You’re proactive when it comes to your calendar, scheduling times to spend with friends, projects you’ll do at work and the vacation you’ll enjoy- why wouldn’t you do the same thing with the food you eat every day?
Before I started to strive for five I would dread cooking and would respond to the grumbling in my stomach by grabbing whatever was easiest and most convenient- usually a granola bar or some type of carb. Occasionally this would be an apple or banana but more often than not it was something other than fruit. The problem with this (for me) was that I was just mindlessly trying to fuel my body without actually thinking about the type of fuel I was putting into it! I love bread, pasta, baked goods- you name the carb & I’ll slather it up with butter- so it has always been difficult for me to either give these up completely like on the South Beach Diet or Body for Life. It was torture not to eat bread and spaghetti!
When I started strive for five I realized that I had to think about what I was eating a lot more than I normally did. I would mentally scan through my meals during the day to count the servings of fruit/veggies I’d consumed and then it became easy to make food choices after that because I was motivated to reach my goal. I started thinking more about what I was eating and this helped me to have a practice of anticipating when I would fit in my next serving of fruits/veggies. This also helped at night when I was tired & had less self-discipline of what I ate. I was less likely to overeat at night because I had eaten whole pieces of fruit or veggies all day- high fiber items that kept me full longer than a granola bar or crackers and were more nutritious too.
When you set a goal like this for yourself it becomes like a fun challenge to be more creative how you can work fruit and veggies into your diet rather than a chore to whip out a meal. I know every body is different but it’s medically documented that keeping a food journal- or in this case being accountable and mindful of what you’re eating helps with weightloss. Here are my “top five for five”; some of the easiest ways I’ve found to get my five fruits or veggies a day and have a healthy outlook on food.
- Eat fruit or veggies with breakfast. I’ve felt like this starts the day right & helps me begin with working towards my goal. Whether it’s bananas sliced on cereal, raisins in oatmeal or scrambled eggs with some sliced peaches on the side, the fiber helps to keep me full and fueled as I begin my day. I’ve really liked eating omelets with peppers, onions and mushrooms to get a serving of veggies and having some fruit on the side too. If you don’t have time in the morning to make an omelet consider whipping up some of these- Veggie Quiche cups easy to make and they keep in the fridge! Really, you could throw any kind of veggie or cheese into these & just use normal eggs. I made these when I was doing South Beach & I still like them because they’re convenient & healthy.
- Plan ahead. When I would drive home from Grand Valley State University when I began working for InterVarsity Christian fellowship as a campus minister I would drive through what I named “the gauntlet.”
I would be hungry, exhausted and emotionally spent and as I drove past Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s their siren song of salty, greasy, cheap food called to this nutritionally wayward pirate. I’d find myself ordering a ton of food because, hey, it is a value meal after all, wolfing it down in the car and then going to sleep 1/2 an hour later. There isn’t anything wrong eating food late at night according to my smarty-pants sister in law Rachel who researched this medical myth in her book Don’t Swallow Your Gum!
The problem isn’t eating at night- it’s eating when you’re so tired and hungry that it’s too difficult to exercise self-restraint! Now if I’m going out to run errands, will be taking a long drive or will be in an all-day meeting, I tuck a bag of almonds, dried fruit or an apple into my bag to eat later when I feel like I could eat a horse. That way I won’t just wolf down what’s in front of me or the cheeseburger thats forever tempting me. This has really helped working with college students where there is ALWAYS a piece of pizza or cake that’s being offered to you! I had to realize “hey- I’m not 19 anymore & sure don’t have the metabolism I used to!”
- Work it in everywhere: Like I mentioned in my first post about this- my goal was to add more fruits and veggies to my diet- not cut out everything that was “bad” for me. You can easily add in veggies to almost anything you’re making:Making mac & cheese from the blue box? Steam some broccoli to throw in! Real Simple magazine has this awesome recipe for mac & cheese with cauliflower that I really liked this past winter when I was craving comfort food. Dave and I like to make pita pizzas for an easy week-day meal- pita bread with spaghetti sauce & cheese and whatever toppings we have in the fridge. Throw a 1/2 cup of sauteed peppers, mushrooms, onions, spinach or whatever toppings you like & you can get at least 1/2 of a serving of veggies this way! Toast the bread first to make sure it doesn’t get soggy from the sauce, pop it in the oven at 350 and let it cook until the cheese melts to your liking. The other night we had ramen noodles for dinner because we had sore throats & wanted soup- not exactly the healthiest choice but I still got my serving of veggies because we steamed some cauliflower, carrots & celery to throw in the soup.
- Mix it up: Variety is the spice of life! I once read that Jennifer Aniston ate the same salad everyday for lunch while she was on the cast of Friends.
I could never do this even if it did promise me her svelte thighs and toned arms! We all get in a boring routine of things so it helps to browse ways to mix it up. I just got a recipe for a turkey-apple panini from the Michigan Apple association when I went apple picking this past weekend. Here is a similar recipe- open-faced turkey apple sandwich at epicurious.com- I love that name :). If that sounds gross to you, just think about the fancy-schmancy restaurants that serve salads with ham, gorgonzola cheese and pears. You can make your own fancy sandwich or salad at home! Having a good variety of veggies and fruits at home helps with this. I also found having different kinds of salad-dressing I could use as sauce helped with this too- asian sesame dressing works great over chopped cabbage for a quick salad, sweet vidalia onion dressing is yummy on a sweet-savory sandwich or salad like the one above!
- Don’t stress about the fat. I used to rationalize that it was better to eat a granola bar than some carrots and dip because the ranch dressing had too much fat in it. I didn’t think about the fact that the carrots were high in fiber, low calorie & that if I looked at the recommended portion size of dressing on the back of the bottle, I was actually eating less dressing than the average portion size of 2 TBSP. So, 4 carrot sticks = 15 calories, 2 TBSP ranch = 180 for a total of 195 calories. An average granola bar is anywhere from 120-200 calories. And let’s face it people- we all go for the chocolate chip granola bars when left with a choice between that and a raisin granola bar 🙂 My philosophy is; better to eat broccoli with cheese sauce than no broccoli at all! At least you are getting the fiber and nutrients this way. I know everyones body is different & I’ve learned that I need to watch my intake of refined carbs to feel good all around. This is what worked for me- it may not work for you.
What have been some creative ways that you’ve worked in more fruits and veggies into your meals recently? Dave made a great spaghetti sauce recently & threw in some summer squash, mushrooms and eggplant. It was so yummy!