baby steps | eat your veggies
Happy Springgg! Let’s talk about veggies.
How are you doing with our Baby Steps to Health challenge? If you’re just tuning in, you can find the first three challenges here:
This month: let’s talk about how Mom was right. Again. As much as we hate to admit it.
And Mom always said, “Eat your vegetables.”
Last month, I wrote about why veggies are so darn good for us: they are brimming with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), which help us put the macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbs) to their highest and best use creating the healthiest body parts and systems possible.
They also happen to contain a lot of fiber and not insignificant amounts of water—two more nutrients most Americans can use more of!
If you’re following along with the monthly challenge, you have (I hope) created a habit of including a serving (or more) of dark green leafy veggies daily.
This month, we’re raising the bar!
nine cups of veggies?!?
I consider myself a very healthy eater. Most of the time.
Unlike most Americans, I usually manage to meet or exceed the USDA’s recommended 3–5 servings of fruits and veggies daily although I will admit to strongly preferring veggies.
I recently worked with a client who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). One of the goals she set was to read and implement as much of The Wahls Protocol as possible.
In this book, Dr. Terry Wahls, MD, describes how she has managed her own MS with great success and shares her protocol with others who share the diagnosis (and/or have other autoimmune issues).
I highly recommend this book, whether you suffer from autoimmune disease or not: the food and lifestyle recommendations can benefit everyone!
The big shock comes in the very first section about nutrition: the recommendation to eat nine cups of vegetables per day.
That’s right: nine.
Dr. Wahls gets very specific about the type of vegetables that make up those nine cups: three from the onion and cabbage families, three from the leafy greens family, and three from the other veggie options.
She also cuts us a break by allowing that nine cups is an awful lot if you currently only eat one or two. If that’s you, she suggests making smoothies with them. (Not juice, because you’ll lose a lot of the fiber.)
In a show of solidarity, I decided to attempt this advice along with my client.
Conclusion: It’s not easy. In fact, it’s very, very difficult.
Now that I’m almost completely plant-based, it’s gotten easier—and I’d say I probably get 6–8 portions per day with a good balance of the three categories. (And I feel GREAT and weigh less than I did BC—before children.)
aim low—and stretch yourself
As a health coach, I’m all about finding the food and lifestyle choices that work for you and doing it in a way that feels (almost) painless.
That means that I help you to aim low—so you can celebrate your wins—and still stretch yourself a bit.
How does that look? If you currently eat one to two portions of veggies per day, aim for two to three, then three to four, then four to five—you get the idea.
That way, your body will gradually adjust to the increase in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And your newish hydration habit will help you to process that fiber easily.
Nine cups a day is a big goal: break it down into more bite-sized chunks. You’ll still notice some changes even if you top out at five to six cups per day!
speaking of noticing changes…
What might you notice?
Increasing your vitamin, mineral, and fiber can work some real magic!
You might become aware that:
- You fill up more quickly and therefore eat fewer calories (because calories come from protein, fat, and carbs way more than from veggies).
- Cravings decrease. (Want to know more about this? Join me for a workshop titled Constant Cravings at 9am Wednesday, April 6, 2022 on Zoom.)
- Energy increases—in some cases, too much! I have heard clients say that they actually experience insomnia when they up their vegetable intake too much too quickly—another reason to build up gradually.
- Your bowel movements become more frequent and smoother. If you struggle to eliminate, you can expect a daily bowel movement to become the norm, and if you already eliminate once a day, expect that to increase and/or become easier.
- Your skin improves and you achieve a healthy glow. If you’re eating a lot of orange vegetables, you may actually take on a weirdly orange hue. (Ack—sort of like a spray tan.)
- Your mind feels clearer and more focused—goodbye, brain fog.
- You sleep better and longer.
- You effortlessly drop a few pounds.
(As always, bio-individuality rules: results may vary!)
a word about supplements
Why not just take supplements for your vitamin and mineral intake? It’s so much easier….
Current thinking in the nutrition world is that micronutrients are more bio-available in their whole food forms. Meaning that your body can absorb more of them from whole food than from supplements.
Unless you’ve had nutritional testing done, you won’t know what micronutrients you’re lacking, so throwing a handful of pills at your system doesn’t really make sense.
And if you’re eating a rainbow of vegetables daily, you’re getting most of the micronutrients you need—so remember to mix it up: alliums (onion family), crucifers (cabbage family, which includes our DGLs), and other veggies every day! You may be able to stop buying supplements altogether and save some money.
eat your veggies
For this month, your baby step to health challenge is to increase your vegetable servings slowly over the course of the month until you’re getting closer to nine cups per day.
Every increase is a win, so if you “only” get to five but you started at one, that’s a big win.
Some tips and tricks:
- Learn to add extra veggies to all kinds of dishes (soups, stews, casseroles, mac + cheese, scrambled eggs, quiche, cornbread…. (It’s an experiment, to start with just a little bit—you’ll learn what veggies make foods too “wet” when cooked.)
- Eat your veggies first rather than last so you’re not too full to finish them.
- Include veggies at every meal, including breakfast, and every snack. For some, that will mean walking away from sweet, carb-heavy breakfasts (toast, bagels, pastries, pancakes, waffles…) and snacks. Try sautéed veggies and scrambled eggs or bake your veggies into a quiche for a quick reheated breakfast. Heck, you can even eat leftover cooked veggies and/or salad for breakfast: why not?
- Pre-prep a bunch of veggies on the weekend or a day off so that you constantly have some on hand to add to just about any cooked dish.
- Pre-prep a bunch of veggies to eat raw with hummus or another dip for snacks: carrots, celery, sugar snap and snow peas, jicama, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower….
Tell us daily in the chat what veggies you included in your day and how you prepared them.
make the connection
This is the fourth challenge in a 12-part series that will run for all of 2022: every month, I’ll share a small, simple, sustainable shift to make on your way to healthier food and lifestyle choices. By the end of the year, the difference in your health will amaze you!
“A YEAR?!? But that’s so long,” you may be thinking. Remember: a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.
Let me ask you this: how long have you been making poor food and lifestyle choices? I’ll bet it’s been more than a year, maybe even more than a decade….
And those poor choices have resulted in poor health.
The good news is that you can reverse the downward trend by making better choices, and the only way those will stick is if you make them one baby step at a time.
Increase your servings of vegetables throughout April and beyond—then come back for May’s Baby Step to Health! Want to make sure you don’t miss a single challenge? Join my email list.