Amy Culver - The Queen of Lean
March 14, 2008    

Eat your veggies!

The importance of weighing & measuring

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Eat your veggies!

Vegetables are an indispensable part of any healthy food plan.  We all know that, and even though we know why as well, here is a quick review of some of the more important aspects of veggies:

• They provide fiber.  Fiber is good for digestive health as well as possible prevention of some types of cancer.

• They provide vitamins and antioxidants – also believed to help with cancer prevention.

• They help keep you full.  And more importantly, they fill you up with very little calorie count.  Although you can apply the first two aspects to other foods (such as fruits and grains) only veggies give you those benefits without the larger calorie cost.

So with all of these wonderful benefits, why are we so reluctant to eat our veggies?  Well, there are many reasons (read: excuses) I hear.  Here are some of the more common complaints I get along with my responses when I hear them:

Veggies (especially fresh) can be very expensive.  It is true, fresh veggies can cost more, but they don’t have to.  When you walk into your supermarket's produce department, take stock.  Look at what is on sale and make those items your purchases for the week.  Some fresh veggies can be frozen.  Take a look in your grocer's freezer.  If they can freeze them, so can you.  This way you can bulk up when things are on sale and have them available for use later.  Don't be afraid to try new things.  Don't just shop for the veggies you are already familiar with, look around the entire department.  If you find an item that you are interested in but unfamiliar with, you have several ways to learn more about it:

• Look for a note or sign near the item.  Most items that are out of the mainstream have information either near the price sign or on a small sticker on the item about how it tastes, how to prepare it and how to serve it.

• Ask one of the produce department workers.  If it is something that can be eaten raw, they will give you a sample taste.  If not, they are typically quite knowledgeable about the items in their department and can help you with your questions.

• Take a small risk.  Go ahead and get some, take them home and do a search on the web for recipes.  Don't be afraid, they're only veggies!

Vegetables don't taste good.  Whenever I hear this excuse, I know I've run into someone who thinks veggies only come in one color: green.  And that they are cooked only one way: boiled tasteless!

Once again, don't be afraid to try new things.  Take a look on the web and find some veggie recipes that you can use to incorporate into your food plan.  Here is one very simple one that I really like:

Microwave frozen green beans and peas until warm.
Toss with a little bit of butter (about 1 tsp per 2 servings).
Mix together with brown rice.
Sprinkle with either garlic salt or teriyaki sauce.

Very simple, but quite tasty.  And much cheaper, by the way, than buying a box of pre-mixed and pre-seasoned veggies.

You can also melt a small amount of 2% cheese on top of your veggies in the microwave.  Or you can dip them in low-fat sour cream mix (watch your portions on the dip, though).

And don't forget salads.  I know that salads are both a blessing and a curse.  They are a great way to get some veggies in, but who can eat one without dressing?  And unfortunately, the lowest-calorie dressings don't tend to make salads taste very good do they?

There is no doubt about the dangers of salads.  In fact, I feel quite certain that I owe at least 50 pounds of the weight I was carrying around to “salads.”  But the truth, of course, is that the salad didn't pack on the pounds, the dressings did.  Although you have to be careful with them, you can certainly enjoy dressed salads while staying within your food plan.  Here are some tips:

• Go for the flavor.  Go for the light dressings rather than the fat-free ones.  The fat-free dressings are full of chemicals and not very full of flavor.  Although there is a large difference in calories, since there is more flavor you don't need to use as much of the dressing.  I have found that my typical usage of the two types comes out fairly even regarding total calorie count.

Do you know exactly what a serving size of salad dressing is?  Did you know that it is two tablespoons?  Most people can't imagine eating very much salad with only two tablespoons of dressing.  Well, there are a couple of ways to get satisfactory mileage out of your dressing allotment:

• Don't pour, toss.  Make your salad in a big bowl, bigger than you need to eat it in.  Measure your dressing and dump it on, then toss, toss, toss.  Spread it around evenly.  If you take my advice and use light dressing with good flavor, this will be plenty to dress up your salad.  Now, if you really feel that you need it to go a little further (perhaps you made a really big salad) you can add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.  This will stretch that dressing quite a bit without watering down the taste.

• Do the fork dip.  If you are in a restaurant and can't do the salad toss, do what skinny people do: dip the tip of your fork into the dressing and then grab a bit of salad.  Be honest about it.  Don't just dunk the whole fork, only use the tips.  If you order regular or light dressing - such as a honey mustard - you should have plenty of flavor.  If you end up using about half of the small cup that they bring the dressing in, you are probably in the ballpark for a proper serving size.

There are no good reasons, only excuses, for not getting your daily allotment of veggies in.  There are, however, many excellent reasons to make the effort.  Re-think your ideas about veggies, challenge your misconceptions.  You may just find some new favorites.

The importance of weighing & measuring

An important thing to keep in mind is the necessity for weighing and measuring.  If you find yourself tempted to simply “eyeball” your portions, take a look at my article on the benefits of accurate portion sizes as well as time-saving tricks.

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