If you’re a vegan/vegetarian chances are you already eat a lot of vegetables and don’t need to be told this. Actually if you are at all health conscious chances are you eat at least some. It’s the thing that’s drilled into us from the time we’re kids all the way through adult-hood “Eat your veggies – they’re good for you”. And as a matter of fact in addition to that they’re pretty tasty too – so it makes for a win/win situation.
However there’s actually a downside to eating veggies – they don’t make for very good fuel. Although they contain a whole lot of important vitamins and minerals – they aren’t exactly calorie dense. For people on diets this is definitely a plus – but for those of us who don’t want to lose weight but still want to enjoy the health benefits that vegetables give this can be a problem.
So how do you fit in your vegetables and make sure you are properly fueling your body?
Well first off I asked someone else for their thoughts on the matter. Freya from http://www.britchickruns.com.
I always admired her for the way she was able to fit vegetables into her diet – and still fuel herself through a marathon. Talk about awesome! Also she mentions on her blog that during her marathon training she actually managed to gain weight – while eating vegan at the same time. So here are some of her thought on the matter.
Were you always a veggie lover. Did you enjoy vegetables as a kid?
I wasn’t no! I was a super super picky eater as a kid, and lived off honey sandwiches, mac and cheese, crisps and chocolate. I honestly had the worst diet ever. The very first veggie I liked was stir fried garlic cabbage that my mum used to make me as a last ditch attempt to get some nutrients in me, and it progressed from there.
Since going vegan, have you started eating more vegetables? How important do you think vegetables are in a healthy diet?
Nah I was eating a ton before too! If you look back on past blog posts (ie pre-June kinda time) before I went vegan, there are still big hefty veg portions 😛 That’s just me!
But yes 100%, veg is part of a healthy diet. I used to have skin problems (acne, dry skin) until I changed my diet, and now I have pretty clear skin! My hair is also healthier, and I just FEEL healthy – I don’t have a heavy, cloggy feeling which I used to get, and my blood sugar is more stable. Plus, I’ve learned so much about nutrition recently that I’ve realized that I really was malnourished before – not skinny-malnourished, but nutrient-malnourishment. My 15yr old self diet was really so terrible. It’s no wonder I felt so awful!
You mentioned that at the beginning of your vegan journey you still wanted to gain weight. Since vegetables aren’t very calorie dense how did you manage to incorporate them into your diet and still realize this goal?
Well, veggies are only a part of a meal, not a whole meal. They have a lot of volume for not much cals..but high cal things (ie nuts) tend to be the exact opposite. So I still ate a lot of veg, but just ate high cal stuff along with it – lots of peanut butter, milk/smoothies, lots of snacks (like chocolate, nuts, toast etc). The thing with veg is that it fills you up immediately, but I find that because it’s not protein rich, you’re not full for as long, so it’s not hard to fit in snacks, and therefore more calories.
I never had a meal of nothing but veg though – there was (and still is) a protein and a carb in there too, so it just balances out. It probably sounds like very sketchy logic, but all I know is that it worked, so I won’t complain!
Any particular health benefits you’ve noticed from eating a primarily plant based diet?
Skin, hair, eyes, energy, general feeling – all massively improved! Just general well-being is better – mentally and physically.
How do you balance out very vegetable based meals in order to get the right balance of proteins,carbs and healthy fats?
I have the same amount of protein, carb and fat as any other person – I just have a bigger portion of veg! I’m lucky in that I like big portions, so probably someone with a tiny stomach or appetite might find it hard – but I just stick to guidelines of how much protein/carb/fat I should have, stick that on a plate…and then add as much veg as I want 🙂
And lastly – favorite veggie and method of preparation?
Parsnip or kabocha (I could never pick!), cubed and roasted – either in a peanut butter-soy sauce sauce, or with cinnamon and salt and thyme. Bliss!
(Thanks again Freya for answering these questions!)
So back to the topic of how to get enough vegetables in your diet without compromising your health. As Freya mentioned it’s important make sure that if you’re eating a very veggie based meal you balance it out with other more calorie dense foods. So here are some ideas how to “sneak” veggies into your diet without compromising your health (all the pictures have links with recipes attached to them, all you need to do is click on them 😉 ).
- Smoothies – they’re very popular in the blog world. But there’s a reason for that – you can get a lot of bang for your buck with them. Add some spinach, fruit, milk or yogurt (dairy or non-dairy if you prefer), a protein source such as oats, protein powder or nut butter – and you’ve got yourself a green monster! And you don’t just need to stick to spinach either – try other veggies such as carrots and pumpkin, or if you’re feeling daring – beet roots or cucumber. The options are endless so have fun!
- Veggies for snack. I’m actually a savory snack kind of girl and especially during summer sometimes the only thing I want is crunchy and fresh (think carrot sticks and bell peppers). These alone do nothing to hold you over though, so the key is to pair them with a good dip – hummus and/or nut butters are a good suggestion if you want some protein and healthy fats in the mix.
- Veggie dips or spreads. Most people like veggies in their sandwiches, but how about veggies on your sandwich in the form of a spread. Veggie hummuses are the most popular so give them a whirl – you might like what you find.
- Hide veggies in dessert. Carrot cakes, zucchini bread are all classics for a reason – but have you tried Katie’s secret ingredient cheesecake or mint chip ice-cream?
- Eat veggies at mealtimes – this one’s kinda obvious but still important. Stir-fries, casseroles, tomato sauce based dishes – all great veggie options outside the well-known salad. But if all you’re having is a salad – make sure youve got your healthy fats, carbs and some protein in there as well. Soup is another great idea as a side or a meal. My personal favorite is a cream of veggie soup – made with blended cannelini beans, broth and vegetables ( I’ve tried broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, but I imagine almost anything works ).
- Veggie juices are not too bad either. If you don’t own a juicer – like me- there are some pretty good store bought ones as well. And if you own a juicer- use it! Adding a glass of veggie or veggie/fruit juice to a meal is a sure-fire way of getting some nutrition in without feeling TOO full afterwards.
Another thing to consider when eating veggies is their method of preparation – if stir-frying or roasting them used a bit of olive or canola oil, if eating them fresh – dress them. Not only does this add to the flavor but the fat helps the vitamin absorption as well.
If you are prone to losing weight or need to gain weight remember to keep a good balance between nutritionally dense foods and vegetables. It’s far more detrimental to your health to be constantly losing weight then to be eat less then the “ideal amount” of vegetables (speaking from personal experience here). Don’t get so focused on being “healthy” that you apply one health rule and ignore all the others. Heath is about balance and finding what is right for you.
What’s your favorite vegetable and method of preparation?
I’m currently on a zucchini/ eggplant kick, but favorites include tomatoes, bell peppers, baby spinach and broccoli. I like my veggies fresh , very lightly steamed or sautéd.