The Spectrum of Vegetables

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.

Harrods Food Court - Which of these will you try next?

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.


20 Responses to The Spectrum of Vegetables

  1. Melissa January 25, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    Thanks for the link, Diane! Yes, I'm a vegetable lover. I think it's in my genes (and my environment growing up), so eating veggies has never been hard for me. My downfall is sweets. Of course, that's why I'm so drawn to beets. =) Speaking of beets, add them to pizza. Cauliflower is also a good veggie for pizza. Loading up a pizza crust with veggies is an easy way to incorporate more of them into your diet. Mixed greens are great on pizza as well (added in with your majestic garlic).
    Peace, love, and green veggies!

    • Diane Eblin February 2, 2012 at 7:51 am #

      Melissa when I think of the spectrum of vegetables I think of you first. You always have such creative ways of making them into meals. You're the veggie queen!

  2. Wendy January 25, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    I love the way you describe the 'spectrum.' Comparing the process to Chutes and Ladders was also brilliant.

    • Diane Eblin February 2, 2012 at 7:50 am #

      Wendy thanks for the catch and helping me out here. My brain has it's own world it creates words in. I know you are a veggie lover too!

  3. dee mallett January 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    VEGGIES has always been in some sort of dish and on the side all through my years. As a child my folks gardened big time. Now the last 35 years we garden big time. I like to incorporate veggies in all our dishes, especially on homemade pizza’s to salads. For breakfast this morning I felt like a salad, so it was quinoa, cucumber, garbanzo beans, grape tomatoes sliced in half, spinached cut up, and bits of goat cheese, with homemade dressing. I am blessed with a hubby who will eat anything I set before him, even green smoothies!! 🙂

    WE especially love oven roasted veggies.. asparagus, beets, brussell sprouts, sweet potatoes…cut, drizzle with EVO, garlic or sea salt..the list is endless..the flavor beyond your imagination good!!

    A change up for you with green beans..sear them till tender with fresh cut garlic, in EVO, a sprinkle of garlic salt and sesame seeds,…the garlic gets carmelized as it cooks. One of our favorites. We live in a spectrum of veggies…:)

    • Diane Eblin February 2, 2012 at 7:49 am #

      Dee can I move it with you! Wow your meals sound amazing. What great examples your parents were with gardening. It can be small or big but there is nothing like growing something and then getting to eat it fresh. I think once you do old vegetables just can't compete. I love your spectrum of veggies, especially the roasted ones! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Erena DiGonis January 25, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    Great blog!! I tend to eat the same thing each week, so I challenge myself every time I shop to buy a new veggie or fruit. I found an Asian market near my home and buy more unusual things there. This week, I got a napa cabbage, bean sprouts, and Chinese mushrooms.

    • Diane Eblin February 2, 2012 at 7:46 am #

      Erena those all sound great. I love your idea to try a new veggie or fruit each week. What a fun way to learn about new foods and eat well. Great tip!

  5. Heather January 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    Kale Chips!

    Pre-heat oven to 350. Wash and tear kale into "chip size" pieces while removing stems. On a cookie sheet coat and massage the kale in olive oil and your favorite seasonings (I have tried from salt and pepper to lemon chicken). Cook in oven for 10min or until crispy. Watch out, they burn fast!

    • Diane Eblin February 2, 2012 at 7:45 am #

      Heather I am totally addicted to kale chips or maybe I should say my body is. Thank you for sharing your recipe. You really do have to watch those buggers. They go from perfect to burnt in 30 seconds. Our favorite topping to sprinkle on is sriracha hot sauce. I think I'll have to go make a batch now.

  6. Julia Sarver January 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Very cool topic! I always try to eat tons of veggies every day. I've always been a huge veggie fan – I actually prefer vegetables over fruit for a quick snack!

    One of the tricks I use – and recommend to my clients – is to make sure half of your plate is filled with veggies at least one meal per day. That makes it so we get lots of veggies in but there's still room for other foods as well.

    Thanks for posting about this topic.

    • Diane Eblin February 2, 2012 at 7:41 am #

      Julia that is great advice. I think this year, more and more, vegetables are going to take center stage on peoples plates. Thank you for sharing a great tip.

  7. alternativeliving January 25, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    A few years ago I decided that I needed to make veggies a more important part of my life, so to learn new ways to eat them – I got a few vegan cookbooks! It was great to learn to think of veggies as the star of the show, even if I wasn't planning on cutting out animal products entirely. It also gave me some wonderful alternatives to the foods I had grown up eating in a very beef centric household.

    • Diane Eblin February 2, 2012 at 7:40 am #

      Great ideas! I love how you say star of the show! Perfect way to think about eating more vegetables. Instead of being an afterthought of a opps forgot the side dish for my steak, they are the star of the show. What's your favorite main course filled with stars?

  8. Lynn January 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Wow, popcorn definitely doesn't count as a veggie since corn is a grain! I am not a veggie lover. I've been working at it for a few years now. I started living Paleo a couple months ago and luckily my taste buds have changed quite a bit. I've been able to add zucchini, green peppers, spaghetti squash, and beets to the rotation. I still can't stand mushrooms, eggplant, kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, or asparagus, though. At least I've made some headway! 🙂

    • Diane Eblin February 2, 2012 at 7:38 am #

      Lynn great point about corn. Congratulations on making great strides with your vegetables. It really is a process and you should be very proud of yourself for taking these steps. Your body will thank you for it. I have a list of vegetables that I call Don't Like Yet. To me that means I've not found the variety or way to cook or eat them that fits me yet so I keep looking for ideas and giving them a try. For me sweet potatoes worked in a hash and asparagus broiled in the oven with olive oil and garlic. Kale started in my smoothies then moved to kale chips and now I just eat it. Mushrooms and broccoli I've loved for some time but eggplant is on my not yet list still. The only way I've eaten it is to dice it up and cook it with pepperoni and put on top of a pizza or something like that. Keep working on it and let me know what new recipes you try.

  9. Alisa January 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    Great post Diane! Honestly, I feel a little void on days (like today) when I don't get a good dose of produce in my diet.

    • Diane Eblin February 2, 2012 at 7:34 am #

      Alisa you set a good example for us all!

  10. Cooking with Anna January 31, 2012 at 2:28 pm #


    So vibrant and inviting! I love the colors and am a veggie lover. I'm also following a gluten-free diet and have a blog about cooking & baking gluten-free; with a Swedish twist and flavor.

    By the way, found you on EYB!


    • Diane Eblin February 2, 2012 at 7:31 am #

      Thank you for saying hi Anna. Glad you found me on EYB. Fun place to keep track of cookbooks. I hope you'll visit again.