One of the most common behaviour changes I assist my clients with is improving their consumption of vegetables and fruit. Although deemed important by most of my clients, they may not have childhood experiences growing up with its importance. Or perhaps they grew up with a side of vegetables forced upon them because it was healthy, only to make a choice as an adult – not to “bother”.

Check out this client scenario:

Claire – (not her real name) came to see me wanting help with weight loss during the pandemic. During our conversations, I learned that her parents own a food truck business. Food comes home from the food truck. She eats quickly meals while viewing Netflix on her phone. Her principle food choices are rice and curries. She explained she didn’t like salads or cold foods. Do you see many vegetables in this scenario? What food truck business focuses on healthy vegetable and fruit choices? Or heart-healthy choices?

Claire wasn’t exposed to lots of fruits and vegetables and had not yet developed a likeness for them. Although she might lose weight without developing a likeness for vegetables and fruit, it is highly unlikely she will develop a long term habit without learning to like them - not just tolerating them in order to lose weight.

Why am I so passionate about vegetables and fruit?

Yes they are tasty and delicious throughout the year but they are one key to an optimum health diet – plain and simple.  

Did you know–Lifestyle and Diet changes can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by 80% and cancer by at least 40%? And that the new Canada’s Food Guide includes ½ plate as vegetables and fruit?  And that almost 50% of deaths in Canada from cardiovascular disease were attributed to dietary risks in 2017. Dietary risks include low intake of nutritious foods such as vegetables and fruit. In Canada, vegetable and fruit intakes are consistantly low.

There are lots of reasons to want to include vegetables in your diet.

Here are a few you might not have considered:

1.   Vegetables are much more than a source of vitamins. Vegetables not only supply vitamins that are often added to pills or foods (like A, C, and folate), they’re also rich in potassium, lutein, magnesium, vitamin K, fiber, and other nutrients that aren’t so easy to find. And vegetables have other phytochemicals that may turn out to protect your health. So no… you can’t just take a vitamin C pill or a “vitamin-enhanced water” to replace them.

2.   Vegetables contribute lots of potassium… and that’s one way to help lower blood pressure and the risk of stroke. The recommended amount of potassium is 4700 mg/day.  You can see why a banana at 420 mg/banana just doesn’t cut it as although it’s a good source, it’s no way enough by itself.  The easiest way to bump this up is to eat ½ plate of vegetables and fruit!

3.   Vegetables can help your eyes. Yes – Vegetables are great sources of lutein and zeaxanthin (phytonutrients), magnesium and many more vitamins and minerals. Dark green vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. Studies show a diet richer in dark greens are beneficial to eye health.

4.   Greens may prevent diabetes. Eating more green leafy vegetables has been found to lower the risk of diabetes by about 14% according to a meta-analysis

5.   Vegetables are delicious! – Look for all kinds of vegetable recipes to increase your enjoyment. Adding olive oil with garlic, onions, lemon, and other herbs to steamed, sautéed, roasted or raw vegetables can enhance the taste and enjoyment while also maintaining the nutritional qualities.  

Tip: Make up a mantra for you to produce a habit change: “I will feel better when I enjoy a vegetable with this meal.” “I will learn to love vegetables”.   I love the way vegetables and fruit make me feel!” “I want to learn to like vegetables”  

Take one small step today – by upping your intake of vegetables by one serving/day (approximately ½ cup) You can do this.  

For assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, a Registered Dietitian in Markham to help you set realistic action goals to improve your health. Customized meal plans are also available providing ample healthy recipes to help you include more vegetables in your diet.