Tag Archives: nutrition

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

 

 

 

Be a Bombshell in a Bikini: Part 2 – Eat More to Slim Down

Food.  Ah food.  How I love it.  I love to cook it.  I love to share it.

I especially love to eat it.

I love trying new restaurants and recipes.  I like giving new ingredients a chance and old favorites new flavors.  For me, food is a source of pleasure.  And it plays a big part of my life and I’m guessing it might in yours too.

Food is also an incredibly powerful tool for body change.  Why?  Because it can drastically affect the body’s hormonal environment.  And the hormonal environment is key to determining the body’s composition (how much of your body weight is fat or muscle).

One Meal Away from Fat Loss

Do you know what this means??  This means that just by changing up what we eat, we can change how much fat we carry on our body.  We can change how we look.

We can get our athletic body back (or get beach ready) if we eat MORE of the RIGHT foods to turn on our fat burning metabolism.

Yep you heard me right – to change your body and lean out, you probably need to eat MORE food.

[The food lover in me is doing a happy dance right now]

This shocks most people because in our society the eat less, exercise more mantra is the foundation of most weight loss programs.  But notice above I said more of the RIGHT foods.

This is key because not all calories are created equal.   Here’s an example that really cleared this up for me….

Say you have a generic donut and a medium-sized chicken breast.  They both have approximately the same number of calories (around 200).  So if calories are all that matters, then it doesn’t matter whether you choose the chicken breast or the donut.

BUT let’s think about this a little more…

If calories really were the only important thing, then the donut and the chicken breast should keep you satisfied for the same amount of time, give you the same energy levels in the hours that follow and have the same impact on cravings later in the day.   (Is anyone else giggling a little at the thought of NOT crashing after a donut???)

Calories aren't created equal

If you’re completely honest with yourself, you’ll probably see that the donut and the chicken breast affect you in very different ways.

For me, about 45 min after I eat a donut (assuming I’m able to eat only one), my head starts feeling fuzzy and my energy tanks.  If I’m tracking cravings, then I’d probably notice that later that day, I’m wanting more sugary or fatty foods.  Also, if by some miracle I managed to eat only 1 donut, I probably never stopped being hungry.

Now let’s pretend I ate the chicken breast instead (a delicious one of course).  After eating the chicken breast, I don’t have any noticeable drop in energy 45 min later.  Also, I’m not hungry for another few hours, and there are no noticeable cravings later on in the day.  Plus, I don’t really see myself eating more than 1 or maybe 1 1/2 chicken breasts in one sitting…

But how is this possible if they both have the same number of calories?  Something about them has to be different because their effects on me are different.

The answer?  They are influencing my hormones in unique ways.  It’s the only way to explain differences in satiety, energy levels, cravings and hunger.

Why are they affecting hormones differently?  Because the macronutrient profiles of the foods that are different.

[Don't freak out on me... All I mean by macronutrient profile is what the food is made of - what percent of the food is fat, carbohydrates, and protein?]

In the chicken, it’s mostly protein, whereas the donut is mostly carbohydrates.  The donut signals hormones that say “Store fat!!” where the chicken breast signals “Burn fat!!”

See how just by changing what we eat, we can tell the body to do different things via our hormones?  We won’t get into the nitty gritty of the hormone world today, but it’s important to realize that body change just isn’t about calories.

Yes, you do need a caloric deficit to lose weight, but you need the right hormonal environment to make sure that weight is fat, not muscle.  (We talked last week about why we want to save our muscle.  You can read about that here.)  Plus, with the right hormonal environment, you won’t constantly be hungry, exhausted and craving junk food.

This is actually the way Metabolic Effect suggests monitoring whether or not you’re priming your body to burn fat — monitor your HEC (pronounced “heck”).
Hunger, Energy, Cravings.

If these are balanced (meaning you’re not hungry, you have high energy and you’re not craving crap food) and you’re losing fat, you’re in a longterm, fat-burning zone.  If they’re not balanced, you’re likely NOT burning fat.  Or if you are, it’s probably not sustainable for longer than a few weeks.

Alright let’s get practical now.  How can you eat to get your HEC in check?
Follow these tips below…

1.  Eat 4-6 small meals per day — Eating several smaller meals allows you to eat more frequently and never get ravenously hungry between meals since that often leads to overeating junk food.  If you choose the right foods for these meals, you can help keep your energy balanced throughout the day, too.  But a big part of frequent meals is to keep yourself from getting crazy hungry.

2.  Eat lean proteins and fibrous veggies — We want to increase our food volume without increasing the number of calories we consume (this helps keep our hunger down).  To do that choose foods high in water, fiber and protein content.  These will help you stay satisfied for longer, so include these at each small meal.  (see this post for approximate protein serving sizes)

A good way to think of it?  Eat your protein at the meal plus as many fibrous veggies as you want.

3.  Drink LOTS of water — Being dehydrated can negatively effect your energy and brain function, and by the time you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  Keep a water bottle with you and drink as much as possible…. even up to 3-4L a day.  Don’t worry, your body WILL adapt to the increased fluid intake and the number of trips to the bathroom will decrease, I promise! :)

4.  Limit foods that tend to trigger cravings and hunger — I love my coffee but my early morning 2-3 cup habit tends to trigger cravings in the evening for me.  So I’ve had to reduce that a little…  Other culprits?  Artificial sweeteners and sweet snacks can do the same thing.  Limit these guys as much as possible.

5.  Get your healthy fats in — Certain dietary fats are actually required to burn fat!  So don’t be afraid of the good ones like Omega-3 fats (6 and 9 are good too!) :) Have a few servings each day of healthy fats – 1/4c nuts, 1/2 an avocado, 6oz fish,  or 2 Tbs olive oil or coconut oil are each 1 serving.  Also, consider a fish oil supplement.

{This next one is a big one….}

6.  Limit starchy carbohydrates — Things like pasta, potatoes, cookies, bread, rice, crackers, etc (while very delicious) are considered starchy carbs and should be consumed in limited amounts.  Starchy carbs in general can wreak havoc on your body in the hormonal sense if you eat too many too often. Carbs aren’t to be avoided at all cost because you do need them, but you gotta be aware of how much of them you’re eating.

In general, I personally like to avoid the ones I just listed above and stick to mostly starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, all different kinds of squash (spaghetti squash is my fav), and eggplant.  If you want, you can also do oat bran, oatmeal, brown rice or quinoa.

Oh, because of how fruit breaks down in the body, I also consider fruit as starchy carbs in my diet.  They usually make an appearance in my breakfasts and “desserts”.

Anyway how much to eat?  I like to measure starchy carbs by bites.  It’s far better than weighing or measuring out your food.

Most people do well with 5-10 bites of starchy carbs at each meal.  However, everyone is different so you may do better with more at each meal or less.  This amount of carbs where your energy is high enough for a good workout and you’re burning fat is called your carbohydrate tipping point.  It takes a while to find this usually, but it’s important for shedding body fat.  You can learn more about it here (a Metabolic Effect blog on the subject).

Alright that’s probably enough for now :) As with anything, implement changes in small steps first.

It might be way too much to change your eating frequency AND what you’re eating all at once.  So consider changing 1 meal this week.  Then change up another meal next week.  Then add in a 4th to your typical 3 meals and decrease the size of all the meals slightly.

Example – maybe this week instead of cereal and orange juice, go for scrambled eggs with onions/peppers/spinach in it and your 5-10 bites of oatmeal at breakfast.  Then next week, keep those changes and change up your lunch to a big old salad with chicken breast and balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  Get the idea?

Keep an eye on your HEC as you make changes, and if you have questions let me know!  Ask away here in the comments or find me on Facebook or Twitter :)

How will you get your HEC in check this week to get bikini ready?

<3 Lauren

Preseason Doesn’t Work in the Real World

As athletes, our tendency is to take on the preseason, or training camp, mindset.  And why not?  It’s been the only thing we’ve really been taught about body change.  It’s a jumpstart, sure… but it’s not sustainable.

Preseason Doesn't Work in the Real World

Preseason told us,

“If you wanna take your body to the next level, then you have to eat, breathe and LIVE your sport for the next 2-3 weeks.  Basically, uproot your life and put your body through hell by training for hours a day and HOPING you get adequate nutrition.  You can recover later.”

And hey, this approach can work… when you’re 20 and have nothing but your sport and classes to worry about!!  

But what about when it’s all over?

It’s no wonder that after we “retire” from our sport, we think that if we want to tighten up our body or shed that extra 15 we’ve put on, we have to change everything at once – a massive diet and/or exercise overhaul.

But with everything else going on in your life now, massive lifestyle overhaul is NOT gonna stick.  I can promise you that.  Unless you’re friggin’ superman or something…

So what’s our other option?

We make ONE change at a time.

Resist the urge to do a ton of things at once.  The more changes you add to your plate at once, the LESS likely you are to implement ANY of them permanently.

Change one thing.  Work on that for a couple weeks.  When you’re comfortable with that, add another thing.  Get comfortable with that one AND the first.  Then add another.

So what one change can you make?  And does it matter what you change first?

I agree with the folks at Metabolic Effect who say there are 4 main components to body change:

  • Sleep – get at least 7-8 hrs
  • Stress – do something relaxing every day (no, TV watching/internet surfing doesn’t count)
  • Nutrition – what you eat tells your body to burn or store fat
  • Workouts – short and intense is the way to go

For me, when making small changes it was easiest to start with nutrition stuff.  So here are some changes to consider making first in the nutrition world.

REMEMBER – ONE CHANGE AT A TIME

1.  Keep a food journal  –  write down everything you put in your mouth and quantities – yes, food eaten in the car DOES count… I mean, not that I EVER believed that car food was calorie-free food…. ;)  A journal brings you some awareness about your food.  You gotta know what you’re doing that’s NOT working in order to change it later.

–use a small notebook (Moleskine notebooks like this one are my fav!)
OR
–use an app like MyFitnessPal

2.  Drink more water  –  by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  With more H2O you’ll likely end up with LESS hunger and MORE energy!

–aim for 3L a day… you’ll be peeing a LOT at first but after a week or two your body will
adapt… trust me :)

–join the Nalgene water bottle club.  Just do it already… and get one of those water filters that
attaches to your sink faucet (~$25)- way easier than constantly refilling a pitcher

3.  Eat as many fibrous veggies as you can  –  SO many health benefits in these babies!  They’re full of vitamins and minerals and best of all?  They help you feel fuller longer.

–try spinach, kale, cucumbers, asparagus, arugula, swiss chard, celery…

–Saute them, eat some of them raw, or blend into a greens drink/smoothie – fair warning
check your teeth after… you don’t want a piece of spinach hanging around on your smile for
the rest of the day

[Side note--> I HATE it when I've got something in my teeth or on my face and no one tells me!  I'm more embarrassed when you don't say anything than when you do!  LOL Anyone else with me?!]

4.  Nix the starchy carbs at lunch  –  Starchy carbs = breads, pasta, potatoes, pizza crust, rice, oats, cereals, etc.  Note that you probably won’t have the same energy slump around 2 or 3pm either…..which means you won’t be heading to the admin assistant’s desk at that time for your daily m&m’s fix……and you won’t be falling asleep at your desk and therefore not getting fired – see I’m saving your job AND getting you into smaller pants!!

–Instead of sandwich, have a BIG salad with some chicken on top

–If you eat those microwaveable frozen meals, pick the ones without pasta or rice – just
protein and veggies

–If you go out, pick salads, a burger without the bun and a side salad, your fav curry dish
with extra steamed veggies on the side instead of rice

 

Which of these will you try this week?  Give ONE THING a go and report back!

<3 Lauren