How To Eat More Vegetables
If there is one piece of nutrition advice that is infallible, it’s to eat more vegetables. With the simple act of consuming more vegetables, you can leave heart disease, diabetes, cancers, and obesity shaking in their boots.
However, it’s not easy to eat enough veggies, even for vegetarians like us. It’s so much easier to grab a piece of bread or chow down on pasta. The goal of this article is to give you ideas on how to eat more vegetables.
how to eat more vegetables
Our History With Eating Vegetables
“Hello, my name is Alex, and I’m an accidental vegetarian.”
Both Ryan and I were fortunate enough to grow up in healthy households where salads and vegetable side dishes were a daily mainstay (thanks, Mom and Dad!)
Still, it took years for me to think of vegetables as satiating and filling enough to make a full meal. My perception of a healthy meal was a bowlful of lettuce. That’s not sustainable.
The big turnaround was observing how my colleagues ate while I lived in China for three years. Sitting down to dinner with twenty plates of Chinese food was a weekly occurrence. The typical spread was 80% vegetable, 15% fish, and 5% meat.
Ryan and I adapted to their style, eating less meat and more vegetables. Over time, questionable meat quality and food poisoning incidents in China, India, and the Philippines made me drop meat and fish altogether. Sure, it’s my own fault for eating in crazy places. But, that’s when I came to an important realization: I didn’t miss meat, and I felt better than ever.
I soon started noticing which of my friends were vegan and vegetarian. At the time, I was in the Hash House Harriers running club in Shanghai. Nearly all of the competitive, ultramarathon runners were vegan. That got my notice.
In 2014, I became entirely vegetarian and haven’t looked back. Plus, I’ve now watched so many documentaries, books, and research studies supporting plant-based diets. There are so many athletes who found that they performed better and recovered faster by eating more vegetables. Tom Brady and Scott Jurek are my two favorite.
“Hello, my name is Ryan. I married a vegetarian and was smart enough to let her influence me.”
As Alex said, I am also fortunate to have also grown up in a healthy household. That gave me a good set point. However, things changed once I moved out.
Through college and into my engineering career, I ate processed convenience foods. After six years, my body wasn’t performing like it used to. Refusing to believe that my loss of vitality was just the aging process, I turned to fitness and healthy eating.
For a long time, meat was a regular part of my healthy eating plan. However, in 2018, I became a flexitarian. I still eat meat, but only in moderation. Typically, I have meat or fish 2-3 times a month.
Alex was indeed a strong influence, but there was more to the decision. I also used the scientific method to determine what food best fueled my body. I tracked my food in a journal and noted how it made me feel.
The experiment began in 2016 when I ate as a flexitarian for 8 months. After, I switched it up and ate a lot of meat to coincide with a bodybuilding program. To gain muscle mass, the program macro targets had me eating meat (mostly beef and chicken) for the next 8 months. My daily meals consisted of 8 eggs and 16 ounces of chicken.
As I always say, the data never lies. My food journal clearly showed that I felt healthier and had more energy when I avoided meat. Also, my blood tests showed that my cholesterol spiked considerably during my bodybuilding carnivore phase into unhealthy territory.
Then, I had two near-fainting episodes, one at a restaurant with Alex in San Antonio. When I got up from the table to head to the bathroom, I was hit with a wave of lightheadedness, swayed violently, and nearly fell mid-stride. The restaurant staff freaked out, but I made it to the bathroom on my own two feet after a quick break.
I don’t know if this correlated with the high cholesterol, but it scared both of us. I decided to go back to eating flexitarian. My body gave me feedback in clear terms, so, I was back to figuring out how to get more vegetables back into my diet.
I have been flexitarian since January 2018, and I have no plans to go back to eating meat regularly. I love eating lots of healthy carbs, beans, and vegetables. When I do eat meat, I focus on quality and where it was sourced. I enjoy the taste, but I don’t crave meat because I feel much better after eating plants.
The most noticeable difference in eating flexitarian is that I recover from soccer, running, and skiing injuries lightning fast. Faster than when I was in high school. The other benefits include feeling confident that I am eating for longevity and optimal health as well as following an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
“What we eat and how we source it will determine our planet’s future.”
– Our Planet, Season 1, nature documentary series
How We Eat More Plants
We’re not here to convince anyone to go meatless, that’s your own business. However, we are here to help you eat more vegetables. A diet full of vegetables has been shown to increase heart health and reduce the risks of cancer.
Don’t worry, there are many options besides salads to eat more vegetables. Even if you don’t like vegetables, we’re confident that you are going to love at least one of these ideas.
So, let’s dive into how you can eat more vegetables each day and maximize their nutrients.
1. Experiment with Carb Replacement
We can all agree that eating carbs is easy. Since you’re looking to eat more vegetables, these replacement ideas are a great place to start.
- Replace rice with cauliflower rice. It’s delicious and has the same texture. Many stores sell cauliflower rice pre-chopped, which saves a lot of time. Otherwise, here is our article on how to make cauliflower rice from scratch.
- Substitute french fries with turnip or pumpkin fries. Slice, soak in water (not required, but makes them crisper), pat dry, toss with olive oil, season, and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. OK, we know that french fries are already vegetables! So, this is a great way to further optimize to get more nutrients into your day as white Idaho or russet potatoes lack fiber and nutrients. We only buy the small varieties like the smaller sweet, red, yellow, Yukon, or fingerling potatoes.
- Exchange traditional wheat-based pasta with zoodles (zucchini noodles), spaghetti squash, vegetable-based noodles, or bean-based noodles. Here is our article on how to make zoodles. For us, we don’t miss the pasta because the veggies soak up the sauce even more!
- Replace noodles in your Pad Thai or favorite Asian dish with carrot, zucchini, sweet potato, or mushroom strips (use a peeler.)
- Swap out tortillas or bread slices with bib, romaine, or butter lettuce. Eat a sub sandwich on a halved cucumber instead of a baguette.
- Switch a bread bun for grilled portobello mushroom caps.
- Eat pizza on a cauliflower crust. It’s fun to make from scratch but rather time-consuming and challenging. If the option is available, buy cauliflower crust pre-made (found at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Target)
- Substitute chips and dip with the classic dish celery, carrots, and hummus.
Note: Carbs are NOT bad for you. We eat a lot of carbs, and they’re critical in providing energy and fiber. Carbs do not make you fat but, yes, they are easy to over-indulge on which is why we included these carb-replacement ideas.
2. Sexy Salads
In the U.S., there has been a reinvention of unique and tasty salads. It’s something that’s lacking while we lived in South America.
Accessorize your salads to make them delicious and more filling. Add healthy fats like avocados, feta cheese, goat cheese, kalamata olives, or walnuts. A fatty topping adds a savory flavor. What’re more, healthy fats act as a vehicle to transport more of the vegetables’ nutrients into the bloodstream.
Also, if a little extra cheese or some bacon bits help you eat more veggies in a salad, we’re all for it! Our go-to dressing is a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top of a bed of spinach, almonds, strawberries, and goat cheese. It’s healthy, easy, and our dressing doesn’t contain the added sugar and preservatives that the store-bought dressings do.
For more creative and great tasting salad formulas, download our free Grocery List Generator and Food Formulas Guide below.
3. Play With Preparation
Remember when brussel sprouts were unanimously considered gross? But then, somebody figured out if you marinate in soy sauce, grill with some bacon, and top with goat cheese everyone will love them. Preparation is everything.
If you’re bored of raw or steamed vegetables, bake or grill them. To do this properly, liberally coat the vegetables in extra virgin olive oil (in a bowl or ziplock baggie) and season with salt and pepper. If you don’t like vegetables and you need to add cheese, all the power to you.
4. Make Eating Vegetables Easy
We wash and cut vegetables in bulk before storing them in the fridge. Generally, we do this right when we get home from the grocery store or farmer’s market. Pre-sliced vegetables make them easy to stir-fry, bake, grill, boil, or snack on. Honestly, if they weren’t pre-chopped in the fridge, there’s a good chance Ryan wouldn’t even cook them when in the morning rush to make our egg scramble.
Here’s a great article we found on properly storing fruits and vegetables.
4. Make More Soups
We love soup. Whenever we’re getting to the last legs of our fresh vegetables, we throw them all into a homemade vegetable broth, add spices, and blend them up in our Vitamix.
It always turns out great, unique every time, and is often filling enough for dinner along with a side of protein (usually, lentils.) Make big batches so that you can freeze it for later.
Pro Tip: When preparing veggies, freeze anything left over. Like the ends, stalks, leaves, skin, etc. Once you have a half gallon (about) container full, boil the veggie scraps in water to make your own vegetable stock. You can’t get “greener” or more sustainable than that! Win-win on all fronts.
5. Eat Veggies for Breakfast
That’s right, you can even eat vegetables for breakfast. We love making egg scrambles for breakfast with onion, red pepper, mushrooms, and spinach. Add in garlic, eggs, and black beans for a delicious breakfast full of veggies and healthy fiber.
6. Add Vegetables to Smoothies
Every shake we make is loaded with vegetables. With Shakeology, it still tastes like dessert even with spinach and kale. To keep it easy, buy frozen, chopped spinach and just pour some out of the freezer into your shake. If you keep it to around half a cup, you won’t even taste it.
For more creative and great tasting smoothies recipes you can check out our Shakeology Recipe archives.
7. Snack on Veggies First
Stomach growling and looking for a snack? Make a decision to eat vegetables first before moving onto protein or carbs. If you’re still not satiated after 10-minutes of eating vegetables, try to find some protein to add. Then, lastly, carbs.
Cut up carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers so that they are ready for snack time. If you work in an office or are traveling, bringing snack-able veggies will surely help you eat more vegetables.
Even now that we work from home on our own schedule, we forget to snack on veggies, or choose not to if they are not pre-cut. Make sure you implement idea number 4 and prepare your vegetables ahead of time.
Read more: Health Tips For Business Travel
7. Double Up
In our kitchen, recipes are only “guidelines.” Ingredients vary so much that you have to use your best judgment when following a recipe. We find that a lot of the recipes are too light on the vegetables. So, we always double up.
Doubling up helps us eat more veggies, and it never hurts to have more leftovers. One of our favorite recipes to double-up on is this Southwest Quinoa and Black Bean Salad.
8. Buy Frozen
After living in Argentina’s Patagonia during the winter, we are frozen vegetable experts. Sometimes when we went to the grocery store, we wouldn’t be guaranteed an onion. It was dire.
In this case, we purchased a lot of frozen broccoli, peas, cauliflower, spinach, pumpkin, and chard. Frozen doesn’t mean it’s not healthy. In fact, frozen vegetables (and fruits) are often healthier because they are frozen at peak ripeness.
How about canned foods? While here we prefer fresh or dried (like dried beans) to avoid preservatives, canned foods are very convenient (like with canned tomatoes).
Pro Tip: Buy whole tomatoes instead of diced. The bruised and lower quality tomatoes are diced while their higher quality counterparts are allocated for cans of whole tomatoes.
9. Avoid High Sugar Foods
What does this have to do with eating more vegetables? Well, studies show that sugar robs your body of nutrients and lowers your body’s ability to absorb them.
So while you may be doing your best to eat more vegetables, it’s all for naught if you’re consuming a lot of sugar. Vitamins most affected by sugar include calcium, magnesium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C.
Read more: Our Daily Vitamin Plan
10. Drink More Water
Again, how is this related? Digestion is highly linked to hydration because blood cannot transport the nutrients from your vegetables without adequate water.
So drink up! A rule of thumb for water consumption: drink half your body weight (in pounds), in ounces. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, aim to drink 100 oz.
Make sure you’re drinking water not sugary drinks. You need to quit drinking sugary beverages like soda, fruit juices, and sports drinks.
11. Try New Vegetables Weekly
Check out what’s in season, visit your local farmer’s market, or pick a vegetable from our free Food List Guide below. Then, you and your partner can battle it out for the best new recipe, Iron Chef style!
For those of you who are really committed, sign up with a local food co-op and have vegetables delivered to your door weekly from neighborhood farmers.
Ever wonder which vegetables have the most nutrient value? We did too, so we created our Food List Guide.
12. Grow Vegetables At Home
Since we’re traveling, it’s challenging to have a garden. Investing time and energy into a garden is such a healthy activity. And it puts fresh vegetables on the table.
In addition to a garden, or if you don’t have time/space for a garden, you can grow sprouts to eat. They have many great health benefits.
13. Follow The Scientific Method
How can you figure out if all of the vegetables you are eating are improving your health? Request blood work tests during your annual physical from your doctor. Most blood tests cover not only your cholesterol and testosterone (for the men), but also your levels of calcium, chloride, ferritin, folate, glucose, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D.
Do research with your spouse and add to your grocery list the new vegetables needed in your routine (this is why we added beets into our weekly diet a few months ago.) If you don’t have any recent blood work, pencil it into your calendar to request during your next physical.
We get our blood tested twice annually so we can track our progress with our lifestyle changes, including added sleep and modified nutrition.
“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
– Ayurvedic Proverb
Note: When using the scientific method to analyze diet changes, patience is the name of the game. Don’t expect to feel significant differences until you follow the diet for 3 months.
14. Incentivize With Free Guac
Our final and easiest tip: when ordering your burrito from Chipotle, go for the vegetarian choice (not the tofu, just the fajita vegetables). With your order, you’ll get your guacamole for free!
Tools to Eat More Vegetables
Veggetti Spiralizer – Our go-to, cheapie spiralizer that we use on zucchini, carrots, and sweet potatoes. This is a mainstay, and it’s been traveling the world with us. There are nicer ones (especially Kitchen Aid attachments), but this one can get you started. If you want to spiralize raw potatoes or turnips, you’ll probably want a tool that can hold it in place like this one. We’ve tried them all and they work great!
Microwaveable Vegetable Steamer – We use this weekly. It’s easy to steam and soften your carrots, broccoli, potatoes, squash, frozen vegetables… just about anything! We often soften vegetables to shorten cooking times in a stir-fry. The stainless steel steamers work well also.
Salad Spinner – Alex’s mom had this on her Christmas list a few years ago. Enough said!
Salad Dressing Shaker – This is similar to the one that Ryan’s mom owns. We have, unfortunately, purchased inadequate salad dressing shakers. Make sure there isn’t a little “shaker stick” in the middle – those don’t work. This one mixes with the squeeze of a handle, and you don’t need to shake it upside down like others on the market.
Ninja Chopper – We use this vegetable chopper on the daily to create anything from diced onion or finely crushed almonds. This is also a mainstay creating our cauliflower rice from scratch. Or there is the Pampered Chef Chopper, which is a quality non-motorized version that dices vegetables quickly.
These ideas and tools will help you eat more vegetables for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. Even if you don’t like vegetables, have faith that you can learn to love them. Your health will thank you! If you have another idea on how to eat more vegetables, please, share in the comments section below.