This past weekend was a FAT weekend. Of course, I use the word FAT as an acronym for the phrase Food And Training, because that’s all I did. Eat and train.
Homemade pizza. Homemade meatballs. And homemade cannolis. There’s a reason they call it comfort food. Because you need to find a comfortable position to sleep in afterward or you might throw up.
I also had a chance to check out Captain Phillips and American Hustle. I liked both, though I definitely liked Captain Phillips better. It was all-around easier to follow and I like me some action. American Hustle was good and pretty funny, but Captain Phillips wins on account of the fact that any movie with Navy Seals in it will always be better.
Let’s cut straight to the point: eating vegetables kind of sucks.
I think there’s an old Chinese proverb and it goes something like this, “There are two types of people in this world, people who say they don’t like pizza and ice cream and liars.” It’s just not fair. Pizza and ice cream are so delicious, yet so poor nutritionally. But they do taste good. But they’re made of low-quality carbohydrates and chemicals. But they do taste good.
In general, there are two reasons why people will avoid eating vegetables.
- They think vegetables are “icky.”
- They’re young and trying to put on mass and don’t want to waste their time eating vegetables which contain few calories and little protein.
What Iz A Vegetable?
This can actually get a bit tricky. Vegetables are scientifically considered to be edible plants or parts of plants.. In contrast, fruits contain the seeds of a plant. But what about mushrooms? Or potatoes?
For all intents and purposes, mushrooms shall be considered vegetables and potatoes will be considered starches (a.k.a. carbohydrates) for the remainder of this article. Oh, and tomatoes will be considered a vegetable for this article as well because nobody munches on tomatoes as if they were apples or bananas. (And by default, ketchup is also a vegetable.)
Vegetables are known for their vast array of vitamins and dietary minerals, as well as phytochemicals such as antioxidants. They can also contain a significant amount of dietary fiber and their low calorie to volume ratio makes them a good choice from a diet and satiety standpoint. All good reasons why everybody should be getting their fair share of vegetables in their diet.
So How Can I Haz Some?
I’ll focus this article on finding ways to insert vegetables into your diet. Fruits are generally easier to get enough of because they taste better and are more likely to be eaten on-the-go. (You wouldn’t take a zucchini with you in the car and just munch on it on the way to work.) So here’s a few ways you can add vegetables to your diet without even knowing you’re eating them!
1. Use vegetables in your omelettes.
Or any type of eggs, really. You can just scramble them up if you aren’t quite Swedish Chef. When I was in college, my morning meal consisted of five eggs with spinach, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and the occasional bit of cheese. It got to the point that the omelette ladies knew my order by heart and I never even stood in line. Eggs and vegetables go well together because you can always add some cheese to give it a bit of a different flavor. Try spinach and feta.
Eggs aren’t always the most popular and definitely don’t have too much flavor to them, so try making them different ways. Personally, I don’t really care for scrambled eggs, but I love them over easy. Regardless, adding vegetables to your omelettes is a good trick to add them to your diet. Another option is adding meat to your eggs, masking the flavor of the vegetables and eggs.
2. Add vegetables to your smoothies/protein shakes.
This is probably the most popular method I’ve seen to add vegetables to a diet. It’s super quick and you definitely don’t have to worry about tasting them. However, I still don’t see it being done often enough. For instance, in a 16-20 oz smoothie, you can probably fit 1-2 cups of kale without even knowing it’s there.
Greens are the way to go here, with kale and spinach varieties being the most common choices.
This is an especially good idea for guys (or gals) trying to build some muscle and gain weight. A quick metabolism and overall caloric requirements necessitate finding calorie-dense foods, crossing most vegetables off the list quickly. But adding vegetables to a protein shake already filled with protein and healthy fats is a great idea. Do it. It’ll keep you healthier in the long-run and a healthy lifting career is a long lifting career is a more productive and successful lifting career.
3. Use vegetables in chili.
If you don’t know what chili is, it’s a stew based around chili peppers, tomatoes, beans, and oftentimes meat. But on top of the tomatoes and beans, you can add things like onions, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, or celery.
When I went to Oklahoma, I had the pleasure of eating four different types of chili with beef, venison, elk, and bison. Sadly, there were no vegetables. But damn, that chili was good.
The other good thing about chili is that it can be extremely high in protein depending on how much meat you add and can be stored and reheated for days.
I’ll add pasta sauce to this section too. When My Mom (capitalized to show importance) makes pasta sauce, she adds a ton (literally, one ton) of onions and peppers. Changing the spice palette of your chili can instantly transform it to pasta sauce. Add a small bit of pasta and you’ve got a perfect meal to replenish carbs after an intense lift.
4. Change up your condiments.
Specifically, I’m referring to salsa here. Try eliminating the large servings of mayonnaise or sour cream from your meals and replace them with salsa. Salsa is typically made with tomatoes, onions, and pepper varieties, among other things. A bit of salsa can be the difference between four and five servings of vegetables in a day.
Up the ante by not just eliminating the sour cream, but replacing it with plain Greek yogurt on things like tacos, burritos, or nachos. If you don’t enjoy Greek yogurt, you might taste the difference at first, but it’s pretty much the same thing. You can also give the salsa a try on different things like tuna.
5. Replace your carb-dense foods with lettuce/other vegetables.
The obvious way to do this is to replace breads with lettuce and make sandwiches or burgers with lettuce as the “holder.” Eric Cressey also notes that you can and should do this with tacos.
As Precision Nutrition notes, carb-cycling is easy when you replace your traditional carbohydrates with lettuce or other vegetables on non-workout days. This could mean throwing your ground beef on a bed of lettuce instead of rice and making a taco salad. And that goes for any kind of meat, really.
6. Make a stir-fry.
Stir-fry is a staple of the freshmen class’ diet at Northeastern University. I can still remember, clear as day, when I found the stir-fry station at Stetson West during my freshmen orientation.
Stir-fry is super as to make. Find some vegetables, find some meat, find some sauce, and throw it all together in a hot skillet. You can add some rice or noodles to make it a little more carb-heavy or leave the carbs out entirely.
Obviously, this breaks my rule of getting your vegetables without actually eating them, but it’s still a quality way to get some vegetables in so I don’t care.
7. Use a greens supplement to help you out.
I left this as the last recommendation on this list because it’s more of a last resort. The last thing that any trainer ever wants to see is somebody spending their money and over-consuming a greens supplement.
Just like with protein, I always recommend getting your nutrition from whole food sources.
However, I have used a greens supplement before and can say that it is extremely easy, especially if you’re on-the-go. (Although, I’ve recently been experimenting adding real greens to my protein shakes and it’s been pretty easy too.)
As you can see, there are numerous different ways to make sure you’re getting some vegetables in your diet, without even really knowing that you’re eating them.
Of course, you can always just go the traditional route and cut up some vegetables, season them, and throw them in a skillet, in the oven, or on the grill.
Either way, the benefits of vegetables just can’t be found in protein- and fat-dense foods, and definitely can’t be found in protein powders or bars, so make sure you’re getting some fruits and vegetables in each day.