“Eat your vegetables.”
Not everything our parents told us turned out to be true. One pearl of wisdom that mothers traditionally pass on, however, has stood the test of time. Eating your vegetables really is good for you. Period.
Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. But let’s face it, if we actually cared about that we would already be eating an abundance of them. People reading these articles are interested in losing weight. It’s my job to convince them that not only should they do it in a healthy manner; that is in fact the only way they are going to be successful in the long run.
Eating more vegetables is very effective for getting leaner and staying leaner for two main reasons. Number one, they fill you up without providing an inappropriate amount of calories. Number two, they take the place of more calorie dense foods that you could be eating.
A large part of satiety is based on adequate chewing. That’s one of the reasons we can eat so much fast food. It almost dissolves in our mouths and we go on eating far longer than we really need to. Vegetables on the other hand, are the polar opposite. Whether we are talking about leafy greens, crunchy roots, or cruciferous florets, vegetables take time and energy to chew.
As much as possible, vegetables should be included in every meal. I don’t, however, advocate just eating vegetables for any meal. A classic rookie mistake that many dieters make is skipping breakfast and then just having a salad for lunch. On paper this might seem like a good idea. You certainly haven’t taken in very many calories so far for the day.
The problem with this is that while vegetables are extremely nutritious and filling, by themselves they won’t keep you full for long, nor will they provide enough energy. By dinner time your body feels like it has basically fasted all day and it is almost certain you will overeat at that time.
I’m not saying that you can’t base your lunch or any other meal, for that matter, on vegetables. Rather, I’m reminding you of the importance of including adequate protein and fat with each meal. Once you’ve done that, you really can’t eat too many vegetables, whereas it is certainly possible to eat larger portions than we need of any other foods.
If I just had eggs by themselves for breakfast, I would probably need to eat some toast or potatoes to feel satisfied. When I stuff my omelet with onions, zucchini, mushrooms and spinach, to name just one possibility, I have plenty to eat without having to resort to more processed foods.
Salads are great for lunch, but as I said, make sure and get some protein through your fish, chicken, game, beans or legumes and add some healthy fat through your cheese, avocado, nuts or olive oil based dressing. It can be fun and makes salads less boring to experiment with all the different types of greens we now have available and to add different chopped or grated vegetables.
Dinners are a time where you can really be creative with adding vegetables to your diet. Stir fries and curries are fun ways to incorporate vegetables, as are many soups. There are multitudes of vegetables you can simply steam on the stove or microwave. Topping these with melted cheese or adding some butter or olive oil can really increase their palatability, even if you aren’t already a big vegetable eater.
Okay, so maybe having our mothers tell us that vegetables were good for us wasn’t enough. Perhaps if my mother had told me that adding vegetables to my diet wherever I could would help me to be lean, muscular, and win bodybuilding contests I would have listened. Whatever your goal or motivation to be leaner, adding more vegetables will help you to reach it. And Mom was right, they are good for you.