I Hate Vegetables

asparagus

When I asked you a couple of months ago about your biggest nutrition issues, a lot of people said, “I don’t know what to do with vegetables”. Or, “I don’t like vegetables”. Honestly, this surprised me. Vegetables are that much of a problem for others? I thought it was just me!

Maybe I didn’t really hate vegetables. Honestly, “hate” is a bit strong. And, it’s is no longer true. I actually love vegetables now.

How did I go from disliking vegetables to loving them? I learned how to choose and cook veggies in ways that are quick, easy, and actually taste good. There are certain veggie dishes that I now crave. Yup, c-r-a-v-e.

This is a long way from when my brother and I would make chicken fried steak (I grew up in Texas) and instant mashed potatoes. Do they even still make instant mashed potatoes? Never mind. I really don’t want to know.

“Good” vegetables came from Luby’s (a cafeteria) where I got mashed potatoes with gravy and fried okra. Other than that, vegetables were something to be avoided if possible and tolerated if they couldn’t be avoided.

Another reason I have a hard time with vegetables is that I’m a Super Taster. Super Tasters have a genetic variation that makes some vegetables – particularly cruciferous veggies – broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts – and some greens very bitter. The research has shown that Super Tasters eat fewer vegetables than non-Super Tasters. There! My genes made me do it! (Note: If someone in your family doesn’t like these vegetables ask them why. It could be because they are a Super Taster.)

How did I go from avoiding vegetables to craving them?

Lia Huber and her Cook the Seasons website* changed my relationship with vegetables. Lia has a passion for cooking – especially vegetables. She focuses on providing recipes for vegetables that are in season (which means they are less expensive), easy, and quick. Using Lia’s recipes, I’ve become more comfortable in the kitchen, have expanded my repertoire of cooking skills, and am eating more and a wider variety of vegetables than ever before.

One of my favorite recipes is for Brussels sprouts. Yup. One of those foods that Super Tasters typically avoid. I can’t eat Brussels sprouts steamed. However, Lia’s Crispy Mustard-Coated Brussels Sprouts recipe has me actually craving them. My mouth is watering just thinking about this recipe.

In addition to all of the vegetable recipes, Lia provides recipes for proteins (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian), flavor builders (sauces and other ways to add flavor to your meals), and occasionally beverages. Lia also tells you which recipes go well together as well as how to transform one recipe into another so you aren’t eating the same leftovers day after day.

Cook the Seasons also includes a weekly meal plan (that generates a grocery list – score!) that you can use or not. You can also create your own meal plan using the Meal Mapper. The system will then generate a grocery list for you.

If you want to learn how to work more vegetables into your meals, and actually enjoy them then I’d encourage you to join Cook the Seasons. You can use this link* and in the code area enter “FRIEND” in the “Apply Coupon Code” are and get $10 off either a quarterly or annual subscription.

If you’re ready to love your veggies, then give Cook the Seasons* a try.

And, let me know what your most and least favorite veggies are in the comments below.\

*Note: This is an affiliate link (meaning I’ll get a small referral fee if you choose to purchase using it; I’d recommend it even without the affiliate link).

I have a confession to make. . . .

I have a hard time including vegetables in my diet. There, I said it. Even with all of my nutrition training, I always think of the protein on the plate first. I blame it on my Dad and his side of the family. They owned a large cattle ranch outside of Albuquerque, NM. Meat has always been at the center of my plate. Vegetables were just a side. Not thought about much. Especially if we’re talking about non-starchy vegetables. OK, any vegetable that isn’t a potatoe. Non-starchy vegetables were always bland – boiled, steamed, blech.

As an adult, I knew I should “eat my vegetables”. Still, since I’d always done it that way, meat came first. When heading to the store I’d always put “vegetables” on the grocery list hoping for a flash of inspiration to hit in the produce section. I’d come home with green beans to steam. Blah.

I’d search for vegetable recipes on the internet looking for inspiration. When I’d find a recipe to try, I’d wonder what meat to put it with. I was always hoping for that “perfect” meal.

Through my nutrition training and counseling, I’ve learned that it helps my clients, and myself, to understand the “why” behind the recommendation. If I understood the “why” behind “you should eat more vegetables” maybe I’d be more diligent about getting them on my plate.

Last year, Hearth to Heath came into my life. It was, and still is, a game changer. Hearth to Health was created by a friend of mine, Amanda Archibald. I took the Hearth to Health training for nutrition professionals. I can teach the program to my clients and through live classes. Hearth to Health teaches what to eat based on “Blue Zones”, areas where people live to be a vital 100+ years old. There are five Blue Zones (based on Dan Buetner’s work): Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and Nicoya, Costa Rica. The program teaches the science behind why you need to eat your vegetables (and other foods). Then, you get easy, fast and flavorful recipes to be able to put the science you learned into action on your plate and in your body. The program is also including some “whys” behind the genetic reasons you need the food you do. Did you know that the food you eat can actually turn some genes on or off? It can. And, that’s power on your plate. The way the science is taught makes it fun and easy to learn the “why” behind the recommendations. The program also provides what Amanda calls “roadmaps”. The roadmaps provide visuals to help you get the recommendations on your plate. I use them as a way to check and be sure I’ve hit the key areas when I’m planning meals and putting a plate of food together. Hearth to Health takes you from the why you need more vegetables to the plate – getting the vegetables on your plate in way that you’ll enjoy eating them.

Since becoming involved in Hearth to Health, I’m eating more vegetables. When planning meals, I start by thinking about what vegetables are in season and what recipes to use. I’m still working on making the vegetables the first thing I plan.  The more I do it, the more natural it becomes. It’s just like learning any new habit. The concepts and recipes from Hearth to Health have made it a lot easier for me to eat my vegetables. And, to enjoy them.

Amanda and I are partnering to launch Hearth to Health online starting February 11, 2016. If you’re looking to get off the fad diet rollercoaster, are tired of throwing out the vegetables you buy each week but just don’t cook, or just want to know what to eat to be healthy in the long term, this class is for you. Over 10 sessions, one per week, you’ll get six sessions that teach the “lite” science behind the recommendations and four sessions of food demos and recipes to show you how to get the recommendations on your plate and in your body. To learn more and register, go to the Hearth to Health page. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know.

I’d love to hear about your challenges with “eating your vegetables”. What tricks and tips to you use to get them on your plate?

Organic or Conventional? How to Choose.

fruit and veg ars

One of the questions I get most frequently is, “What should I buy organic? It’s all so expensive!” Yes, organic tends to be more expensive than conventionally grown produce or conventionally raised meats. I’ve struggled with this question as well and have finally reached a guideline I’m comfortable with. Want to know how I choose? Keep reading on. . .

When it comes to meats I buy organic whenever possible. Yes, it’s more expensive. Often W-A-Y more expensive. However, I don’t want to put the hormones, antibiotics, etc. that are used when raising meats into my body whenever possible. I don’t use much diary (I’m allergic). I do recommend to clients that whenever possible to buy organic milk, yogurts, etc. Again, those tend to be the food products that we consume a lot of (particularly children) and can have a lot of hormones, antibiotics, etc. in them. Also, a lot of the organic meat producers have more humane practices than conventional. When you go out to eat you don’t necessarily have control of the kind of meat or dairy they are using. This is where the “do the best you can” rule comes into play. Just make the best choice you can each time you eat.

Fruits and vegetables are the other big area of discussion for organic vs. conventional. The decision really comes down to the food itself. One of the guidelines I use is Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. There’s even an app for your smartphone that has these lists so you can have it handy at the store. If the produce I’m getting is on the Dirty Dozen list, I try to get organic. If it’s on the Clean Fifteen then I’m OK purchasing conventional. If it’s not on the list, I make a best guess. The guideline I use is: if I’m eating the outside, get organic. If the outside comes off (like bananas, oranges, etc.) conventional is fine.

What about eggs? NPR has a great blog on all the labels you see on egg cartons. From this blog, I learned that it’s illegal for egg farmers to give their chicken hormones and that antibiotics are rarely used. So, these terms are meaningless and only  used for hype on the labels. The ones that made the biggest difference for my purchase are “cage free”, ‘free range”, and “pasture raised”. “Cage free” means that the chicken isn’t in a cage, but only has 1 square foot of space. “Free range” means that the chickens aren’t in a cage and have access to the outdoors.  However, in a lot of facilities, the chickens are still crowded and never go outside to their screened in porch that may be concrete, dirt or have a little grass. “Pasture raised” is the best choice if you care about the welfare of your egg-laying chicken.  These chickens spend most of their lives outdoors with access to a barn. If you read the label some will actually state how much space each chicken has. The Cornucopia Institute has an egg scorecard you can use to find the best egg choice in your grocery store (unless you have your own laying hens).

The “even better” choice is to find local farmers and buy from them. Not only are there local produce farmers, but local producers of meats. A few years ago, John and I split a quarter of a cow (so we got an eighth of a cow) with a friend. The cow was organic and grass raised. Honestly, it was some of the best beef we’ve had. If you’re not sure where to find local farmers, check out Local Harvest. You can put in your zip code and it will identify local farmers. If there isn’t anyone near you, or you want something different, Local Harvest also has a shop where you can buy organic produce and meats and have it shipped to you.

What’s your rule on organic vs. conventional? Post your thoughts below.

Also, I have a monthly Nutrition Call on the third Wednesday of the month at Noon Central time. If you want reminders and the call in information, you can sign up here.

Veggies are Your Friends!

Mini-Peppers

Veggies, specifically non-starchy veggies, really are your best friends. Why? Non-starchy veggies are:

  • Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,
  • Easy to eat,
  • Loaded with fiber (which is also your friend), and
  • Low in calories.

Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard this all before. Keep reading because I’m going to propose something different.

I’ve been working in increasing my intake of non-starchy veggies. Yes, it’s true. I don’t get all my recommended daily servings of veggies. Rather than being ashamed about it, I’m doing something about it. I don’t say “try” because Yoda says, “No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.” Why am I increasing my intake of veggies? Mainly because I know they’re good for me, and I want the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. And, honestly, they’re pretty! I like pretty food.

Here are the steps I’m taking to increase my veggies (and you can, too).

  1. Adding a salad with lunch and dinner. This one is simple to do. The salad can be as simple or as elaborate as I feel like. The point is to get a couple of cups of greens, at a minimum.
  2. Ensuring that I plan at least one, if not two, non-starchy veggies with each meal.
  3. Looking for veggies first when reaching for a snack. I’ve started snacking on those little mini-peppers you see in bags in the grocery store. They’re fun because they’re different, crunchy and colorful. I’ll also keep carrots and celery around for snacks. I’ll add some peanut or almond butter (1 tablespoon) to the carrots and celery to help be get satisfied longer.
  4. Adding veggies to breakfast. The easiest ways are to scramble in some spinach, peppers and onions with my eggs on the days I have eggs. I also like to throw in  a cup or two of spinach into a smoothie if I’m having that for breakfast.

Getting your veggies doesn’t have to be hard. Really, it’s quite simple. It just takes a little planning so you have what you need on hand and remembering to ask yourself about veggies first before looking for other options to eat.

Digging the Farmer’s Market

red-paper-on-farmers-market

 

If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now – I’m a FAN of farmer’s markets. Vail has a Farmer’s Market (and Art Show) every Sunday from mid-June through early October. We like to head over early on Sunday mornings (early is 10AM when it opens) and visit our favorite vendors. Honestly, there are more art and prepared food booths than those of local farmers, but the ones with the farmers are AWESOME! Whenever I can when visiting other cities, I love checking out their farmer’s markets. In Europe you can find some great ones that you can use to stock your hotel room, grab a snack for the afternoon, or to tied you over on a train ride. Here are some of my favorite reasons for buying from farmer’s markets:

1. You’re buying local. Ok, so “local” is a relative term. The produce may be from a farm close by or from far away. The key is to ask the person working the booth. I’ll only buy if it’s relatively local. In Houston there’s a “farmer’s market” on Airline. In my book, it isn’t really a true farmer’s market because the people there didn’t grow the produce or get it from a local farm (at least a vast majority didn’t). My one exception for local is the fish from Kalebs Katch. Kaleb brings in sustainable fish – a lot of salmon varieties – that are amazing! Even though the fish isn’t local, Kaleb and is crew are. And, it is the best fish in the valley.

2. Most of the produce is organic. Personally, I’m a fan of organic produce. I don’t like the idea of putting pesticides on/in produce or in my body.

3. The vendors are passionate. I love dealing with people who are passionate about what they do. When you go, spend some time talking to the people behind the tables to learn more about them, their farm and what they do. Even better, ask them to pick out your produce for you. And, if you don’t know what something is or what to do with it, ask them! They usually give great descriptions and recipe ideas.

4. You’re buying fresh. The produce at the farmer’s market wasn’t picked weeks or months ago only to ripen in transit. The produce was harvested within a couple of days. This means you have to use it quickly, and it is amazingly tasty.

There are so many farmer’s markets around. I’d encourage you to find one near you and give it a try. Yes, sometimes they are overwhelming. If you find it that way, just take a few breaths, walk up to a vendor’s tent/table that looks interesting and say “Hi! What do you have here?” and let the fun begin!

If you need help finding the farmer’s markets near you, you can always search the web for “Farmer’s market” and your area or check out this list from the USDA or check out farmersmarket.org.