I must give credit where credit is due. One of my favorite principles from Dr. John Berardi’s Precision Nutrition is to eat 1-2 servings of vegetables at every meal. It’s simple in concept, but adds large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber into your diet. It replaces high glycemic index refined carbohydrates and allows for an easy way of managing insulin sensitivity throughout the day. For me, it’s also a great way to ensure that I’m eating enough.
Many people are apprehensive when they receive this tip. How on Earth do you eat that many veggies? Luckily, it doesn’t require sitting in front of plates of brussel sprouts, going vegetarian, or becoming a chef. It’s actually a lot easier than you think. Honest. I’m not a culinary genius, I don’t enjoy cooking, and don’t always reach 10-12, but I get close. Here’s how I do it.
- Prep in advance
This is the absolute key to adding more vegetables into your diet. It’s often a lack of convenience, not willpower, that sabotages nutrition. I prepare my veggies on Sundays or mid-week, if they need to be fresher. This way I can add veggies into any meal by simply opening a freezer bag. The time saved is immense. I also use this time to cook & cube chicken breast for the week. My favorite is to tear broccoli crowns into individual florets and put them in the fridge for easy snacking & cooking throughout the week.
- Buy frozen, pre-cut veggies in bulk
I buy most of my food in bulk at BJ’s (regional bulk grocery chain) to save money, but also for convenience. They sell pre-cut frozen vegetables in single-serve packs for most common vegetables. My two favorites are bags of chopped green & red bell peppers with onions and cubed organic sweet potatoes. Most offerings are organic. This saves me an incredible amount of time in prepwork, but the price is often the same or cheaper than buying individual vegetables.Side note: BJ’s also sells 8-packs of fresh, cage-free chicken breasts for ~$15-18 dollars, organic butter, and cage-free eggs.
- Add vegetables into your breakfast eggs.
Eggs are a major portion of my nutrition. They’re also an easy way to sneak in lots of vegetables. Personally, I have two favorite methods. My go-to is to mix in 1/2-1 cup of chopped bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions to my scrambles. My second is to add in cubed, cooked chicken breast and broccoli florets. I tear the florets make them even smaller. The chicken also ups the protein content, adds texture, and increases the flavor! Don’t forget the hot sauce or salsa.
- Steam your vegetables
Steaming not only preserves more nutrients than boiling or microwaving your food, but is also very quick. I’ll use a large pan, ¼ cup of water, a pinch of salt, and then cover with a lid for broccoli, sweet potato cubes, or anything else. It takes only a few minutes and has minimal clean-up. I used to use a food steamer, but the clean-up was too much of a hassle.
- Dip them in hummus or a Greek-yogurt dip
Veggies and hummus is my go-to snack. Bell peppers (these do need to be fresh, not frozen), broccoli florets, baby carrots, cucumber, snap peas, etc. Chop or separate these on Sunday night, store in tupperware, and pull out for easy snacks. Also easy to bring to work or on-the-go. There are plenty of hummus varieties, just make sure you read the ingredients label. Hummus is also excellent with chicken breast.
- Pico de Gallo makes everything better
I went to grade school in San Jose, CA and attended college at Texas A&M. It’s safe to say that I’ve had my share of pico. I eat it with eggs, chicken, and even other vegetables. It’s incredibly simple to make (on Sunday) and get some extra servings of vegetables into your diet. Here’s a quick recipe I pulled from Food.com. Alternatively, I’ll usually buy a jar of Sabra’s homestyle salsa at BJ’s and use that. (Louisiana hot sauce also makes everything better, especially steamed broccoli.)
- Make side dishes in advance
Make (or freeze) side dishes in advance. This is the approach taken by people that hire personal chefs, so why not make it your own? Cucumber salads, organic mashed sweet potato (steam the cubes, add butter & cinnamon, mash with a fork. Great for post-workout meals), etc. Remember, I’m not a cook and I don’t love doing it. I like things that are mostly raw and take 10-15 minutes. Making side dishes in advance is a great way to sneak more veggies in.
- Pay somebody else to do it.
Several of my clients have found success with ‘out-sourcing’ their nutrition. They hire a personal chef to deliver food on Sundays. They have a consultation, specify their likes/dislikes and goals, and go from there! It’s pretty similar to doing your prepwork on Sundays. One of my clients ate out so frequently that she actually saved money doing this!
- Throw spinach in your protein shake
Take 1-2 cups of washed, raw baby spinach and throw it in your blender. Make sure to blend the shake very thoroughly, you don’t want to chew it. Sure, it’ll turn your shake gray. You won’t taste it though. That’s an extra serving in 30 seconds of work! If you have a Vitamix, I’ve heard that those are also fantastic for juicing or blending veggies.
- Take a greens supplement.
There are a number of greens supplements out there that add in a staggering amount of vitamins & minerals into your diet. Greens+, Athletic Greens, and Greens Super Food are three that I know of. I’ve found that mixing it with pineapple juice can blunt the flavor, and there are plenty of shake recipes that will mask it as well.
There you have it! 10 easy, time-effective ways to load up on vegetables. Throw out the potato chips, pour out the V8, and eat something raw. What are some of your top go-to methods? Post yours in the comments below!