If you’ve been following my Lean Eating journey, you’ve probably noticed that I’m a little hung up on food waste. That’s probably not a coincidence. Anyone who knows me in real life knows that apart from being a lifter, I’m also a bit of a hippie. As an example: I’ll be moving in a few months and it was a non-negotiable requirement of mine that my new apartment offer composting services. I’m the type of person who believes that the dietary warfare between vegetarians and the Paleo crowd is simply a waste of energy, since both diets are rooted in a philosophy of sustainable food practices.
When presented with my latest Lean Eating habit, to eat 5 servings of veggies everyday, I scoffed. I was a vegetarian for 12 years! I thought I could just go about my life, knowing that I eat my veggies and sleep easy at night, knowing I’ve got my diet on lock. Except… I signed up for Lean Eating because I don’t have my diet keyed in, and my mother used to joke that I was a vegetarian who didn’t eat veggies. Apparently not much has changed because the day that I was presented with this habit, I only counted 3 measly servings of veggies in everything I ate. Oops.
In many ways, this habit has been revealing for me. What I think I am doing and I what I am actually doing are two different things. A couple of slices of cucumber on my lunch-time sandwich everyday doesn’t add a whole of nutritional value to my diet. And saying that I eat a lot of veggies is meaningless without a quantifiable measurement of what “a lot” is. It’s like all of those anti-dieting gurus who tell women to eat sweets in moderation. While I appreciate and agree with the sentiment, if you’ve never eaten “in moderation” then that advice essentially boils down to permission to eat things like cookies.
Luckily, while attempting to increase my vegetable intake, I received my monthly Good Food Box. Since it’s peak harvesting season, I knew I’d get some good local veggies and it turned out to be a steal this month. For $15, I received:
- 2lbs Onions
- 3lbs Carrots
- 2 Ears of corn on the cob (*Technically a grain, not a vegetable)
- 2 bunches of Swiss chard
- 1 Head of Romaine lettuce
- 1 Head of cauliflower
- 1 Head of celery
- 2 Red peppers
- 1 Squash
- 1 Cucumber
- 1 Tomato
- 6 Bananas
- 4 Apples
- 3 Oranges
- 2 Nectarines
That’s a lot of produce, especially for someone who has recently come to the realization that they don’t eat many veggies. My natural response was to buy into Precision Nutrition’s appropriately timed “game”: eliminate all produce waste by finding ways to incorporate more veggies into my meals. I really committed to this idea. It’s entirely do-able, it saves me money and I always say that I hate wasting food, but while giving away a case of Diet Dr Pepper caused me an anxiety attack, throwing away the moldy cauliflower and the wilted greens in the bottom of my fridge have always seemed like a natural part of life. How backwards is that?
Anyway, the good news in this entire story is that it’s actually very easy to eat five servings of veggies once you make a conscious effort. Precision Nutrition came up with a list of ways for me to eat my veggies and I said, “I can do that.” and made some small adjustments to my existing meal rotation. In fact, this transition seems to have happened so naturally that when I stopped to ask myself what I’d replaced in my diet by eating more vegetables, I struggled to come up with an answer.
First, I’ve lost the piece of toast that I used to eat at breakfast. I’ve started drinking a smoothie for breakfast in the mornings, which I never thought I’d find satisfying. When I was really overweight, I could down an extra-large Booster Juice smoothie as a snack and feel hungry 15 minutes later; all they added to my diet was additional sugar and calories. And after my Paleo stint, I really felt like I wanted to eat “real food” instead of protein powder. But lately, I’ve been scrambling around in the mornings and I’ve discovered that throwing all of that real food – including fruit, vegetables and a healthy fat – into a blender with some whey, actually makes for a great meal that requires only minimal effort in the morning. I guess I’m not quite a fully-converted chef just yet.
I’ve improved my afternoon snack. Not too long ago, Lifterly made the remark that her food quality had suffered as a result of calorie counting. I could really relate to that sentiment. When I was calorie counting, I considered a bag of m&ms to be an acceptable afternoon snack, as long as I stayed within my calorie budget. Instead, I’ve been eating a nectarine and a slice of beef jerky or veggies and hummus with cottage cheese and cocoa powder. As a side note: I bought organic, fair trade cocoa powder and when compared to the no name stuff I was using before…. well, there is no comparison really. Cocoa powder is my new go-to-example of where quality matters. I can’t say I’m missing the m&ms.
Finally, my meat consumption has been drastically reduced and the tree-hugger in me is pretty pleased with this result. I have a “Vegetarian Before Six” thing that’s happened unintentionally. While I’m still eating a serving of lean protein at every meal, including eggs, cottage cheese and whey, there seems to be a lot less sausage in my diet. I think maybe I’ve become a flexitarian?
What’s really weird about all of this is that I don’t miss what I’ve lost. To be honest, I’m having a lot of fun playing this produce game. I’m so focused on how to incorporate more vegetables into my meals that I don’t feel like anything is missing. But something is missing: it’s all of those wilted vegetables in the bottom of my fridge. Most of my Good Food Box is gone. When I did my grocery shopping for the week, I realized I needed to buy more produce because all I had left was a squash. Everything else went straight into my belly, and not into the garbage. Maybe the compost bin at my new apartment will be seeing a lot less action than I’d thought.