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How to Eat More Vegetables for Weight Loss and Health


When I first heard the “gold standard” of healthy eating meant eating 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, my head nearly exploded.  How to eat more vegetables was the very next thing I Googled!

It sounded like A LOT and to be honest, completely impossible.

But changing to this food focus was the key to my lasting weight loss because it flipped the switch from what not to eat to what to eat for my best life.

It’s more fun to be focused on what you can do.The challenge of hitting 7 vegetables daily prompted me to think more about my meals in a positive way.

Learning how to eat more vegetables took some practice for me and it’s often one of the questions those reading the Running for Weight Loss Guide are the most excited about figuring out.

So I’m here with a ton of tips to make it easier for you, even when traveling!

Tips to Eat More Vegetables

First let’s define that in this 7-9 servings the goal is a 1:3 ratio of fruit to vegetables.

In other words eat more vegetables and less fruit to get to that number. This is to ensure you aren’t just doubling down on sugar and instead are getting a variety of nutrients to fuel every run and help you recover.

Of course you could be an overachiever and go for 13, but 9 is an easily achievable number for anyone.Eat More Vegetables

START TRACKING YOUR VEGGIES

When I first made it a goal to track my veggies/fruits I was shocked at how few made it in to my diet…but now it’s second nature {aka HABIT}. I order veggie omelets, I add shredded carrots to oatmeal, I snack on turkey wrapped around a green pepper.

I don’t eat things that I don’t like, but with time my taste buds have changed and I happen to get really excited about counting up my veggie intake. {hey runner’s are all about numbers!}

  • We know that tracking helps us pay attention to a goal
  • We know that tracking helps us see progress, which excites us to keep going
  • We know that accountability can help too! Get your family on board or checkout our Virtual Run Club

PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD

Want to get excited about eating vegetables, then you need to change the narrative.

  • Go to the farmer’s market – the colors make everything seem so appealing!
  • Ask kids to pick out one fruit or veggie each time you visit the store.
  • Involve the family in making dishes {kids like eating what they’ve invested time in}.
  • Play with your food! Change the perspective from “you must eat these to have dessert” {which implies veggies suck and sugar is good} to veggies are fun. How many peas can they get on their fork? Make faces or shapes with the veggies.

Now is the time to try new things. You don’t need to overhaul your diet.

I rarely find that works! Especially when trying to get the less enthused onboard.

  • Try just testing out ways to get in a vegetable at breakfast for awhile
  • Then look at how you might change your lunge a little  – even adding veggies to a sandwich you already love
  • As you get used to one change, then make another! You’ll actually stick with this new goal that way.

farmers market

How to make Vegetables Taste Good?

  • Find a hummus you love then experiment with chopped peppers, broccoli, cauliflower or baby carrots for a snack in the afternoon.
  • Roasting almost any vegetable will bring out some sweetness making it more palatable for first time eaters. {Cut in to equal pieces, toss with olive oil, 20 minutes at 400 degrees}
  • Glaze your veggies before roasting with: honey, minced garlic, ginger and balsamic vinegar
  • Puree’s are a great way to start introducing new flavors. i.e. butternut squash puree in your meatloaf or spinach puree in your tomato sauce. Most people won’t notice the addition, but will then be more open to trying vegetables after realizing they ate some and enjoyed it.
  • Add some veggies to an existing meal! i.e. broccoli in your macaroni and cheese, shredded zucchini in your muffins
  • Stir fry veggies with just a little EVOO, garlic and onions

Hidden Vegetable Ideas

One of my favorite things are sneaky veggies. And these tend to be the best ideas for those picky eaters in the family.

Changing taste buds doesn’t happen overnight, in fact a nutritionist recently told me you often have to expose kids at least 20 times before they’ll accept a new food. HOLY COW!!

How do you get vegetables without eating them?

Here are the S’s for super simple sneaky satisfying ways to eat more vegetables and fruits (aka freggies) all day long:

Smoothies
Really this has to be the easiest way to get in a minimum of 3 servings right off the bat, but often my smoothies are up to 5 servings! Start with basic green smoothie recipe and branch out from there.

Basically blending your veggies, adds a whole lot of opportunities.

  • Cauliflower puree can substitute half (or all) of your mashed potatoes for the same flavor (I’m also using it to bulk up a little Annie’s Mac N Cheese today!).
  • Pumpkin puree (not the canned stuff) can work in a mac sauce or for pancakes too

Super Oats
Adding fruit and shredded carrots or zucchini is simple, plus totally satisfying as it bulks up your breakfast without adding many calories. Love this protein oatmeal post run!!

Scrambled Eggs
Eggs with veggies used to be one of my favorite go to meals {have a food intolerance to eggs now}. My favorite on the go way to sneak in veggies is this 3 Minute Breakfast:

Put egg, egg whites, broccoli, and carrots (or other veggies) in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 2 minutes. Stir and cook a few more seconds, if needed. Mix in hummus and serve.hidden vegetable recipes

Or even a slice of bread topped with avocado, spinach, red pepper and two eggs. It’s a fabulous source of Vitamin D and protein that seem to make veggies easier for some people to hide.

Salad Power Bowl Meals
A reminder that salads aren’t just a big bowl of iceburg lettuce! Nope, we’re looking to get both protein and veggies which will support our running, leave us full and help with any weight loss goals.

Sweet Potato
Roasted alone to make fries or baked and topped with shredded broccoli and tahini {boom 2 veggies}…mm love it. This ain’t your holiday marshmallow yams my friends, it’s a super versatile food that adds some great flavor to all kinds of dishes.

Spiralize
There is something about turning a veggie into something that looks like noodles which gives it a whole new life and excitement. Especially for kids who get to help prepare the meal!

Shred It
Buying shredded carrots, broccoli or other veggies makes them easier to slip in to recipes and go undetected by picky eaters.

  • Shredded carrots easily go in to oatmeal
  • Shredded zucchini shows up in desserts
  • Riced cauliflower has become a favorite side dish around here! Most people think it’s rice!

Soup
Veggie based soups and chilis are some of the best ways to really pile in the veggies! In fact, I’ve found that I can double the  number of veggies my family would normally eat by putting them in a soup.

Even a standard chicken soup in the crockpot gets a little bump in my house with extra shredded carrots, peppers and mushrooms. Everyone loves that it feels heartier and more filling!

Eat more vegetables everyday with these easy tips! #health #weightloss Click To Tweet

Squash it
Spaghetti squash topped with tomatoes and spinach is easily 3 servings then you can add in your protein of choice (a good meatball completes the idea that it’s pasta). It will never replace pasta, but it’s seriously delicious. (checkout this option with goat cheese) Of course you can also make squash fries too!

Roasted butternut squash is a fun add to pastas, where many will enjoy the slightly sweet flavor.

Recovery Meals with Berries - Get Love and Zest Recipe for Butternut Squash Chicken Pasta with Tart Cherries and more

Saute It
Most of our picky eaters love butter…so sometimes you gotta start there!

  • Added sauteed mushrooms to ground turkey for tacos
  • Wilted spinach can hide out under the cheese on your homemade pizzas

Sports Nutrition
Start using dried fruit, instead of chemically created gels for long run fuel and you’ve just added another serving of fruit to your day!

  • Dried pineapple is great fuel for folks who have stomach issues while running
  • Raisins are a great source of iron
  • Dates filled with nut butter are a long standing recommendation
  • Even pouches of pureed fruit and veg can be a better option than gels on many long runs

Tips on fueling with whole foods.

Snack
Ever need a crunch? You’d be surprised how satisfying carrot sticks or apple slices can be in those moments.

To make it happen have veggies pre-sliced and put in little baggies to grab and go, and fruit front and center in the fridge.

Did you know: It is estimated that if Americans ate the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables every day, approximately 39,900 deaths would be prevented from cardiovascular diseases, stroke and diabetes and $7.6 billion in medical costs could be saved annually (Study)

Super Size it
Honestly I like to eat and I like to feel full, which is part of what has lead me to embrace the veggie based lifestyle!

My meal size is often double, but less calories than what others are eating with the added benefit of looking amazing thanks to all the color!

Plus just think with all that extra fiber, you’ll be fuller and flushing out toxins which then decreases cravings!

Just like lacing up your shoes to hit the gym, it’s a habit and it takes a little practice and a little planning. Try spending a couple extra minutes this week, thinking “could I add a fruit or veggie to this” and I bet you’ll be surprised to find the answer is always yes.

What is a Serving of Vegetables?

Looking for tips on what really counts as a serving of fruit? The Kitchn provided this great graphic and a breakdown which you can read more about!
Fruit and Veggie serving size examplesOverall here are some general ideas to help you see how it easy it is to make even your sandwich count as 2 servings!

  • 2 cups raw leafy greens (basically go nuts)
  • 1 cup cooked leafy greens
  • 1 cup raw broccoli, cauliflower
  • 1 cup chopped carrots or roughly 12 baby carrots
  • 1 small apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped fruit, berries, grapes
  • 1/2 a potato or sweet potato
  • 1/2 a zucchini
  • 7 cherry tomatoes or one whole tomato

Getting in your servings doesn’t have to be hard or tasteless as you can see from the above ideas. I’m super grateful to brands like Subway and partners like the American Heart Association who are stepping up to spread the word.

How do I eat 5 servings of vegetables a day?

Based on the tips above, here is a meal plan that easily incorporates 5 servings of vegetables:

  • Scrambled eggs with diced peppers and onions and slice of sourdough
  • Morning snack of clementine and nut butter
  • Power bowl for lunch with chicken, roasted sweet potato, brussel sprouts and olive oil dressing
  • Afternoon snack of almonds, baby carrots and hummus
  • Dinner of pasta with lentils, sauteed spinach and mushrooms and marinara sauce

Ok if you count the sauce that’s actually more than 5!

And if you hate carrots, what about a few chips with a fresh salsa. There really are a lot of options once you start looking at your food a little differently.

Finally here are 21 Hidden Vegetable recipe ideas!

How do you ensure you get plenty of veggies?

Do you get 9 servings a day?

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