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We know eating tons of veggies is an integral part of creating positive health outcomes and body composition results. Whether you have goals to get leaner, stronger or to simply feel better, consuming a variety of vegetables on a daily basis is a requirement. They pack tons of fibre, vitamins, minerals and water and are considered volume foods which means that we can eat a high volume of vegetables to help us feel full without adding a lot of calories to our diet.
In the house I grew up in we ate lots of vegetables on a daily basis. My Dad was the chef and while he cooked very healthily for us, the veggies were plain. Butter, salt and pepper were the extent of what we had for toppings and we often ate steamed kale or boiled carrots without anything on them. The great outcome was that I got used to the taste of fresh, local vegetables as a kid.
In my early 20’s when I was figuring out how to eat well and cook for myself, I often made veggies the way my Dad had prepared them for us…without much else for flavouring. Of course this is a great strategy if you find it satisfying. And this is the trap that ‘clean, healthy eating’ can get us into: we eat plain veggies and lean proteins without much added taste to stay clean and there is something left to be desired. We are much more likely to snack in between meals, overeat ‘treat’ foods when feelings of deprivation or dissatisfaction build up and this undoes much of what we are trying to achieve from eating healthy in the first place.
I think the challenge is not only for each of us to eat more vegetables, but to enjoy eating more vegetables because we’ve got healthy, tasty and satisfying ways of preparing them. Remember this is not about absolutes, it is about living in reality. If eating plain vegetables with no olive oil, capers, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese or spices is the cleanest way of eating but we can’t maintain it because we feel unsatisfied, then it is not a realistic strategy moving forward.
My husband and I eat tons of vegetables each week, but my skills for preparing them have improved greatly since the early days of grilling plain zucchini on my George Foreman grill in second year university. We eat curried cauliflower and feta, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and sautéed ginger greens. The best part is that adding some calories in the form of sauce or cheese helps to prevent searching in the cupboard for something after.
Here are five cookbooks I turn to regularly for inspiration in making my veggies taste amazingly satisfying. I’m still a purist in the sense that sometimes what I really do want is steamed kale with butter, salt and pepper, but these collections of recipes will help you to increase your veggie intake and feel the opposite of deprived.