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No More Veggie Excuses! Part 1 – But Vegetables Take Too Much Time

Feature, Healthy Eating | September 8, 2016

A smiling woman sitting down to eat a healthy green salad.
No More Veggie Excuses! Part 1 – But Vegetables Take Too Much Time Featured Image

But Vegetables Take Too Much Time! …and Other Adult Excuses to Not Eat Your Vegetables

Ok, all you grown adults out there – I’ve polled the TOP dietitians across Canada, and come up with some creative, and honest solutions to your vegetable complaints.

I’ll be honest. When an adult tells me they ‘don’t eat vegetables’, it makes me a little bit ornery.

Like, realllllly? There’s 400+ foods you’ve absolutely crossed off your list? You can’t seriously be sitting at the dinner table, whining about not wanting to eat your vegetables? Can you?

Don’t look sheepish. I know you can, and you do. But WHY?

Why do people struggle SO MUCH with getting in enough vegetables?

Whitney, from Whitty Nutrition likes to call this the ‘veggie dilemma’. We all KNOW we should be eating more fruit and veg, but X, Y, and Z prevents us from doing it. Whether it’s food preference, not enough time, a lack of ideas, or a negative past experience with food – most of us aren’t getting enough.

Another dietitian said to me – Andrea, I call bullshit. This isn’t about fruit and veg. It’s about something more. Choosing fruit and vegetables is about making an everyday food decision – not just going by taste. It’s about thinking of food as fuel, and recognizing that making a healthy choice is good for your body – not just about immediate gratification and taste/sensory pay-off.

It got me thinking… was this really any different than those who develop disordered eating behaviors around eating junk foods – the ‘oh I don’t eat that’, ‘food is part of my identity’ mentality?

When I thought about it, I realized, no, it’s really no different and should take equal amounts of time and effort to work through the barriers to eating more vegetables – along with coming up with creative strategies on how people can overcome those engrained food identities and really learn to love this awesome, super versatile food group.

The Vegetable Solution

I touched base with the most AMAZING group of RD’s across Canada. And, funny enough, it sparked a friendly debate! Is it appropriate to trick people into eating more vegetables, or should we be working on the actual root of their aversions? Should people realize they need to (NEED TO!) eat more vegetables, or should we placate them with lowering the bar, hiding half a serving of veggies here and there?

We’re going to talk about both. Why? Because different solutions will work for different people, and frankly I like both approaches (read: I like to be sneaky sneaky). I personally take great delight in people loving my cooking when I’ve hidden SO MANY HEALTHY THINGS in it. But at the same time, we should also tackle the REAL REASONS you avoid vegetables, and work to reduce those barriers preventing you from eating more of them!

Remember, this takes willingness, matched with a drive for a little nutrition adventure – a need to shake things up in your life, and begin the journey to become healthier. It’s not about mowing down on 20+ servings of raw veg a day. It’s about beginning to fit them into your lifestyle, and developing healthy habits that make it EASY to include them in your day.

I’ve taken the top 5 Veggie Excuses out there, and given you the TOP Dietitian tips on how to combat them. I’ve had to split up the posts, because there was SO MUCH good information. So consider September month of the vegetables – the posts will be dripped out slowly to teach YOU how to get more vegetables in!

Top 5 Excuses to Not Eat Your Vegetables

Veggie Excuse 1 – Vegetables take too much time

Veggie Excuse 2 – Vegetables are boring

Veggie Excuse 3 – I hate/won’t eat/despise (insert veggies here)

Veggie Excuse 4 – I like (insert junk food here) better

Veggie Excuse 5 – It’s hard to eat 5+ servings of vegetables a day!

Vegetables take too much time - and other excuses to not eat your vegetables - DEBUNKED! | Ignite Nutrition Inc. Andrea Hardy, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Veggie Excuse #1 – They take too much time

Andy De Santis says he always has been most likely to encounter people who avoid vegetables purely out of a lack of desire to prepare them, rather than a specific disdain for them.

I completely agree with Andy, and personally, rarely find veggies time consuming. A minute, maybe two TOPS for the majority of my veggie prep is all it really takes. However – they do require slightly more effort than say, opening a bag of potato chips. I really think it’s the effort and lack of planning that feeds into our drive to take the path of least resistance – towards no vegetables.

So let’s think of this as life-hacking 101 for eating more vegetables. Everyone is OBSESSED with life-hacking, making the most of your time with the least amount of effort. Let’s talk about how we can apply it to eating more vegetables.

Tip 1: Buy pre-cut, pre washed vegetables for cooking.

Andrea Falcone is totally on board with this advice. Are you guilty of buying veg, only to throw it away because it’s gone bad and you’ve done absolutely NOTHING with it?

She sees clients wasting food that takes more time to prepare all the time!

Her advice? When able, buy your vegetables already cut up, washed, etc. for those busy nights, or time consuming recipes, shaving prep time off really makes it feel like a win.

Andrea LOVES to buy pre-cut butternut squash for roasting. I’d have to say I’m with her. There is nothing I dread more than cutting up squash – it takes SO MUCH muscle!

Cheryl from Sweet Spot Nutrition suggests keeping pre-washed spinach or another tender dark leafy green on hand. It’s mild-tasting, convenient, and wilts quickly, so it’s easy to tuck into whatever’s cooking, from scrambled eggs to pizza, from pasta to wraps. It’s a great source of many micronutrients people are often lacking – potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, iron, and more.

I personally LOVE this tip. Whatever is leftover at the end of the week and is starting to turn, I throw in the freezer and toss into my smoothies or soups.

Tip 2: Make the Healthiest Choice, the Easiest Choice

Chelsey Love  reminds her clients to keep vegetables IN sight and IN mind. We eat more of something if we see it, and if it’s convenient.

Keep a fruit bowl on the counter, with fruits that are already washed and ready to eat. When fruit is just as convenient as the crackers in the pantry, they have a greater chance of being eaten!

I personally chop up all my raw veg after grocery shopping on Sundays, and make a BEAUTIFUL veggie platter. It takes 5 minutes, and I have veggies all week. I can put it out before meals to encourage a bit of extra vegetable intake, and keep it at eye-level in the fridge, so when my husband goes on the hunt for a snack, it’s the first thing he sees.

Whitney, from Whitty Nutrition put this tip in a really cool way. She calls it ‘mindless vegetable eating’. It takes mindless eating – a thing we try to get clients to curb, and replace it with a positive habit – snacking on veg.

“Having vegetables cut-up and ready to snack on is only helpful if you are actually EATING said vegetables.”

She says: ‘I find clients are often frustrated when they don’t see results and they tell me – “But I bought all sorts of fruits and vegetables with my groceries this week! My cart was full of fresh produce!” Upon further inspection, I commonly find that client ended up throwing 50% of this beautiful produce in the trash and I have to remind them … “It doesn’t count unless you actually eat it!”

‘I’ve seen many wide-eyed faces when they realize that, looking back, they didn’t actually eat as many vegetables as they thought they had!’

To combat this, I encourage my clients to have sliced veggies packed for their commute home every day or as an ‘appetizer’ while they prepare dinner for the family. 1 cup of chopped vegetables = 2 servings and can easily be eaten mindlessly when focused on another task such as driving or prepping dinner. Many times clients can get these extra servings in without having to try very hard and they also get a lesson in just how easy it is to eat without thinking … only this time they added extra fibre, nutrients, and antioxidants to their day instead of the usual sugary, fatty, salty foods we often eat without noticing just how much we are consuming (think cookies, chips, or many of the other items found in the world of snack foods).’

Tip 3: Keep it simple!

We’ve talked a lot about raw veg so far, but a few RD’s I polled actually prefer to shy away from pushing the raw vegetables, especially when their clients are first starting to incorporate any vegetables at all!

Clients have told me point blank, they refuse to eat celery sticks at the mere mention of adding more vegetables to their day. Who said ANYTHING about raw celery sticks anyway?

It’s a common misconception that raw, plain veg is the only way to go.

Andrea Falcone says it perfectly. ‘I think most people fear that as a dietitian, I am going to tell them to eat something their palate doesn’t like, or that they have a bad association with.  Why would I do that?  Such a BIG misconception’. For most people, that might be starting with foods and flavor profiles you like, prepared in a simple way.

Andy De Santis teaches his clients that deliciously cooked vegetables can be ready in 5 minutes flat. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and brussel sprouts, can all be baked at between 350-375 F for 5-7 minutes.

He finds that most people actually enjoy these but end up avoiding cooking them because they don’t know how or they do not know of alternatives to boiling or frying which may be more labor intensive.

My personal advice? FLAVOUR is key. I baked carrots just last week, and had a crowd of 12 raving about them. I took the credit, (of course), but all I literally did was toss them in olive oil, and sprinkle them with McCormicks roasted red pepper seasoning and a bit of pepper. Yes, they took about 25 minutes to bake, but they were demolished and were the most talked about item on the dinner plate that night!

Other Flavour Boosters:

  • A sprinkle of old parmesan (goes AMAZING on zucchini, cauliflower, etc)
  • Diced, canned jalapenos. I love to roast corn with these delicious, slightly acidic, spicy slivers of goodness. A bit of cumin and lemon added – and you have yourself a TON of flavor!
  • Try new seasonings! Garlic, onion, ginger a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of pepper can transform vegetables. I’m also a big fan of the pre-mixed spices – like that roasted red pepper spice, and the Greek one.

The key to making vegetables that don’t take a ton of time? Planning, and quick-preparation.

Pick a vegetable for each day of the week when you go grocery shopping. Take 5 minutes to plan what you’re going to eat, and plan your vegetables around that!

When I chop up vegetables for salad, I make enough for two days. I’m already there, and my cutting board is out – I may as well dice up a few extra carrots and peppers, and then the day of, toss them with leafy greens.

I do the same with vegetables I’m going to roast. I may as well clean and cut two heads of broccoli at the same time, and make half for supper one night, let’s say in a stir fry – while the other half gets baked with a bit of parmesan the night following. Easy peasy.

If you incorporate this as a habit, spending the two minutes, every few days to cut up your veg will help to save time, and makes the healthiest choice, the easiest choice.

Andy’s story on habit development in his own family is gold:

“My number one go-to strategy in these situations is to suggest leafy baby greens. They require absolutely no preparation time and can be purchased and transported in bulk with ease. I am well known at family events to bring jumbo size boxes of spring mix and portion them out into small plates in order to hand them around to family members. When it is placed right in front of them, already portioned, the work is done for and eating is the easy part. I will often also slice up either tomato or bell peppers and place them into this makeshift salad so that it provides two different colored vegetables in one easy to eat bowl!

If you ever see someone in the streets or subways of Toronto eating spinach, there is a decent chance that will be me!

This strategy has worked very well for me over the years when it comes to increasing the vegetable intake of both myself and the people close to me in the context of busy lifestyles and time constraints. I find it really opens up their eyes as to how easy it can be to prepare a very healthy serving of veggies.

When I first started doing it, no one wanted it, but now they expect and look forward to it and many of them carry the habit over to home.”

How simple is THAT?

Ok so we’ve talked about the time excuse. I like to say you have to name it to tame it – so let’s call it what it is – laziness and lack of habit.

I want you to choose ONE of these tips, and start incorporating it in daily. Next week, we tackle the ‘Vegetables are BORING’ excuse. Can’t wait to share with you!

2 responses to “No More Veggie Excuses! Part 1 – But Vegetables Take Too Much Time”

  1. Great tips Andrea! I only chop what I’m using for one particular meal, instead of the whole thing and saving it for another day. After a decadent summer, it’s time to get back to the business of clean eating!

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