Core Client Habit: 5+ Servings Of Vegetables Each Day
Question: Did I Consume 5+ Servings Of Vegetables Today?
How To Know You’ve Done This: Use your fist to measure servings of vegetables and consume 5 each day.
Vegetables reign supreme as the base and foundation of the “health” pyramid. If you shoot for 5+ servings each day and eat a wide variety of in-season veggies, you’ll nourish your body, keep your immune system active and thriving, and create an environment conducive to a lean, healthy body and mind.
Why Is This A Core Habit?
Stress in the right amount is good and makes us robust, healthy humans. Exercise (in the right amount and intensity) and having to think through challenging problems in our work are great examples.
But other stress is harmful. Over-exercise, eating inflammatory foods, and unhealthy coping mechanisms for problems at work or home are detrimental to our health.
This sort of stress creates free radicals in our body. Free radicals are unpaired electrons which run berzerk and cause mass confusion and chaos within us. They are sneaky and we may not feel the effects of their damage until it’s too late.
How can we combat free radicals? Antioxidants.
Antioxidants are like a psychological counselor for the aforementioned, berzerk, free radical. They take the place of lost electrons and bring order and calm to our body.
Vegetables like artichokes, kale, cabbage, and spinach are extremely high in antioxidants.
Veggies allow us to cope with the side effects of living in a stressful world.
At Village, we don’t advocate for any specific “diet”. We teach our clients to fill their bodies with foods which are high in nutrients and avoid toxic foods. Nutrient-dense food tells our body that its environment is healthy. Vegetables, as a group, the most nutrient dense food.
How To Make This Habit Happen?
Make a fist. Take a peek at it. That’s the size of one “serving” of vegetables. Throw a few handfuls of spinach in your eggs, have a big salad for lunch and you’ve met your total for the day!
Does this need an explanation? Make sure your salad contains actual vegetables and not just iceberg lettuce and GMO tomatoes. Look for baby spinach, kale, and arugula. Sorry, spring mix doesn’t count! Most commercially available salads are just vehicles for PUFA containing salad dressings. You might as well get the fries you really want instead of that drive thru Caesar salad.
You can throw basically anything in a stir-fry, which is why they are so gosh darn popular for a quick family or solo meal. Use a high quality, high heat fat such as coconut oil. Make sure you time which ingredients you add when. Carrots and onions take longer to cook, so add those first. Wait till they’ve cooked a little before you add in broccoli and bell peppers (If your broccoli is the same color as the dirt it grew in, its overcooked!) Finally add more tender veggies like bean sprouts for a quick seer at the end. Essentially you want your vegetables to be about the same color they were before you cooked them to preserve nutrient content.
Carrot sticks I’m looking at you! If a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack is part of your mental game to get through long work days, getting a few veggies is highly strategic. If you don’t like veggies that much and don’t want them besmirching your plate of steak on Friday night, be preemptively-lazy and eat them earlier. Skip the lousy PUFA laden salad dressings (cough ranch cough) and bring some salty olive oil. Dunk away!
Nothing says family dinner like a microwave-steamed bag of frozen vegetables. Go organic, and as always, don’t be afraid to use a healthy fat and high quality salt to make these a winner on yours and your kids’ plate.
The Less Obvious:
Cook with fresh herbs. You know those funny looking bundles of plants in the produce section? Buy them. If the sprinklers in the coolers scare you, bring a poncho- they’re worth it. Fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, thyme and oregano can seriously elevate your plate in looks, taste, and nutrition. Give them a rinse, a quick chop, and put them into your salads, breakfast eggs, and on top of entrées. My new year’s resolution this year was to use more herbs, so I started putting them in jars on the countertop near a window to make them extra accessible for cooking.
Buy better spices. Have you ever thought about what spices are? Did you know that black pepper is actually a fruit? It’s a little mysterious when our most common association with spices is that paper tin of McCormick all-purpose seasoning you’ve had since the Reagan Administration. Believe it or not, spices were once fruits, vegetables and seeds (in the 90s and 00s they were also a girl group). As such, they are tastier and more nutritious the fresher they are. If you are new to the spice game, start your adventure with the highest quality peppercorns you can find and a decent grinder (or just repurpose that sea-salt grinder from Trader Joe’s everyone has…). Grind it liberally on to everything savory.
Get to Love Garlic. And for that matter, ginger. Both of these can give your savory meals powerful flavor and nutrition. The next time you are making a stir fry, before you do anything else, take a clove of garlic, crush it with the side of a metal chef’s knife, peel back the papery skin, and chop up 4-5 cloves. Throw it in a pan with your healthy fat and let it heat up while you get the rest of your ingredients ready. As for ginger, buy pieces from the store that have less fingery-nubs. Less nubs = easier peeling. Peel with a hand-held potato peeler or even a small spoon. You don’t have to get all the skin off, but try to get most of it. Thinly slice or chop it and add it to your healthy cooking oil while the pan is heating up.
Make curry paste. Curry paste is amazing because it contains concentrated herbs and veggies in a paste that is versatile and freezable. Lots of recipes are available online! I would start with a green curry, which makes beautiful green broths the color of springtime and happiness. Basil, cilantro, garlic, ginger, shallots, and lime (zest and juice) all go into a blender or food processor and come out ready to be scooped into your next soup, stir-fry or more traditionally, coconut cream broth, and then frozen for later meals. A little goes a long way!
Go to the farmer’s market. Believe it or not, there are real humans who are mind-blowingly passionate about things like soil, ecosystems, and vegetables. And they live in little tarp covered booths in Claremont village every Sunday from 10am to 1pm. Okay okay, they live in regular houses (sometimes farm houses). Go talk to them. Ask them what you should buy and what you should cook. Ask them how you can make better decisions about produce. These agricultural heroes are treasure troves of knowledge and if we don’t get to know them and buy their stuff they will go away and we will be left with endless fields of genetically modified cash crops.
Get a nice knife, a sharpener, and a big bamboo cutting board. I asked Head Coach Chuck what his biggest vegetable barrier was and his reply? Preparation. My second question: Do you have a nice knife?* You don’t have to spend a fortune on Damascus Steel. My knife of choice cost $60 on Amazon. Keep the knife sharp and your SKILLS sharper (Gordon Ramsay does a great tutorial on knife work).!
The Even Less Obvious
Pickled and Fermented vegetables. Sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers and kimchi are all great ways to add a HUGE new dimension of flavor and nutrient profile to your cooking. Add them to salads, sandwiches, broths, soups, or even just eat them on their own. As with most foods, you’re going to have to spend a little extra money to get the good stuff. Bubbies is my favorite brand because their sauerkraut and pickles are made without vinegar, elevating the probiotic content significantly.
Grass Fed Meat. Yup. A recommendation to eat meat in the core habit about vegetables. It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new life… and I’m feeling good! Sorry, channeling my inner Michael Buble for a second there. When animals eat grass and nutrient dense vegetation, that stuff gets in their bodies. You can get the benefit of it from milk, eggs, skin, bones, and meat without ever touching a plant yourself. Just be sure your meat is 100% Grass Fed/Free Range/Wild Caught, etc. But still eat plants. ;)
Bottled Juice. Most expensive bottled juice is made with high pressure processing or cold pressure processing. Unfortunately, anything that can kill the bad bacteria that causes foods to spoil kills the good stuff too. You just can’t get away from it- living food is for the living. If your food won’t die, its because its already dead. However, bottled juice provides a whole lot more nutrition than other beverages and is a good substitute if convenience is a high priority. Look for juices that feature lots of leafy greens and herbs and contain minimal fruit juice (check the Village fridge). You’re looking for a sugar content on the nutrition label of less than 5g of sugars per 8 oz serving.
The Big Idea
Don’t compartmentalize. Most people never consider that quality produce benefits them without ever being on their plate. Why? Fruits and vegetables are symbols of our land, and our land is our livelihood. When you allocate your resources towards quality produce you create economic demand for healthy soil and balanced ecosystems. When our land is well cared for, everything (including people you’ve never met) are better off. Don’t be fooled by false frugality! Investing in healthy environments across the board pays dividends for generations to come. And… its tasty.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why More Veggies And Less Fruit?
Fruit tends to be higher in sugar than vegetables. Sugar, just like any carbohydrate spikes insulin inside our bodies. Insulin is the primary hormone responsible for weight gain.
If you have weight-loss aspirations, eating a diet high in fruit could hold you back from progressing towards your weight loss goals.
A few thousand years ago, fruit was only available in season and locally. Today, you can walk into the supermarket, get any fruit you want and have it in abundance. The morning breakfast of a banana, orange juice, and a cup of fruit is a far-cry from what our ancestors ate.
When our ancestors were lucky enough to find fruit, they ate as much of it as they could stomach. We’ve been programmed to crave sweet foods because they’re loaded with energy that we can store as fat. Today, with high calorie, high-sugar foods available all-year-round, most consumers simply can’t resist and stop the eating.
Our hope is not to give you the impression that fruit is bad. Rather, our hope is to get you to think critically about what you put in your mouth. A Banana can certainly fit into a healthy diet now and then, but eating one every day in the midst of other high-sugar fruit consumption could be holding you back from losing weight, decreasing inflammation, and reaching optimal health.
Are some veggies better than others?
Not all vegetables are created equal.
Characteristics of non-starchy vegetables are:
Low in calories
Low in carbohydrates
Low in sugar
High in water
High in fiber
High in nutrients
These are all great. When we talk about communicating well with our body, we should think of adding a wide nutritional bandwidth and a plethora of nutrients. Vegetables, because they're relatively low in calories and carbohydrates are not going to fill us very quickly, but they're loaded with nutrients, fiber, and communicate amazingly with our body. This is especially true for non-starchy vegetables.
Let me go as far as to say that having a serving of non-starchy vegetables at every single meal could be the one habit you need in your life to lose weight, be healthy, and have the body you want.
Examples Of Non-Starchy Vegetables:
All “Leafy Greens” (Spinach, Kale, Romaine, etc.)
Cabbage (all kinds)
Onions (Yellow, Red)
Peppers (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green)
Feel free to eat as many of these non-starchy veggies as you would like. Because they're low in calories and high in nutrients, you really can't overdo it.
Higher in calories
Higher in carbs and starches
Higher in sugar
Moderately high in nutrients
High in water content
Starchy vegetables, on the other hand, need to be eaten in moderation. Although we would certainly not put these in the category of a “bad” food, they are loaded with carbohydrates and thus should be in moderation to keep total carbohydrate count low.
Examples Of Starchy Vegetables:
Squash (Butternut, Acorn, Spaghetti)
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Corn (not actually a vegetable but a grain, yet most people count it as a vegetable, so that's why it's listed here)
How about Organic?
All tomatoes are not created equally. A tomato which is shipped from a different country, picked well before it is ripe so that it can make it to our door and sprayed with toxic pesticides will communicate something far different to your body than one picked yesterday from a local farm or your backyard.
Your best bet when picking veggies is to grow your own. After that, go for local and pesticide free. Try out a farmers market. The next best bet would be organic from the grocery store.
Some veggies, like those with a delicate skin are more prone to contain pesticides. These are especially important to get organic.
The Dirty Dozen: (choose organic)
12. Sweet bell peppers
Plus: Hot peppers
The Clean Fifteen (OK to get non-organic)
2. Sweet corn
6. Sweet peas, frozen
11. Honeydew melons
How About Juice?
Dried fruit and fruit juices are a no-no. They provide too much sugar without enough fiber and bulk. This means you consume a lot of carbs, calories, and sugar without feeling full. They also miss the boat when it comes to communicating with your body in the way this food was meant to communicate. Green juice, cold pressed, can be a great way to get nutrients and solid nutritional communication without having to do any cooking. However, many green drinks are still loaded with sugar and calories. The trick is to find one that and it’s relatively low in sugar and calories. Think less than 50 calories per bottle. This lets you know that it has more vegetable than fruit. Some green juices don’t have nutritional information as they’re made in-house. In this case, you need to read the ingredient labels and go by taste. If you see fruits like apples, pears, or oranges near the top of the ingredient list, it’s probably sugary. Then you can go by taste. If it tastes sweet, there’s probably some sugar in it. You have to read ingredient labels. Don’t become a victim to the marketing of health food companies. Pick the product up, turn it around, and question every ingredient.
Release Yourself From Societal Conventions
A vegetable cooked in a healthy fat should make its way to your plate at each and every meal. Broccoli cooked in bacon grease, kale sauteed in butter, and asparagus roasted in avocado oil are all excellent examples of cooked vegetables.
Pam, a client of ours at Village, has a heaping plate of vegetables cooked in a healthy fat for breakfast every day. Yes, breakfast!
Pam has lost 30 pounds since starting at Village, has more energy than she’s had in decades, and is back to running. More importantly, the passion she has for caring for her body well is contagious and she’s motivating her friends and family to do the same.