In this post, I want to talk about why your next meal should start with veggies. But wait, you're saying, what does that even mean?
And why should veggies come first?
Let's start with a quick question: what veggies are you having at your next meal?
At least for most people.
Now, I bet if I asked you what protein you'll be eating at your next meal — chicken, beef, fish — you would have answered right away. That is, if you were planning to cook at home tonight.
But veggies? That’s harder for most folks.
Why we need to stop friend-zoning the veggies
If you're friend-zoning the veggies — always thinking about them last — you're not alone.
In fact, our whole culture is based on this bias.
And, oh how patiently they wait for us to wake up and realize that they're in fact the ones we should be swooning over instead of chicken and beef.
For years, veggies have been the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Well, after all these years, today’s their turn to walk down the aisle.
Because today is the day I’m encouraging you to put your veggies first.
Start with veggies, not protein
This is because for years – for most people – meal planning and prep starts with the protein.
Which is insane, because most doctors and nutrition experts recommend that a healthy diet should consist of only 10-25% protein. Yep, only 10-25%! In fact, most Americans are consuming way more protein than they actually need.
So where should the rest of the 80% come from? You guessed it: carbs – from veggies and fruits. And other healthy plant foods such as whole grains, as well as beans and legumes.
That's because the veggies and other plant foods are:
- High in disease-fighting, anti-inflammatory and hormone-balancing antioxidants and nutrients
- High in fiber for a happy digestive system and strong immune system
- Naturally low in calories, with zero cholesterol
What about those healthy fats that grab all the headlines these days? Those should make up about 10% of the diet, and they’re super easy to get in avocado, nuts and seeds.
So if you take this equation and apply it to meal planning, you wonder – why don’t we start with what should be the biggest part of our plate? The veggies?
If we did, your daily diet would look more like this:
- Healthy carbs: vegetables, starchy veggies, fruit, beans/legumes and whole grains: 70-80%
- Protein: 10-25%
- Healthy fats: 5-10%
Veggies: the hidden All Star
We don't start with veggies because our culture isn’t set up that way.
I mean, there aren’t any million dollar ad campaigns for kale or broccoli, because there’s no money to be made in veggies. Not Big Money, as there is to be made in the chicken, meat, egg, dairy and processed food industries.
So because the NBA All Star game is coming up this weekend, indulge me a little sports analogy…
Over the years, veggies have been relegated to being a fringe player. Someone who gets called up from the minor leagues on a 10-day contract — in this case, during new year’s resolution season. But once that particular health kick fizzles out, the contract ends and the veggies get sent back down to the minors.
“What happened?” broccoli wonders, “Didn’t they love the way I brought all the antioxidants, how I destroyed those cancer cells, how I fine-tuned the digestion?”
The truth is, our bodies probably loved it. But we were too distracted by the All Star with the multi-million dollar contract — the chicken, the beef or fish — even though they were coming back from an injury and weren’t playing their best.
This kid from the G League – broccoli — I mean, he hustled his ass off and played well. But he didn’t seem like All Star material. And so, we sent him back.
But then of course down the road, he gets picked up by another team, finds the right fit, lands that multi-million dollar contract… and gets a triple-double against us.
Veggies as your starting line-up
You see, broccoli is that diamond in the rough. That undrafted player with star potential.
We may not fully understand broccoli yet, or realize what it’s capable of. We might not be able to see all the intangibles it contributes day after day. But that doesn’t mean it’s not effective.
So let’s pretend you’re now the GM of your own fantasy wellness team.
Instead of drafting chicken first. Or beef. Or even salmon…
Start with the veggies: the broccoli, kale, green beans, cauliflower rice. Then add in beans and legumes to your starting line-up.
Then fill the bench with your whole grains.
At the end of the bench sits your protein and healthy fats. Important role players to be sure, but not starters. Don't worry, though, they’ll get playing time.
But they won’t start, and they won’t play the whole game. Instead, they’ll get a solid 10-12 minutes a game. Which is plenty enough for you to win the game.
The wellness game that is.
And isn’t that what this is all about? Winning? Why do we care what that looks like – that protein plays a supporting role and not the starting role?
Just because the protein-first mindset is what we're used to doesn't mean that it's a solid game plan.
So call up those veggies at your next meal. And let the winning begin.
Need some healthy recipe ideas?
Okay, okay, you say.
You're in. You want to make veggies part of your starting line-up. But where to start?
Here are a few veggie-packed recipes to help:
- Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Wraps
- Broccoli Soup with Ginger and Sesame
- Lentil Bolognese
- Brussels Sprout and Apple Salad
- Wild Rice and Edamame Salad
I hope you found today's post helpful. Let me know what you think by heading over to Instagram @thehealthycookingcoach— I'd love to hear from you.
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