How can runners eat more veggies?
We all know that eating our vegetables is good for us. We've probably been told that since we were old enough to eat solid food.
As runners, we know we need to eat well to fuel our bodies and feel good. We need energy for our runs! We need to recover from them! And that means we need veggies AND fruits AND carbs AND protein AND fats AND fluids. All of them.
Yet many of us find ourselves not really liking vegetables and not wanting to eat them. While we shouldn't eat exclusively vegetables, they still play an important role in our diets. Even on hard workout days, veggies should make up about ~25% of our plates.
But if you hate veggies, how can you start to eat them more often in order to get the health benefits of eating them? Read on for tips...
Before we start, a word of warning...
Eating more veggies isn't always necessary and actually might not be good for us! We all need some veggies in our diet, but that shouldn't be the only thing we eat. If so, we're missing out on so many other important nutrients - carbs for energy, protein for recovery, fat to fight inflammation and help us actually absorb all the nutrients that veggies give us.
The point is, many runners actually eat too many vegetables as a way to stay slim/trim or keep their calorie intake low. If that might be you, then I suggest talking to someone about how to transition to eating in a more balanced way. And if you're one of these people, the following tips are a bit less relevant for you...
Don't neglect the starchy vegetables
Starchy vegetables (like potatoes, peas, winter squash) provide all the goodness of non-starchy vegetables - think fiber, B-vitamins, minerals, etc., but they ALSO contain carbohydrates.
Why does that matter? Well, because runners need carbs, of course! Even on our rest days, at least 1/4 of our plates should be carb-rich foods, and starchy vegetables are a healthy way to fit in those carbs that we need to fuel our muscles, fuel us for our upcoming runs, and help us recover from our workouts.
As a bonus, some of the starchy vegetables tend to be a bit sweeter. If you don't like veggies because they're more bitter, then you might be more accepting of a sweeter vegetable.
Just keep trying
When giving kids a new food, it will sometimes take 5, 10, 15, or even 20+ times before they will try, like, or even accept it!
The same true for us as adults. We don't always like foods the first time we try them. Think about a food that you didn't like as a teenager, but have come to accept or even enjoy. That didn't happen overnight. It likely took many different exposures.
Make eating them an easy choice
An unwashed, unpeeled bag of carrots in the fridge is probably not likely to be eaten if you only have 5 minutes to pack your lunch before heading out the door... but you can easily grab a bag of potato chips in that time. Does that mean you should resign yourself to never eating carrots? No!
Take some time to wash and prep veggies once or twice a week so that they're easy to grab. It actually takes less time in the long run because you only have to get out the cutting board, knife, and peeler once instead of every day.
Or buy pre-cut, pre-washed veggies. They might be more expensive, but you're more likely to eat them.
Keep bags of frozen veggies and fruits in your freezer. Some frozen veggies are already packaged in individual portion sizes! Or keep your pantry stocked with canned veggies.
Plan your meals (and snacks, too!) to include veggies
If you plan on and intend to eat your veggies, you're more likely to buy them at the grocery store and eat them. Since that is part of the plan and the goal, you're more likely to follow through.
For example, you might plan on having grilled chicken for dinner. When you're planning that out, also plan to have some grilled summer squash (or your veg of choice) on the side.
Even if you're eating out, you can plan on skipping the "usual" side and instead opt for a side salad or steamed veg.
Canned and frozen are perfectly acceptable
Fresh isn't always superior.
Frozen vegetables are packed and processed at the height of freshness. This means they'll have plenty of vitamins and minerals in them. Not to mention, they're already washed and cut for you, making them a super convenient choice. Plus, they won't go moldy in your freezer, so you don't have to worry about trying to eat them by a certain time.
Canned veggies can be really convenient too. They're also washed and cut. To make them a bit healthier, just drain them of their liquid and rinse off all the brine they're packed in, then heat and season in the way that you enjoy.
Try different preparations
There are so many different ways to eat veggies. Don't like raw broccoli? Try it steamed. Still underwhelmed? Next time try roasting it. Or sautéing it. Or shaving it into a salad. Maybe you like the leafy bits but not the stem, or vice versa. Maybe you like broccoli with cheese, or with soy sauce, or with ranch dressing.
The point is, there are so many different ways to prepare veggies, and all of them alter the taste and the texture a little bit. And that little bit might be the difference between you liking the food and not liking it. So keep trying different ways to eat them.
Add more veggies than the recipe calls for
If a recipe calls for 1/2 a bell pepper, I usually add the whole thing. If it calls for 2 medium carrots, I might add 3-4. If it says 2 to add two loose handfuls of spinach, I usually make those handfuls pretty dense or full.
I might even add some veggies that the recipe doesn't call for. For example, I"ve added carrots and celery to soup recipes that don't call for them.
Obviously this doesn't work for every recipe. But it does work for many. Remember, recipes are a great guideline but don't always have to be followed to a T. (Unless you're making croissants... then you'd better follow that recipe or it won't turn out!)
Remember, you don't have to like everything
Just because you're not a fan of broccoli and never have been doesn't mean anything about you. You don't have to like every vegetable on the planet. You don't have to like every food!
As long as you're eating a variety of vegetables in your diet, you're probably completely fine if you don't want to eat 1-2 of them.
But if you're refusing all of them, then revisit some of the tips above!
So what do you do now?
Go forth and eat your veggies!
But real talk, getting the hang of eating differently than you have been can be really difficult. Everyone has unique needs and lifestyles, and figuring out how to use those
to your advantage in order to reach your goals can be tough. That's why I work hard to help runners learn how to fuel better so that they can increase endurance, improve their fitness, feel better, and run easier. Using my Best Runner program, I can help you do this too - schedule a free call with me today to find out how.