We all know we should be eating more vegetables...Here’s how to actually do it.

There still remains a lot of debate in the nutrition world. Paleo or vegan? What ratio of macronutrients is optimal?  Couple this with the powerful lobby influence the food and agricultural industries have on government regulatory bodies like the USDA, and it’s no wonder we live in a society of confused eaters. Yet, there is one indisputable recommendation that ALL nutrition experts agree on, and that is the power of increasing vegetable intake. Despite this being the most unequivocal piece of nutrition advice out there, most of us consistently fail to meet the recommended daily dose.

There are many compelling reasons to eat your vegetables. For example, the gut microbiome ( the microbial population that lives in our GI tract) and its impact on human health is THE hot topic in the scientific and medical community. Every day there seems to be a new study linking the health of your microbiome to everything from mood disorders to obesity to cardiovascular disease. And what is the key to a healthy microbiome? Eating a diversity of plants. Plants provide the indigestible fiber which feeds the beneficial bacteria in your lower intestine, which leads to a healthy intestinal lining and encourages beneficial strains of bacteria. Additionally, plants offer a variety of polyphenols, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants which have innumerable disease fighting properties.

While we all know we should be eating more vegetables, getting the recommended 6-10 servings a day often remains an elusive target. I’ve tried many different techniques to inspire myself and my clients to turn this recommendation into a daily habit and the following are the best methods I’ve encountered.

my top secrets For finally eating enough veggies.

  1. Batch cook your vegetables. My vegetable guru and solver of veggie angst is the food writer, Tamar Adler. My favorite thing about Tamar Adler is that she is not motivated by health. Her writing rarely, if ever, talks about health benefits. Her eating and cooking philosophy is motivated by flavor, pleasure, frugality, and food traditions. A bi-product of this is that she cooks primarily with local, whole foods and lots of plants. She shows us that there are much more elegant ways to “eat your veggies” than a sad-looking salad next to your grilled chicken, which can quickly make you feel like you’re on a 1980s-style deprivation diet. Instead, while you prep your veggies, you can feel like you are Alice Water’s in your Berkeley kitchen or at least a vibrant Sicilian grandmother. She recommends batch cooking your vegetables all at once and eating them throughout the week in various dishes. It’s common in other cultures to eat cooked, room temperature, leftover vegetables but Americans don’t have this food tradition. The result is good intentions and a plethora of limp, rotting vegetables in crisper drawers. For full instructions on the batch cooking ritual, watch this enviable video series of Adler prepping her farmer’s market bounty. Written instructions here. The basic idea is to roast a few trays of veggies in your oven at once (try broccoli, cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, etc). While these cook, sautee some greens on the stove. Store everything in glass containers in your fridge and eat your way through the veggies throughout the week.

  2. Eat a super salad once a day. My brilliant nutritionist colleague, Jesse Haas, has a salad formula that takes care of most of your veggie requirements in one sitting. Try to eat this once a day and you’re golden. Here’s the basic recipe (customize to your liking and to what veggies are in season) :  2-3 cups greens + 1-2 cups cut veggies + 3 oz. protein + 2 Tbsp dressing (here’s a nice basic salad dressing recipe) + 1/2 c cooked whole grains (optional) = 4-7 servings of vegetables and limitless possibilities.

  3. Drink a Micronutrient Smoothie. This tip is from one of my favorite scientists, Dr. Rhonda Patrick. She is a cancer and aging researcher who has done extensive health studies on micronutrient deficiencies as one of the key factors in disease prevention. The secret to getting adequate micronutrients? Again, dietary plant quantity and diversity. Her health hack is a daily smoothie where you get your fiber + plant intake in one (slightly intense but worth it) veggie-smoothie. Here are two videos (smoothie recipe 1 and recipe 2) with the ingredients and overview of the benefits. If you’re not ready to go all-in you can start adding a handful of greens to your fruit smoothie and call it good!

  4. Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables, especially at lunch and dinner. One Medical's blog offers a great infographic to demonstrate the distribution of a healthy plate. 

Pick one new veggie habit to try and notice how it affects your energy and overall health. As always, I would love to hear how it goes!  

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Why Your Belly Needs Bacteria

Originally posted for the Freelancer's Union Blog. 


What if I told you that within the freelance population, a larger, unseen community exists?

While you can’t network with this community, they may play a vital role in supporting a healthy freelance lifestyle. I’m talking about the microbiome, made up of the trillions of microorganisms that coexist within us.

The concept of trillions of microorganisms living on and in us, contributing to things like metabolism, mood and GI health is fascinating if not a little creepy. These organisms reside on any surface of the body exposed to the outside world (think the GI and urogenital tract, nasal and lung passages and the skin). With our cellular composition coming in it at 10:1, microbial to human, it also makes you question the commonly held notion of “self” but I’ll save that for another, more esoteric post.

I’ve been following the research on the microbiome with growing excitement. Promising studies connecting a suboptimal microbiome to illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema and even anxiety continue to emerge. There’s even some pretty good evidence that antibiotics impact on our flora may be a key contributor to the obesity epidemic. While the research is fascinating, it’s still nascent and I’m waiting for a reputable scientific body to release practical guidelines on how to optimize my composition of bugs for glowing health and a calm, happy mood. While waiting for the research to unfold, I’m going to hedge my bets on the following as some low risk ways to cultivate a healthy microbial ecosystem:

  • Avoid the standard American diet. It appears a high fat, high sugar and low fiber diets negatively impact your microbiome.
  • Eat fiber and prebiotics. Prebiotics are basically the food (non-digestible carbs) that the good bacteria in your GI tract eat and need to thrive. Read: eat vegetables and foods like whole grains, banana, onions, garlic, honey, artichokes and asparagus which seem to be some of the best sources of prebiotics.
  • Be delivered vaginally and breast-fed. OK OK, obviously out of your control and as someone who doesn’t find pre-deterministic notions regarding health outcomes particularly empowering, I wouldn’t fret much if you were delivered via C-section. But, if your mom had a vaginal birth it appears you might have a head start in the microbiome game. Same with breast milk, which has key microbes for immune development that you may miss out with just formula.
  • Take a probiotic supplement or better yet incorporate fermented foods into your diet like sauerkraut, kimchi and live-culture dairy products like yogurt (no added sugar) and kefir. As the research on probiotics and supplementation in general is mixed and the supplement industry under-regulated, I like to lean towards food sources instead. Get your mason jars ready, folks! Fermentation may be your new best friend.
  • Only take antibiotics when necessary and if you do, dose yourself with probiotics after. This is a nice chart on when to avoid antibiotics. Not all medical providers follow this yet so it’s good to information to have in order to know if you’re being prescribed something unnecessarily.
  • Avoid the overuse of antibacterial soaps and cleansers. These can strip your skin of good bacteria. If you want to learn more about the burgeoning research on this and its implications for the future of the beauty industry , read this marathon of an article.

All this microbiome research has inspired me to combine my love of cooking, health and the microbiome, so I’m diving into my first fermentation project (failed attempts at making kombucha aside). Stay tuned for part 2: Adventures with sauerkraut. If you like Portlandia, I’m sure you’ll enjoy mocking this upcoming post….