz hot water.  But I had to work up to that.  I will tell you though, it’s great for an after-dinner option when you really feel like pulling out the snack items or sweets.  This gives you something to sip on for a while, and by the time you’re done with the drink, the bioactive compounds listed above are already starting to work their magic. 

**Do be careful though if you’re pretty sensistive to caffeine.  There is caffeine in cocoa powder, so proceed with caution when consuming in the evenings.

But there are times when I don’t really want a hot drink, and I want something that feels like dessert.  That was me this weekend, so I whipped up this dessert and thought I’d share it with you all.  It’s a paleo chocolate pudding and it’s so yummy!

 Destroy your Cravings Without Destroying your Diet

The cast of characters are cocoa powder (obviously), light coconut milk, chia seeds and chocolate stevia drops (can sub any other low/no-cal sweetener here but I LOVE these things).

Craving Killer Pudding

-3/4 c light coconut milk
-2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/4 c chia seeds
-2 droppers worth of chocolate stevia drops (or another no-cal sweetener to taste)

Whisk together coconut milk and cocoa powder until there are no visible lumps of cocoa powder (a hand mixer with whisk attachment helps with this).  Stir in chia seeds and sweetener until well combined.  Cover and place in fridge for an hour.  Mixture will thicken into a pudding-like consistency (this is from the chia seeds).  Stir and dive in.

 Craving Killer Pudding

See it’s that easy!  Throw a couple sliced strawberries on top and I’m in heaven!  It’s sooo good!!  Even though it looks a little funny with all the puffy chia seeds, hehe, it’s a far better option than eating several chunks of a sheet cake or a quart of ice cream… which I may or may not have done before… **cough, cough**  Anyway, you get your cravings fighting cocoa powder and the feel of eating a dessert, plus it’s not too coconut-y which is good because I despise coconut.

So there ya have it!  TWO ways to use cocoa – the cravings crusher - to help you get in shape!

Try making either the drink or pudding this week to destroy your cravings and let me know how it goes!

<3 Lauren