I remember my mom trying to feed me a lot (or at least, it seemed like a lot) of vegetables when I was a kid, and she would always give me something like "They are good for eyesight". And you know what, I would really try and munch on a lot of vegetables - ladysfinger, for example. Took them down by the handful each time. Seems like a part of Parenting 101 coz I see my sister doing it too. A good kid eats lots of vegetables. Hmm. But what about us? Are we being good kids? I don't think so. As a society, we consume a woefully inadequate amount of vegetables. This leads to us being under-nourished, as a lot of valuable minerals and vitamins are in short supply. I don't want to talk about protein, low-carb, high-carb, slow-carb, fat loss or anything of that sort. It's just about vegetables, and how much are you really eating.
Where are the veggies in this? Comes to ~200g per day, maybe. There's no way we can get the required nutrients in that much alone. Wanna see some numbers to figure out how much you might need? Personally, about 600-800g works well for me. For a predominantly vegetarian society, we do not seem to be eating too many vegetables. Even if you are a meat-eater, does this mean your vegetable intake is gonna increase? In fact, it could be reducing your veggie intake even further. You say you eat another way? Sure, you probably do. India is as culturally diverse as it gets. So, here's some homework for you. Log one week of food intake, and see how much vegetables you are eating - will give you a benchmark. ### Stating the obvious
We need to eat more vegetables. A common response I hear from clients, when they misunderstand this point is > Does this mean I should eat salads? - BORING! They don't fill me up.
First up salads are not boring. Definitely not. But that's missing the point. There's so many delicious meals you can cook that are not salads. What's the main difference between a salad and your current meal - grains. This is what is filling you up. Be it white rice/roti/pasta/bread or whatever, it forms the centrepiece of your plate. And this is not a good thing. ### Grain dominance
Hey, this is how we've always eaten as a society, right
True, very true. For the most part. But let's dive a bit deeper into this. Think about the life of a typical working male 50 years ago. A lot of back breaking work. A farmer was up at the crack of down, doing a lot of manual labour with very little machinery. Housewives had their hands full - washing dishes, washing clothes, pumping water, carrying water to the house - just to name a few. Phew! Their energy requirements was very high. And they had very little junk food. They did eat RealFood already. While they got a decent amount of vegetables and were not under-nourished, they still needed to make up the calorie deficit. And they did this by basing their meal on a calorie-rich food - grains. Today, our energy requirements are a lot lesser. But we still follow the same template for eating. > Basing our meals on grains is a solution to an age-old problem that does not exist today. We need to evolve to a new way of eating, based on our requirements today.
The action plan
The plate-inversion 4-week plan This is strictly about getting you to eat more vegetables, and not about balancing your plate etc. One step at a time eh. Let's pick a person - Anjali. She eats, say, 15 tablespoons of rice for lunch. One cup with sambar, one cup with curd. And she has 4 large tablespoons of vegetables along with this, and say some appalam/chips. For dinner, she has 5 rotis, along with some dal. #### Week 1
Lunch: Cut 2 tbsp of rice. Replace with 4 tablespoons of another vegetable. Dinner: Cut 1 roti. Add in a subzi along wtih the dal. #### Week 2
Lunch: Cut 2 more tbsp of rice. Add in one more tbsp of each vegetable. We are at 67% the rice we used to eat, and about 250% the veggies we used to be at. Dinner: Cut 1 more roti. Increase the amount of subzi you are eating. #### Week 3
Lunch: Reduce the number of appalams by half. Time to drop 2 more tbsp of rice. Add in a fruit to consume post-lunch. Or have some carrots and cucumbers to munch on before lunch. Dinner: Yep, you know the drill. Cut 1 more roti. And add in some raita with a different veggie each time. #### Week 4
Lunch: Time to drop the appalam. And 2 more tbsp of rice. You are now at <50% of your original start. and let's add one more vegetable, but in the form of keerai/kootu. This is not exactly in solid form, and much easier to consume than more solid food. Dinner: You can stick at this amount of rotis, or eventually go down to zero. If you are trying to go gluten-free, definitely bring it to zero, and use rice as a filler if you need to. Increase the amount of veggies and raita, even if you are not dropping your rotis. At the end of 4 weeks, we've come down from 15tbsp of rice and 4 tbsp of veggies to 7tbsp of rice and 5tbsp each of 2 veggies, plus one kootu/keerai. And for dinner, we are down to 20% of our roti consumption, and have added in two sources of vegetables. Pretty neat eh, for just one month of slow work. ### Some caveats
Do this in whatever manner that makes sense to you. I recommend doing this gradually, rather than going cold turkey. While that might be easier, mentally, for some - it might not be the best method physiologically. You could face problems like bloating, feeling a bit more fatigued than usual, having digestive issues etc. Keep that in mind. Ask me more questions on this. And try to buy organic fruits and vegetables. The amount of pesticide use in our country is crazy! If these are gonna be the main point of attention in your plate in the near future, you want to make sure there are no ill effects out of this. Eat what is in season, and make sure you mix up the veggies you are eating. Don't keep eating potatoes 5 days a week coz you love potatoes. ### thinkRealFood
These are not the only ways to get more vegetables into your diet. The point of this post is to get you to think about why you aren't eating enough vegetables and the need for you to fix this situation. For all other things about nutrition and my philosophy on it, attend thinkRealFood!