Friday, March 11, 2011

The First Nutrition Post: Don't Be a Vegetable about Vegetables

I didn't know the best way to approach this subject. I am a numbers girl, so I could go on and on about the calculations involved in proper nutrition all day long. And although these things are very important,  I won’t make you read a mathematics essay. I’m sure one day soon I’ll bring the numbers into it, but for now, I’ll stick to the basics. I want to focus on rules that I live by and I've found work best for me in what I try to do. The reason I eat this way is because it takes/keeps the weight off while still giving me ample energy to get me through my runs and other workouts. As someone who burns over 7500 calories a week, I need all the fuel I can get without having any food hold me back.

I can't do all of this in one post. I tried, but there's just too much. I will go through the rules one at a time and post them in a series. It won't be too long until my next rule goes up on here; expect one within the next few days.

Something to note: if you're just starting a mission to get healthy, I don't expect you to listen to this and start following it immediately. As I will explain below, I didn't. Maybe you're smarter than I am, but I learned most of this stuff the hard way by trying to avoid all these things and do it my own way. Of course, I failed, then tried this, and POOF! Turns out everyone else was right. So if you choose not to listen, I completely understand. The only thing I ask is that you take longer than 23 years to figure it out. That's how long it took me.


Duh, right? I bet you haven’t had this drilled into your head since, well, you first realized you had a head. Well, if you’re like me and an alarmingly high number of people, you’ve never really listened to it. Growing up, I never ate any vegetables, and even fruit was rare. I lived in a Hell of processed foods. When I decided to lose weight and got a personal trainer at my gym, my personal trainer told me to eat fruits and vegetables, particularly vegetables.  The greener the better. I nodded my head and proceeded to never eat a vegetable. I figured I could lose a significant amount of weight and become an overall healthy person and still avoid vegetables.

Vegetables are gross. They’re yucky. They remind us of when we were a kid and our mothers or grandmothers made us eat the rest of our broccoli before we went out to play and we just hated every second of it.

Let’s face it; it was incredibly immature of me to whine to my personal trainer about how gross vegetables are and how if I ate a broccoli floret I would vomit everywhere and be so sick forever. Grown-ups eat vegetables because they’re healthy and they make you feel good. Period. Also, they won’t make you fat. As I recently told a coworker who asked what she should be eating, have you ever heard anyone talk about how they got fat from eating too much spinach? I haven’t. That’s because it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen because it’s healthy and it’s what grown-ups eat.

I had to grow up and face the music that not only was I going to have force down veggies, I was going to have to force down a ton of them. I started slowly and figured out what I liked, what was tolerable, and what I could never eat as long as I lived. By the way, it’s ok to put some veggies in that final column just so long as you have veggies in the first two columns. Veggies I can never eat as long as I live? Raw mustard and collard greens. I tried to make myself love these for about a month. Gross. I don’t even want to be in the same room with those greens.

The most important things to remember about vegetables is that you want them green, green, and greener. Broccoli, spinach, greens (if you can stomach them), and green beans are all great. Try to keep them as pure as possible, but I have been known to eat microwable broccoli steamers in a low-fat cheese sauce, just keep it moderate. Watch out for the starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, peas, and to an extent, carrots. Don’t make these the staple of your vegetable intake. When the scale won’t move and you don’t feel light as a feather, you can blame the starchy vegetables. Give them up and you’ll get an immediately scale shake. Easy as that.

And maybe I’m wrong about this one, but to me, vegetables are not something you eat for taste. You eat them because they make you feel good. They give you vitamins that not only help keep you from getting sick but also help you get through your day or power through a good run. Their fiber content helps you feel full without eating hundreds of empty calories that will do nothing but weigh you down and hold you back.  If you’re not eating a ton of vegetables, you’re doing something wrong.

As for fruits, they are sweet and delicious. When someone tells us to eat healthy snacks throughout the day, we tend to load up on fruits. I love them, too, but I proceed with caution. Fruits are loaded with sugar, and although it’s natural sugar, it is still sugar and if it isn’t burned off, it will stick on you. When I first met with my trainer, she told me never to eat bananas due to sugar content.  As someone who had zero good eating habits and didn’t eat food unless it tasted good, I looked to bananas as an easy way to get healthy nutrients into my diet. I was devastated when she told me never to eat them. The exchange with something like this:

PT: Let the bananas go. They’re too high in sugar.
Me: But I like them!
PT: I know. Everyone does. Let them go.

Thus began my on and off relationship with bananas. Sometimes I love them and I think they’re great for my regime, and other times I curse them for being high in sugar. I have found balance in only eating them with breakfast on days when I am running after the meal. They are the best fuel for me in the morning. But if I’m not running, that banana isn’t going on my plate. Other than bananas, most of my fruit comes in the morning so that I have an opportunity throughout the day to burn off as much of that sugar as possible. I eat a serving of raisins with my first snack of the day. Raisins not only provide good nutrients but are also full of fiber and help to keep me full. If I am doing a workout at night, I’ll throw in an apple with my dinner. Again, I do this ONLY if I know I’ll burn it off.

I get a lot of flack for criticizing fruits so much. It’s just that I know people who decide they are going to start eating healthy and only fall back on fruits. Yes, they’re healthy. Yes,. they’re better sources of sugar than a Twinkie. They’re unprocessed and sometimes even “organic.” It doesn't make them any less full of sugar. I love fruits and I eat them, but I make sure that I have an activity level that burns them off.


  1. Two large bananas = a snickers bar in calories. Best left to post workout nutrition.

    But I do love my carrots.

  2. i LOVE fruits and veggies, but my issue is portion sizes :/ just because something is healthy doesn't mean you can eat a million of it. that's my struggle...

  3. James--never been too into carrots. I can throw down spinach all day long though. Makes me feel like Popeye.

    Joanna--I can't overeat veggies. They fill me up so well that I don't get the urge to overeat. That's why I love them :)