Thursday, October 10, 2019

Published 7:57 PM by with 0 comment

Learn to Eat Vegetables and Improve Your Diet

I grew up eating no vegetables, lots of hot dogs, and lots of sweets. Over the past decade or so, I've achieved what I think is a healthy diet. This is hard for people, so I thought it might help someone if I explained how I personally did it.

Summary

The basic method I used was change something minor, keep it for 2 months or so if it wasn't terrible, and repeat once I was used to that change.


Starting point

This was a typical list of meals for me at the beginning:

Breakfast:
  • large bowl of milk + lucky charms or trix
Lunch:
  • bologna and mayo on white bread
  • doritos
  • oatmeal cream pie
  • 12 ounce soft drink
Dinner:
  • quarter-pounder combo meal from Wendy's
Dessert:
  • snickers bar
I did this for most of my life until I was 21ish. I've steadily tried to improve my diet since then.


Examples of small changes

Here are some of the changes that I tried, kept for 2 months, and now just have as part of my normal diet:
  • Cook something instead of getting fast food...anything. I started with spaghetti that was just tomato sauce, ground beef, and white pasta. 
  • Replace white pasta with whole wheat pasta. 
  • Add a bell pepper to the spaghetti sauce.
  • Add a zucchini to the spaghetti sauce.
  • Replace the 12 ounce soft drink with a 7.5 ounce soft drink.
  • Replace the 7.5 ounce soft drink with 100 calories of dark chocolate.
  • Cut the cereal portion in half at breakfast and eat a banana.
  • Replace the cereal portion with a handful of nuts.
  • Replace white bread with whole wheat bread.
  • Add spinach to sandwiches.
  • Replace mayo with avocado.
  • Learn other recipes. An example is jambalaya that's just Zatarain's mix and a pound of sausage.
  • Add a bell pepper to the Zatarain's mix.
  • Add more peppers (e.g., some jalapenos).
  • Replace half the sausage with shrimp.
  • Replace the Zatarain's mix with brown rice, green onion, and peppers.
  • Replace half the rice with shredded cauliflower.
  • Replace snickers bar for dessert with a fun size snickers bar and an apple.
  • Eat half as many chips and add baby carrots.
None of these are really impactful on their own. They really add up once you make 50 or so of them though, and each one is really simple.

One other huge thing...meal-prepping helps so much. I cook 3-4 meals for the whole family every Sunday evening. No one wants to come home and cook every night. By cooking in bulk once or twice a week, you can greatly lower the overhead of eating better.


Learning to like vegetables

This part will depend on your personal preferences. For me, I hated all vegetables except for mashed potatoes and corn (I thought they counted as vegetables). The order that I adopted them using the 2 month rule described above went:
  • pasta sauce (just Ragu traditional for example)
  • onions added to burgers
  • onions added to almost anything that makes sense
  • lettuce added to burgers
  • garlic added to things like spaghetti
  • red bell peppers shredded into food
  • all bell peppers shredded into food
  • spinach, strawberry, and banana smoothies
  • spinach and/or lettuce added to sandwiches
  • baby carrots with peanut butter
  • baby carrots by themselves
  • peas and carrots in Asian food
  • broccoli in Asian food
  • broccoli in casseroles
  • broccoli and cheese
  • zucchini added to Asian food
  • zucchini added to almost anything that makes sense
  • spinach and/or lettuce with chicken
  • spinach, carrots, bell peppers, with chicken
  • cabbage added to Asian food
The most important thing that helped was using a food processor to chop up vegetables. This was and still is essential and it's my most-used kitchen appliance.

Another thing that helped was drinking V-8 fusion. It's high in sugar, but it helped me get used to the bitterness that I tasted when eating vegetables.

Another thing that helped was adding butter and seasoning to vegetables like broccoli and carrots, then slow phasing out the butter and seasoning.

A final thing that helped was powering through for a while. I really hated carrots when I started trying to eat them, and it took a couple of weeks of eating them at lunch every day before I was fine with it.

Now, after over a decade of this, I actually enjoy adding tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, zucchini, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, kale, and peas to many meals. I can tolerate eating salads or a side of broccoli and cheese. I still cannot stand some vegetables (e.g., brussel sprouts and eggplant).


Current diet

A typical list of meals for me now is:

Breakfast:
  • banana
  • handful of almonds
Lunch:
  • chicken, broccoli, and brown rice casserole
  • small orange
  • half of a dark chocolate and almond bar (72% cocoa)
Dinner:
  • salmon with lemon juice and pepper
  • handful of peanuts
  • spinach
  • apple
Dessert:
  • grapes and almonds
The general model is:
  • fruits, nuts, and dark chocolate for snacks and desserts
  • avocado oil for cooking and olive oil for dressings
  • fish (trout and salmon primarily), shellfish, nuts, and chicken for fats and proteins
  • whole wheat grains, brown rice, etc. instead of the white counterparts
  • vegetables as often as possible, and particularly heavy on leafy ones (e.g., spinach)
  • occasional alcoholic drinks
  • limited red meat and dairy
  • sweets, soft drinks, and processed meats as rarely as possible
It's pretty close to the MIND diet, but I eat more fruit than it seems to advise.


How expensive is this?

Typical prices per serving where I shop (HEB in Austin, TX)...

inexpensive:
  • peanuts: $0.17
  • bananas: $0.25
  • brown rice: $0.07
  • whole wheat pasta: $0.14
  • (frozen) broccoli: $0.22
  • zucchini: $0.25
  • tomato sauce; $0.28
  • whole wheat bread: $0.10
  • romaine lettuce: $0.25
moderately expensive:
  • spinach; $0.40
  • apples: $0.60
  • peppers: $0.60
  • oranges: $0.40
  • almonds: $0.40
  • grapes: $0.50
  • dark chocolate: $0.85
  • baby carrots: $0.50
expensive:
  • salmon: $2.50
  • shrimp: $2.00
  • chicken: $1.25
  • riced cauliflower: $1.00 (can make this yourself but I'm lazy)


Conclusion

There really isn't a trick. Just make a small change until it becomes a habit, and repeat. Everyone's path to it will be different. The general principles I've tried to stick to are 'more vegetables, fruits, fish, and nuts' and 'fewer processed meats, sweets, and fried things'. I also try to keep costs low so lots of peanuts, whole wheat pasta, and frozen vegetables. I likely still get too much sugar, but I get a huge amount of fiber so it's maybe ok?

If anyone wants me to post sample meal-prep recipes that I've liked, just ask in the comments.



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