Where are you on the spectrum of vegetables? I’m not talking color, we’ll get to that later. What I mean is do you eat a lot of vegetables with every meal or do you get in some french fries or popcorn and you consider yourself having eaten vegetables? You see it’s a very broad spectrum.
I started at the french fries and popcorn end around 10 years ago. That first year I added in vegetables that made sense to me like green beans, a romaine salad and things like that. And you know that was great. It was a big step to even talk about vegetables in our house. We just didn’t do it and my husband consistently told me he didn’t really like the few vegetables I did so I didn’t push.
I remember being told that if I wanted to be healthier I would need to eat more vegetables. I really wanted to be healthier so figuring out how to incorporate those vegetables was an important step to take. Now I’m sure some of you will think adding in green beans or a salad to a meal is nothing. You may already do that and more. But if I was ever going to get to the point of eating more vegetables I had to start somewhere. You need that first step to get the the second step and so on.
Now along the great spectrum of eating vegetables I’ve come a long way over time, but I still have a ways to go. I do not eat vegetables consistently with every meal every day. I get two out of three and I know I can do better. But the more that I want that to be my goal, the more I find ways to incorporate or try new vegetables and plan them into my menu.
Here is an example. Breakfast can be tricky sometimes to get away from just traditional breakfast potatoes. It really depends on how much time I give myself and what ingredients I have on hand but more and more vegetables are showing up at breakfast. Lately I’m totally stuck on Melissa’s (Gluten Free For Good) Heavy Metal Skillet Breakfast. It tastes amazing and I can use whatever vegetables I have on hand plus the poached eggs on top. It cooks in the oven so I can leave the kitchen and grab a quick shower or finish up a blog post for the first part of the recipe and then all hands on deck for the egg. It’s a delicious way to eat vegetables in the morning.
So where are you on the spectrum of vegetables? Don’t fret about it and don’t be ashamed of where you are. I think too often we can be made to feel bad from others, or even ourselves and that is just not helpful.
So celebrate where you are on the spectrum, set your sights on where you would like to be, and then take the next step. Don’t jump 3 or 5 steps ahead. That usually ends up like a game of Chutes and Ladders where you jump ahead and then slide way back.
Also, grab yourself a partner. Enlist the help of your family as often they can be our crutch of giving up when they disagree. But remember, we are all allowed to be at our own point. So if one of your family members is behind you, don’t punish them for it. Encourage them and then expose them to some new ideas of how to eat more vegetables. If you’re looking for a partner, grab a health coach.
Find ways to add more vegetables into something you make on a regular basis. For instance last night I made a different version of a chicken pot pie. It was delicious and I’ll have to share the recipe. But typically when I make something along those lines I get instructions from my husband on what vegetables not to add in. Since he is working to move further along his spectrum of vegetables and he was out when I was cooking, I added a few more things besides carrots and onions. I added green beans, peas, parsnips and broccoli florets along with the stalks (peel them first). I didn’t use a crust of dough on top either, I just used a thinly sliced potato. I then get the phrase I love to hear at the dinner table, better than I thought.
This same wonderful man has also gone from a 3-1 ratio of fruits to vegetables in his morning smoothies to a 2-1 or 1-1 depending on the morning. That is a huge shift from a man who wouldn’t come near a green smoothie with a 10 foot pole. It was gradual but it happened.
It didn’t happen over night and one shouldn’t expect to go from eating only french fries to eating 90% vegetables in a week either. Take your time, add them in gradually and have fun. By all means have lots of fun. Try a new vegetable a week just to see how it tastes. Sneak it into something that you find safe. Poke around your favorite food blogs and cookbooks for ideas. But keep this in mind.
Very important: pay very close attention to the quality of your vegetable choices.
Yes this is the key ingredient for moving along that spectrum and one I hope you have heard before. Find fresh, organic and local produce if you can. Buy the best you can afford. Pay attention to the Dirty Dozen list. Download it here if you don’t have it. If you can’t afford organic potatoes or celery than buy a different vegetable. They hold on to the chemicals around them and sprayed onto them. But if you’re looking to try asparagus and you can’t get your hands on organic, go for local and fresh since this vegetable is on the Clean 15 list. If you can’t remember the list, and for some reason I always forget a few, print out the pocket sized list or grab their free Apps so you can have it with you when you shop.
Once you start getting the high quality vegetables onto your fork with something new you are trying, well it will make all the difference in the world. Your taste buds will be dancing up a storm. Don’t forget the colors of the vegetable spectrum either. Look at the color of vegetables you currently eat. Are you missing one? Are they more white and yellow? Do you need some purple or orange into your spectrum? Dr. Mark Hyman shares a list of foods by color to help you choose in his recent post, Eat Your Medicine.
What if it’s hard to get fresh vegetables where you live so you only eat canned vegetables? Your next step might be to look for frozen vegetables. Often if places sell canned they also sell frozen. At some point you’ll be ready to take the next step to fresh and if you can’t find them you might decide to grow some yourself. And then you may get your neighbors involved and then the next thing you know your community is growing their own vegetables and you have changed more than just your own eating habits. Who knows where this will take you. Nowhere unless you take your next step.
To help you think about what you might eat, here are a few recipe ideas from fellow gluten-free bloggers that you might want to try: Celiacs In the House, Alisa Cooks, Tasty Eats at Home, Cook It Allergy Free, and Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom, Daily Dietribe, Real Sustenance, Silvana’s Kitchen, gluten free easily just to name a few.
Now I know there are a ton more ways to get vegetables into your day. What are your tips for moving along the spectrum of vegetables? Please share so we can have a wonderful list that just might help the person sitting across the table from you or your co-worker that you have lunch with. Let’s help each other.