My friend Willie over at Fueled by Running reached out to me with some questions. He wanted to know how to incorporate more veggies into his diet and since I am a vegan he knew I was a good person to ask ;) Ironically, I was listening to one of the wycwyc (what you can, when you can) podcasts in which they were talking about getting their kids to eat vegetables and I was deep in thought thinking about E and how he has changed from a super picky eater (especially in the veggie family) to someone that eats pretty much anything I cook up. It was perfect timing to have this discussion with Willie and he let me share it with you in order to maybe help some other struggling with their veggie intake and show you that there is hope….
W: So, I know that you are vegan. I, myself, have a hard time eating vegetables but it's something that I am working on. Why did you choose to become vegan or have you always been vegan?
I have not always been a vegan. I actually adopted a plant-based diet (which is all it was at first since being a vegan encompasses more than just what I eat- but that is a whole other story) in October of 2011. I was 8 months into my WLJ. I had lost about 60 pounds and was still wondering why I still felt crappy all the time. I was always tired, it took forever to recovery from activity, I was still suffering from IBS- I had all the same problems I had from before I had started losing weight. I decided to start food journaling- like tracking but with more detail. I would write down what I ate and how I felt afterwards, how I felt a few hours later, how I slept at night, how I felt during workouts, etc. What I found was that I felt much better when I ate plant-based meals and so I decided to conduct a week long experiment to see how I would feel if I cut out all animal protein. It didn’t take but maybe 2 or 3 days to feel completely different. I thought it might have just been a fluke, because I was eating different foods so after the week I decided to treat myself to some yogurt and that was it. All my intestinal issues came back and I knew I needed to cut animal protein out. Now, truth be told- I am pretty sure I am/was lactose intolerant (most humans are to some degree) so that probably attributed to all my digestion issues. But I decided that day that I wanted to eat plant-based because I felt so good and if I ever decided to stop that was ok- I wasn’t trying to force myself into something permanently. I never thought it would be permanent. Now, here I am almost 3.5 years later and I doubt I would ever change. But that is because it has since become more than just what I eat. Now it is about the animals and the environment too so I think it would be hard to make the switch. But that’s just me. Being a vegan has allowed me to sleep a solid 8 hours every night, have tons of energy throughout the day, I have no digestion issues whatsoever. I recover quickly. My labwork is always phenomenal. I am healthier than I ever have been. And I really enjoy what I eat. It’s just what has worked best for me and so I have been able to easily stick with it.
W: What tips do you have for someone who is trying to eat more veggies?
If there are vegetables you already like try preparing them different ways for variety. Like for me, I was already a huge broccoli fan but I usually ate it just steamed or maybe mixed in stir fry but then I roasted it- mind blown. So good.
Try new veggies…duh…LOL! I know for me, even though I was never a picky eater when it came to veggies, there were so many new to me veggies still out there. I would try to pick out one or two a week and find recipes to incorporate them into. Also, the internet is a great way to learn about a veggie before trying it- like what plant family is it from, how is it best prepared. So is the produce person at the store- I would always ask them for advice J Also, if you have a local CSA that is a great way to get veggies (usually pretty cheap) that are local, in season and it will ‘force’ you to try new things.
Hide them. I love to bulk up dishes by adding in veggies. I am a volume eater. I can’t eat teeny tiny portions. I need bigger meals and if I want to do so and not gain a million pounds I need to bulk up my meals with veggies. Examples:
- Fried rice/stir fry- these dishes for me are like 75-80% veg/protein and the rest is grain. With all the added veggies you really don’t feel like you are missing out on all the rice/noodles. Plus all the fiber from the vegetables really fill you up.
- Burgers- I make veggie burgers but say you are making turkey or chicken burgers (which tend to need more moisture because of the reduced fat) grate in some raw onion, zucchini or carrots or add in some chopped cooked greens. This adds moisture and bulk- and of course vitamins and minerals J
- Soups/stews/chili- I put any/every vegetable I have into a pot of stew or chili. I love to make these dishes heartier by adding veggies. My favorites are carrots, onion, celery, peppers, zucchini or yellow squash, peas, lima beans, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, any type of dark leafy green. Oh, I even like to add apple to my chili – not a veg but another good way to bulk it up. And obviously I eat a lot of beans and grains too so my soups/stews always feature at least one of each.
W: Cooking tips for preparing vegetables?
This could be a really long list but really any veg can be prepared any way; steamed, roasted, raw, sauteed, BBQ’d, etc. Although I love roasting, if you are trying to watch your fat intake be careful with the olive oil used for this process, same with sauteing. You actually can saute veggies pretty nicely in just some broth. I have a spiralizer that I use to make zoodles (the only way E will eat zucchini) which is a staple dish in our house. Zucchini really are a great vessel because their flavor is so mild and they have a high moisture content. Cabbage is one of the few vegetables that is better for you cooked than raw but I eat it both ways. Also- another veggie that seems to be all over the interwebs lately is cauliflower. I love cauliflower, especially roasted. But it is a great veggie to sub out all or some of potatoes in mashed potatoes. I see people now making rice out of it. I even have seen people make bread and noodles out of it- it’s really big with the low/lower carb people. For me, steamed or roasted is the way to go but there really are a million possibilities out there J
W: What are your favorite vegetables that you eat and how do you prepare them?
[Willie has been sharing some Asian inspired recipes on his blog so I shared with him some of my favorites] I love to make a cold dish with soba noodles that has chopped cucumbers, bell peppers, shredded carrots, cilantro, green onion, broccoli (I add the broccoli in with the noodles in the last few minutes of cooking-all other veggies are raw) and some steamed shelled edamame. I make a peanut sauce that coats it. It’s pretty tasty. It’s actually E’s (who is not a vegan) favorite thing to eat out of all the things, meat dishes included. We also make up a lot of different stir fry type meals. Yesterday I cooked up a half cup (dry) of jasmine rice. Then added it to a wok to ‘fry’ it. Added in broccoli, shredded carrots, snow peas, regular peas and shredded cabbage. It made a ton of food and it only had one serving or rice per person and it was super filling/satisfying because of the veggies. I served it as a side to teriyaki chicken (for Erick) and teriyaki tempeh (for me) which was just chicken/tempeh cooked in pineapple juice and some teriyaki sauce with green bell pepper and pineapple (canned) and for me I added mushrooms. It was really yummy.
I love lentils and so does Erick so we often make lentil taco meat or lentil sloppy joes- those are two vegan meals Erick also loves.
Honestly, I haven’t met a vegetable I didn’t like J
Additional comments I made to Willie in response to his questions:
If you want to send me some of your favorite foods to eat I can tell you some suggestions as to what veggies to add to it or a good veggie alternative. (*you can do this too- message me or leave a comment)
I hope this helps. Honestly I could write forever about this stuff. (true story)
Oh, and smoothies- do you drink smoothies? That is a great way to sneak in some greens J
I can also recommend some blogs/websites if you would like. Let me know.
He did want some recommendations so I sent him this list:
No Meat Athlete has a whole recipe part to his blog. I love Oh She Glows (she has lot of tex-mex recipes I think you would like). Also, Texas native (in Austin) is Rip Esselstyn (have you watched Forks over Knives? He's in it) and his website Engine 2 diet has a ton or recipes- he does the no oil thing so they utilize a lot of cooking with broth. Happy Herbivore has a blog with recipes- her cookbook the HH Abroad is one of my favorites (that one and Oh She Glows cookbook).
Also, when I started dating E he didn’t eat any vegetables except maybe corn and carrots and now he eats almost any veggie I make. It takes time trying new things and cooking different ways to find which he prefers but now he eats more veggies than most- so there is hope for you too :)
Then, like any good veggie crazed friend would do, I sent him a picture of my lunch...my interpretation (due to lack of proper sized jar) of the whole salad in a jar thing. Added to shredded cabbage.
What about you- what is your favorite vegetable? What is your favorite veggie dish? Any advice or tips you'd like to share?
Love and hugs,