Many of us start the new year with a similar resolution – to eat better. But, the term ‘eat better’ is a fairly non-specific resolution which often means it might fizzle out after a few weeks.
You might find more success if you break it down into smaller, more specific goals. Things like: replacing empty-calorie snacks with more nutrient-dense ones, swapping processed foods for fresh, and increasing your protein intake. A bunch of smaller goals strung together over time is way more achievable than one, huge, drastic change in behavior.
One of these smaller goals I’ve had success with is eating more vegetables. It has completely transformed my diet; increasing my fiber intake, exposing me to a wider range of easily-absorbed vitamins, and making my meals more diverse and interesting.
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The other great thing is that vegetables are more voluminous in the stomach, so filling at least half our plate with veggies can actually help us feel fuller.
The Mediterranean diet is often heralded as the best in the world, and one of its main components is a variety of colorful veg. Speaking very generally, the Western diet is lacking in nutrients, and our portion sizes are usually too big, so getting more veg is never going to be a bad thing. But, actually achieving that in a sustainable way can be difficult.
It takes a little conscious effort at first but, now, I do it without even noticing. I started by phasing in each of the following ‘rules’ over a period of six weeks. Give these a try, and do it gradually, so it becomes a habit over time.
Two per meal
I have to eat a minimum of two different vegetables with each meal. Three is better, and four is pretty damn good. Just cram in as much as you can eat. If you stick to at least two per meal, and eat three meals per day, you’re likely to surpass the recommended ‘5-a-day’ and be well on your way to a better diet.
One at a time
This has been crucial. Sometimes our resolutions fail because we try to change everything for the better, all at once. By focusing on just one meal at a time, I’ve been able to gradually increase my veg intake, and the habit has stuck.
Start with making a list of as many breakfasts as you can think of which include two or more veg. Stock up on ingredients and eat these in rotation. Once you have that down, focus on lunch, and so on.
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At least one snack
Snacks, for me, were usually something I was craving, like salty crisps or sweet chocolate biscuits with a cup of tea. I’m not saying I never eat those things now, but one of my rules is that at least one of my snacks has to be veg-based.
Even if you opt for something simple, like a raw carrot and dip, it has nearly all the vitamin A the average person needs in a day.
Secret veg recipes
This is the best way I’ve increased my vegetable intake, without even noticing. I created a few recipes that pack in the veg in a ‘secret’ way.
For example, I’ll blitz together peppers, tomatoes, carrot and sweet potato to make soup. Or I’ll roast some red onion, courgette, broccoli, and kale to mix with some pasta sauce. It’s a great way to increase your creativity in the kitchen, too.
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