Total Health in Midlife Episode #182: Why You’re Not Eating Enough Veggies and How to Fix It

Eating Enough Veggies

Unlock the secrets to better health by incorporating more vegetables into your daily routine! In this episode of the Total Health and Midlife Podcast, I reveal how nutrient-rich vegetables can transform your well-being, aid in weight management, prevent diseases, and even regulate hormones. 

Struggling with spoilage or feeling frustrated by minuscule restaurant portions? 

I’ve got your back with practical tips to overcome these challenges and prioritize non-starchy vegetables for their low-calorie and high-nutrient profiles. I’ll also touch on balancing fruits and veggies to keep energy levels stable and how a colorful plate can naturally edge out less nutritious options.

Discover creative strategies to make vegetables a staple in your meals. From smart storage solutions to tips on partial prep, this episode is overflowing with insights to make vegetables a seamless and enjoyable part of your diet. Tune in to start making lasting changes today!

Are you loving the podcast, but arent sure where to start? click here to get your copy of the Done with Dieting Podcast Roadmap Its a fantastic listening guide that pulls out the exact episodes that will get you moving towards optimal health.

If you want to take the work we’re doing here on the podcast and go even deeper, you need to join the Feel Good Sisterhood - my group coaching program for women in midlife who are done with dieting, but still want to feel good! The Feel Good Sisterhood is open for enrollment, so click here to discover if group coaching is a right fit for you and your goals.

I am so excited to hear what you all think about the podcast – if you have any feedback, please let me know! You can leave me a rating and review in Apple Podcasts, which helps me create an excellent show and helps other women who want to get off the diet roller coaster find it, too.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode

  • Discover how eating just a bit of green can transform your health and why it’s one of the most important habits of the eight basic habits that healthy people follow.
  • Uncover the crucial differences between fruits and vegetables and how focusing on a 4:1 veggie ratio can revolutionize your digestion, energy, mood, and waistline.
  • Discover Denise’s secret to effortlessly sneaking more vegetables into your diet with a simple and delicious snack hack.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

We all know that we’re supposed to be eating our vegetables, right? And we remember watching Popeye as a kid eating spinach and instantly getting strong. But as children, we may not have liked vegetables because of their strong flavors. But hopefully as we age and our palate matures, we start to appreciate them more. Yet, even as adults, many of us still struggle to get enough vegetables into our diet.

Today, we’re going to explore why vegetables are so important to incorporate into your diet. I’m debunking some common myths, sharing practical tips, and revealing creative ways to make vegetables a delicious part of your day.

Now, whether you love them or still find them challenging, this episode will give you the motivation and strategies to make vegetables a regular and enjoyable part of your life. Stay tuned because by the end of this episode, you’ll be ready to embrace vegetables in a whole new way.

Welcome to Total Health and Midlife, the podcast for women embracing the pivotal transformation from the daily grind to the dawn of a new chapter. I’m Elizabeth, your host and fellow traveler on this journey.

As a Life and Health Coach, I am intimately familiar with the changes and challenges we face during this stage. Shifting careers, changing relationships, our new bodies, and redefining goals and needs as we start to look to the future and ask, what do I want?

In this podcast, we’ll explore physical, mental, and emotional wellness, offering insights and strategies to achieve optimal health through these transformative years.

Yes, it’s totally possible.

Join me in this amazing journey of body, mind, and spirit, where we’re not just improving our health, but transforming our entire lives.

Hey everyone, welcome to the Total Health and Midlife Podcast. I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman, and thank you so much for tuning in today. Now, today, we are diving into one of the most important habits of the 8 Basic Habits that Healthy People Do. My guide and checklist that is available to you. And habit is eat something green every once in a while.

Now, we all know that we should be eating our veggies. But so many of us struggle to get enough. I love vegetables, but I get it. There can be some challenges in making them part of our diet. From keeping them fresh, making sure that they don’t spoil, now that can be challenging. And many restaurants don’t really serve large enough portions. At least, for me.

So, let’s face it. Eating healthy requires effort. I’ve never accidentally eaten a vegetable. Healthy food needs to be refrigerated or it can spoil quickly. But understanding, planning, and integrating this habit is crucial for your health.

Many of my clients say that they love vegetables. Yet, when they start paying attention to it, they’re shocked at how few they actually eat. It’s so easy to fall short, especially when we’re busy or we’re unsure of how to prepare them.

You know that you should be eating them. But why? Why are they so important? Why do I advocate for eating vegetables so much? Well, for starters, they are full of nutrients that your body needs. They are low in calories, but high in vitamins and minerals and fiber. And this combination helps us to feel full and satisfied which is key in maintaining a healthy weight. and just feeling good.

But also, eating vegetables regularly can help reduce risk of chronic diseases. They support our immune system, improve digestion, hormone regulation, and they provide antioxidants that fight off damage at the cellular level. For women struggling with hormonal symptoms, these benefits are even more significant as we aim to manage those symptoms and stay healthy and symptom free.

But here’s the thing, it’s super important to enjoy the process. If we don’t like what we’re doing, if we don’t like what we’re eating, it’s hard to stick with healthy habits. And that’s why I want to talk about making vegetables fun, tasty, and a regular part of your diet.

When I’m talking about vegetables in today’s episode, I’m specifically talking about non starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are packed with nutrients that your body needs to thrive. They’re rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, potassium, and folate, which support everything from your immune system to your heart health. They’re also low in calories, making them the perfect choice for maintaining your weight.

When you eat more vegetables, one of the first things that you will notice is a difference in how you feel. The high fiber content helps you to improve your digestion, and it reduces constipation, and it helps to keep you regular. This means less bloating and discomfort, and more energy to do what you want to do.

Vegetables are also rich in antioxidants, which help fight inflammation in your body. This can lead to less joint pain and stiffness, allowing you to move more freely and comfortably. You might find that you feel less sluggish and more energized throughout the day. I know that I do.

One of the best things about vegetables is how they help you to make healthier food choices overall. By eating the rainbow and filling your plate with colorful, nutrient dense vegetables, you naturally crowd out less nutritious, high calorie foods from your diet.

This principle is known as displacement, and it’s something that I love doing in my work with my clients. When you’re eating more vegetables, there’s less room in your stomach for foods that we know really don’t contribute to great health. But are so incredibly tasty.

Those things like processed foods, breads, and sweets. This simple shift can significantly improve your diet without making you feel deprived.

Vegetables also help regulate your blood sugar levels, preventing those spikes and crashes that leave you feeling tired and cranky. And so, with more stable energy levels, you’ll feel more alert and ready to tackle your day.

Vegetables, particularly non starchy vegetables, have lower sugar content and are rich in fiber and have a ton of water content. Which helps stabilize your blood sugar and as a result, helps you to sustain your energy levels.

So, one common misconception is that a small serving of vegetables is enough. Many people think that a couple of carrot sticks, or a small side salad is sufficient. In reality, most of us need to eat a lot more vegetables to meet our nutritional needs. And ideally, you should aim for 4 to 5 servings of non-starchy vegetables for everyone serving of starch or fruit. This ratio helps to ensure that you’re getting the necessary nutrients while keeping your calorie intake in check.

You might be wondering, what is a serving? Well, for leafy greens, it’s the size of two fists before you cooked it. For other above ground vegetables, it’s the size of one of your fists. So, what counts as a vegetable in this context?

Now, non-starchy vegetables include leafy greens like spinach, kale, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, and colorful options like bell peppers and tomatoes. These vegetables grow above ground and are high in water and fiber and are low in starch. They are different from starchy vegetables, like potatoes, corn, peas, which grow below ground and have less water and a higher starch content.

So, let’s talk about fruit. Many people think that fruits and vegetables are one and the same. But here’s some information for you. They’re actually not. This is a misconception that often leads to an imbalance in our diets. The reason we tend to group fruits and vegetables together is because they’re often sold together in the grocery store. And many of us grew up learning about the four main food groups in grade school health class, right?

Fruits and vegetables were in the same group. But fruits and vegetables serve completely different roles in our bodies, and it’s important to understand these differences. Fruits are naturally higher in sugars compared to vegetables. And now, while these sugars are natural, they can still impact your blood sugar levels. Eating too much fruit without balancing it with vegetables can lead to energy spikes and crashes.

Now, I don’t want you to be afraid of eating fruit because honestly, it’s good for you. It’s easy to think that you’re getting enough vegetables if you’re consuming fruit, but the body handles them completely differently.

Vegetables provide essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals and antioxidants without the added sugars that fruit contains. They also offer more fiber, which is crucial for digestion and feeling full. By focusing on increasing your vegetable intake and aiming for something that’s about a 4 to 1 ratio, you can make a significant impact on your health. And you’ll likely notice improvements in your digestion, your energy levels, and even your mood. And, quite honestly, probably your waistline too.

Understanding these differences and adjusting your diet accordingly can help you achieve better overall health and well-being. Be aware that everyone’s body is different, so you’ll need to find out the right amount for you. Now, that being said, fruit is always better and more nutritious than simple processed sugars. They are a great substitution.

So, what are some barriers to eating vegetables? Why don’t we do it more? Eating vegetables regularly can be challenging for so many different reasons. Common barriers include time constraints, prep mess, and personal preferences.

Let’s talk first about time. When life gets busy, finding the time to wash, chop, and cook vegetables can feel not just overwhelming but like it’s just too much. It’s much easier to just grab a quick snack or a meal that doesn’t require a lot of prep.

This is where planning and preparation can come in handy. By taking a little time to prepare your vegetables ahead of time, you can make it easier to incorporate them into your meals when you need them. Pre washing and chopping your vegetables ahead of time can save you precious minutes during dinner time as well.

Mess is another common issue. Some vegetables, like broccoli can be incredibly messy and just plain difficult. This was the case with my client Holly, who struggled to actually cook the broccoli that she brought from the store every single week. Every time she looked at a whole head of broccoli, she just shut down because she felt overwhelmed by the mess and the effort required to clean, cut, and cook it.

The stalk was just tough to cut through, the florets were messy, and the smell during cooking was quite honestly off putting. This led to a lot of broccoli going to waste. And then, she was like, why am I buying it anyway?

In episode 181 titled ‘Reducing Friction,’ I share practical solutions to these challenges. For Holly, the game changer was switching to precut broccoli florets. Sure, they might be a little bit more expensive, but they saved her from wasting whole heads of broccoli.

Pre prepped vegetables are a convenient option that reduces the effort required to prepare them. This small change made it so much easier for Holly to actually follow through and make the broccoli for her meals.

Seasonal preferences can also play a role in vegetable consumption. In the winter, we tend to crave warm, comforting foods. And as a result, we might not feel like eating cold salads or raw vegetables. It’s important to understand that if this is an objection for you to find ways to enjoy vegetables that are appropriate for the weather.

Roasting or grilling vegetables can enhance their flavor and make them more appealing during the colder months. Warm vegetable soups and stews are also a great option for incorporating more vegetables into your diet when it’s chilly outside. And you might want to experiment with warm salads. By addressing these barriers, you can make consuming vegetables a more manageable and enjoyable part of your diet.

Now, there are lots of creative ways to incorporate more vegetables into your meals. And some of my listeners have shared fantastic tips that can help you make vegetables a regular part of your diet. Kristen, for example, has a great approach to meal prep. She likes to include both hot and cold vegetables with each of her meals. For instance, she might have a mixed salad and steamed broccoli with her dinner.

This strategy not only adds variety to her meals, but also ensures that she gets a good mixture of textures and flavors. Kristen also mentioned that she likes having a cold veggie option because then she can snack on it while she’s making dinner. This way, she’s getting her vegetables in even before the main meal, which whether she realizes it or not is priming the stomach and helps her to eat less at meals.

Teresa has a great technique for sneaking extra vegetables into her recipes. She suggests adding leafy greens or bell peppers to scrambled eggs or adding shredded carrots and zucchini to spaghetti sauce or stews.

I love this method and I do it myself, because it’s great for boosting the nutritional content of your meals without making a big change to the recipes that you’re already enjoying. It’s a subtle way to increase your vegetable intake without feeling like you’re just downing more vegetables.

Denise shared her habit of making a tray of raw veggies with high protein dip. She washes and chops a variety of vegetables and keeps them ready in the fridge. This makes it easy to grab a snack or a quick side to any meal. Denise also said that she likes to try a new vegetable every few weeks to keep things interesting. One of her favorites is snow peas, which are tasty and easy to prepare. I love them too.

Personally, when I eat out at restaurants, I try to be vegetable forward. Meaning that I try to prioritize vegetables when I order. Understanding the idea of displacement, I aim to eat vegetables with every single meal. Now, it’s not always possible, and sometimes I just end up with the onion or cilantro garnish on my taco. But making an effort to eat as many vegetables as I can when I can. I ensure that on days when I can’t, it’s not that big of a deal.

Another technique I like is hiding vegetables in dishes where you wouldn’t typically expect them. For example, when I make mashed potatoes, I mix in cauliflower. I boil half potatoes and half cauliflower with salt and a few cloves of garlic. When the potatoes are done, I drain off the water and mash everything together. This way, you get the creamy texture of mashed potatoes with the added nutrition of the cauliflower without it overpowering the taste. And you don’t have to use milk to thin out the potatoes in this case.

By incorporating these ideas into your meals, you can make vegetables more accessible.

Let’s talk about storage. Vegetables are an investment. They cost money, and they’re an investment in your health. So, it makes sense to protect that investment by handling and storing them properly so that you reduce the waste.

Here are some practical tips to help you keep your vegetables fresh and make them easier to eat. First, when you get home from the grocery store, take a few minutes to do some partial prep. Wash and dry your vegetables before storing them. Now, it may seem like a major pain in the butt, but your future self will thank you so much. And if you’re worried that it’s going to take too much time, I recommend that you time yourself to see. Often, it takes a lot less time than we think it’s going to.

Now for leafy greens, a salad spinner can be a great tool to get rid of excess water. And once they’re clean and dry, store them in an airtight container or reusable produce bags with a paper towel to absorb any remaining moisture.

For vegetables like carrots, celery, and bell peppers, consider cutting them into bite sized shapes, snack sized pieces right away. Store them in containers filled with a bit of water to help keep them crisp and ready to eat. This way, you can easily grab a healthy snack or add them to your meals without any extra effort.

Another tip is to use the crisper drawer for your fridge effectively. Or not at all, since the crisper is where good food goes to die. Put your vegetables at eye level so that you can see them, and they stay top of mind. Keep your vegetables separate from your fruits, as some fruit tends to release ethylene gas, which can cause vegetables to spoil faster.

And don’t forget about frozen vegetables. They are usually just as nutritious as fresh ones and can be a lifesaver when you’re short on time. Throwing vegetables that are just about to go bad into the freezer is another really amazing tip. You can use them later in soups or smoothies, and spinach is a great for this because it blends well, and it doesn’t affect the taste very much.

Many grocery stores offer ready to eat options, which can be a fantastic way to save time, as I mentioned before. Precut vegetables, salad kits, and steamable bags are convenient and can make incorporating vegetables into your diet so much easier. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of these options.

Eating vegetables doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. It’s important to stay flexible and find ways to prepare vegetables that you will enjoy. This mindset can help you avoid the trap of thinking that you have to eat them a certain way or not at all. One way to make vegetables more appealing is by using diverse cooking methods.

Roasting and grilling can transform the flavors of vegetables, making them more delicious and interesting. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, and brussels sprouts. Simply, toss them with a little bit of garlic, Olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast them in the oven until they’re caramelized and tender.

Grilling vegetables, adds a smoky flavor that can be a great compliment to your meals. Vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, and asparagus are perfect for grilling. Just brush them with a little olive oil and season them to your liking. You can also grill veggie kebabs for a fun and easy side dish. If you’re not a fan of one method, try another.

Steaming and sautéing are quick and easy options that can also be delicious. Steamed vegetables retain a lot of their nutrients and have a fresh, clean taste. Sautéing with a little bit of garlic and olive oil can add a lot of flavor without a lot of effort. And don’t be afraid to experiment with herbs and spices to enhance the taste of your veggies.

I feel like it’s your job as an adult to figure out how to eat them. It’s about finding what works for you. And if you enjoy how your vegetables are prepared, you’re more likely to eat them regularly.

For more insights into healthy habits, check out episode number 174, where I discuss the 8 Basic Habits that Healthy People Do. And stay tuned for the next 8 Basic Habits episode, where I’ll focus on the importance of protein, especially for women in midlife.

That’s all I have for you today. Thank you for joining me. And I hope you found this episode helpful and motivating. Until next time, have an amazing week everyone. And I’ll talk to you next. Bye

Thank you for joining us on today’s episode. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the plethora of health advice out there and are looking for something straightforward, our ‘8 Basic Habits that Healthy People Do’ guide and checklist is just what you need.

It breaks down essential habits into simple, actionable steps that you already know how to do. By following these habits, you’ll set yourself on a path to better health, surpassing most people you know.

To get your free copy, just click the link in the show notes. It’s an easy start, but it could make all the difference in your health journey. Grab your guide today and take the first step towards a healthier you.

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eating enough veggies
eating enough veggies