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7 Strategies to Get More Vegetables in Your Diet

Written on September 27, 2012 at 6:23 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today’s guest post comes from Cressey Performance coach Chris Howard.

As the “nutrition guy” at Cressey Performance, I spend a considerable amount of time looking over three-day food logs from our clients and athletes to help them create healthy food options for their menus. A common dietary trend among our young athletes and even some of our adults is a serious lack of vegetables. As a way to help the world at large consume more vegetables, I have come up with this list of seven strategies to get more vegetables in your diet.

1. Learn to Cook (or at least follow a recipe).

This strategy is a bit different from the other six, but it’s really where getting more vegetables in your diet has to start. Sure, you can eat vegetables raw; in fact, it’s encouraged, but you certainly get more variety from cooking them. Use Google as your friend and search for recipes that include vegetables or just different ways of making something as simple as broccoli. See some of the recommendations below for more information.

2. Include Vegetables in Smoothies.

In this post, Greg Robins talked about eating more pumpkin, and it made me think of a great smoothie recipe to enjoy this time of year. Here it is:

½ cup Canned Pumpkin (make sure it’s the pure pumpkin, NOT the pie filling)
½ cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1 scoop Low Carb Vanilla Protein Powder
¼ cup Walnuts
¼ cup Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
8oz. Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk
4oz. Water (just to thin it out a bit)

Throw all the ingredients in a blender and enjoy!

Of course, adding vegetables to smoothies doesn’t begin and end with pumpkin. Spinach is another smoothie-friendly vegetable common among the CP staff. It works in pretty much any smoothie and will usually be overpowered by the other ingredients so that you won’t even taste it. Still, you may get some weird looks from classmates and colleagues as they wonder what is in the green sludge you are drinking.

3. Make Soup/Chili.

Soup and chili recipes are a great way to hide vegetables. Brian St. Pierre has written extensively about his wife’s chili recipe, which is still one of my favorites. However, I have a new recipe that while technically not chili, looks, feels and tastes pretty darn similar. The recipe comes from Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo website. Be sure to check out her version of the recipe here. To make this recipe easier and quicker to make, I have chosen not to stuff the green peppers with the meat mixture, but to chop up the peppers and include them in the meat mixture, instead, which makes it more like a chili. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

4. Don’t Forget about Stir Fry.

While participating in the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating Coaching Program, I was introduced to Robb Wolf’s Food Matrix. He outlines a simple set of instructions that really hammer home how simple cooking and eating healthy can really be. Try this “recipe” with your next stir-fry:

1. Put oil in a skillet or wok;1-2 tbsp coconut or olive oil will work well.
2. Put some meat on the skillet or wok; think chicken, beef, or whatever you like
3. Let the meat cook for a minute or so.
4. Add a ton of veggies; I tend to use frozen broccoli, cauliflower, or stir-fry mixes.
5. Stir it around a few times.
6. Let it cook for 5-10 minutes, until the veggies and meat are cooked to your liking.
7. Eat and Enjoy! It’s as simple as that.

This is not only easy to do, but you can also literally change the recipe every night for variety while still using the same cooking methods. Plus, I think this is something that even high schoolers can manage to do without burning down the house.

5. Add Flavor with Spices/Dressings.

Learning how to use spices on foods can really liven up a dish. Sure, there’s going to be some trial and error here, but it’s definitely worth a shot. Here’s a simple way to make kale, a superfood, taste better in the hopes of becoming a staple at your dinner table:

Ingredients
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (you can substitute any spice you like here)

Directions
1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.
2. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.
3. Bake on a cookie sheet until the edges brown but are not burnt; it’ll be approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

6. Make omelets a regular breakfast selection.

One of the questions I always get is how to get vegetables in at breakfast. I usually suggest either a smoothie with spinach or pumpkin (see above), or – even better – an omelet. Again, from a variety standpoint, the options are really endless with an omelet. Here are some ideas:

a. Peppers
b. Onions
c. Tomatoes (Yes, they’re technically fruits, but who cares? They are good for you.)
d. Salsa (best for those who are “easing” their way into vegetables)
e. Spinach
f. Mushrooms
g. Asparagus (if you’re feeling bolder)
h. The list goes on and on…

7. Substitute Lettuce for Tortillas on Tacos and Fajitas.

What kid doesn’t love tacos? I know I could eat them every day for the rest of my life and never get sick of them. One way to make them healthier – and maybe a bit messier – is to substitute lettuce for the tortilla. Try experimenting with different types of lettuce to see which you like the best.

Eating vegetables doesn’t have to be boring as long as you’re willing to put a bit of thought into preparing them.  Give these tips a shot – and by all means, share any additional strategies you may have in the comments section below.

About the Author

Christopher Howard received his his Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition, Chris is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, a Licensed Massage Therapist in the state of Massachusetts, and a Level 1 Certified Precision Nutrition Coach. Chris has been a strength coach at Cressey Performance since 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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  • http://www.jamescipriani.com Personal Trainer CT

    I rarely meet someone who eats too many vegetables (if there is such a thing). Great post. Would love to know Chris’ (and others) thoughts on supplemental Greens.

    James Cipriani

  • Steve

    Great article Chris! I got the idea for using pumpkin in a smoothie from you when I’d see you make it at CP last year. I’ve been using it a lot the past couple weeks and love it. :) I like your pumpkin smoothie recipe but I’ve been cutting out dairy so I don’t use yogurt. Here’s my recipe that tastes pretty good:
    canned pumpkin
    vanilla protein powder
    walnuts
    almond milk
    almond butter
    ice
    spinach

    The spinach turns the whole smoothie green but as you mentioned you can’t taste it.

  • Christian

    I like vital greens. Have in morning and additionally before bed if under the weather. Doesn’t substitute whole foods obviously but when combined with a healthy diet I find it to have a considerable effect on my wellbeing. Like any supplement its good when you are busy but doesn’t come close to the real thing

  • http://www.djd-training.com Darron Donaldson

    Great piece. I know I don’t eat enough greens so some of this will come in handy!

  • scott

    Thanks. Is it possible to reach you, I need help. I am trying to change up our pregame meal, HS Football. The kids play friday night at 7, the team meal is at 3:40-4. They serve up pasta, mainly. The coach needs to see a plan from someone in the field. thanks

  • http://www.personalbestpersonaltraining.com kathy ekdahl

    Snacks- mini between meals- are often problematic for my fat loss clients because that is when they typically would reach for crackers, chips refined carbs/sugars. I tell them that whenever they are hungry between meals, have a veggie before anything else. Green or red peppers,cukes, carrots-all cut up in advance- or bought cut up for the lazy- can be dipped in humus or some other dip and are really satisfying. Stopping the snacking on crap makes a big difference! I take Juice PLus- a whole food supplement that is not just greens- and I open up the capsules and put them in my shakes for added veggies and fruits. Just a couple more tips…..

  • Justin

    Great article. Will pass on to Melissa.

  • martin

    Hi Eric

    the best stratagy for getting more vegetables into your diet is to process them through a cow or other animal.

  • Karen

    Since you mention PN’s Lean Eating Coaching Program, would anyone care to comment on this and/or other nutrition coaching programs/certifications you have done? I am considering the PN Coaching Program and a couple of others but would like to some real feedback before I take the plunge.

  • http://www.athleticrevolutionsouthshore.com Dave Gleason

    GREAT post! Do you know, by chance, if the Athletic Greens et al is Gluten free? It looks like it is but your feedback would be greatly appreciated..

    DG

  • http://athleticgreens.com Chris Ashenden

    Hey Dave,

    Great question. I am the most anti-gluten person around. We test each inbound ingredient, again at bulk powder, and again after packaging.

    Athletic Greens is gluten free, guaranteed.


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