Diet Hacks: 8 Easy Ways to Eat More Vegetables
Sitting solemnly at the dinner table, he stares at the half of his plate covered in vegetables, scheming up a way to escape having to scarf them down without his mom noticing. Maybe the dog will eat them if he inconspicuously drops them on the floor under his chair?
What if he slides them in his pocket, or up his shirtsleeve like a sly poker player, then throws them in his trashcan once arriving safely in his bedroom? Or should he just mix them all into the other foods on the plate and quickly eat them in as few bites as possible, just to get it over with?
Related: 7 Vegetables High in Protein
Reading this, you probably thought of a small child being told by his parents to “eat his vegetables if he wants to grow up big and strong.” However, many of us as physique athletes don’t approach our vegetable intake any differently than we did as children.
Sure, we have no trouble knocking out the day’s protein, or those gloriously starchy carbs, but when it comes to vegetables, most of us are content with a few sprouts of broccoli mixed into our chicken and rice… And the thought of much more than that sends chills down our spines.
Getting in enough vegetables on a regular basis can be challenging. Let’s face it, most vegetables are bland unless prepared well, and just aren’t as enjoyable to eat as other food groups. As true as this may be, just like our moms told us growing up, getting enough vegetables can be important not only for “growing big and strong,” but also for long-term health and overall wellbeing.
I’ve found myself on the same vegetable struggle bus before, and over time have discovered some easy diet hacks to make my daily vegetable intake as easy and painless as possible – maximizing my health and physique goals while ensuring my dog isn’t forced to become a full-on herbivore come dinnertime.
How to Eat More Vegetables
Veggie Hack #1: “Zoats” and “Caulioats”
We may not always get excited about the taste of vegetables, but I’m sure we can all agree it’s easy to get excited about things like chocolate, peanut butter, or cinnamon rolls! Luckily for us, there are some perfect compromises between the two.
Both shredded zucchini and crumbled cauliflower can be added into oatmeal alongside your favorite flavor of protein powder for an easy way to get in more vegetables without that bland vegetable taste. It’s as easy as placing either shredded zucchini or crumbled cauliflower into a bowl and adding water before microwaving for 2-3 minutes to soften. Simply drain the excess water, add the oats and either a whole egg or egg substitute, and microwave for 2-3 more minutes.
Once finished, just take out of the microwave and add your favorite protein powder for a dessert-flavored bowl of oatmeal and multiple, barely noticeable, servings of vegetables. Using zucchini or cauliflower also adds more volume to the oatmeal, which can be great for dieting when you want to eat as much food as possible while still keeping calories low.
At least a few of my meals each week are zoats or caulioats, using either the Cinnamon Roll or Chocolate Delight Core PRO. If I need to add more carbs to the meal, I’ll throw in some Core MRP instead, which makes for a thicker, heartier bowl and incorporates more complex carbs into the meal.
Veggie Hack #2: Bake with Canned Pumpkin
Another easy vegetable to sneak into a diet is canned pumpkin. Not only is it packed with micronutrients, but it’s also an easy, lower-calorie alternative to butter and oil in recipes.
Canned pumpkin can replace as little as one-third of butter (sometimes completely replace the amount of butter necessary in a recipe depending on the size of recipe being prepared). Since canned pumpkin has a mild flavor, it doesn’t disturb the intended flavor of the recipe but does make for an easy way to sneak more vegetables into a diet—all while keeping many of your favorite baked goods macro friendly.
I often add canned pumpkin into my oatmeal as well. If I’m not making zoats or caulioats, I’ll make a lot of “pumpkin pie” oatmeal. Adding in up to two parts canned pumpkin for every one part oats (100g canned pumpkin with 50g oats, for example) along with 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice and 1-2 scoops Cinnamon Roll Core PRO makes for another quick, great-tasting, vegetable-containing meal.
Easy Pumpkin Pie Core PRO Oatmeal
50g quick oats
- 100g canned pumpkin
- 1 scoop Cinnamon Roll Core PRO
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 3 tbsp zero-calorie sweetener (or to taste)
Note: Cook oats then add in all other ingredients and mix well.
- 362 Calories
- 6g Fat
- 45g Carbohydrate
- 32g Protein
Veggie Hack #3: “Greens Powders”
Essentially, greens powders are concentrated extracts of various nutrients found in many fruits and vegetables that can be mixed into foods and shakes as a complement to our existing intake of whole fruits and vegetables.
If convenience is a factor, I suggest that clients look into quality greens powders, which can make getting additional micronutrients very easy during a busy workweek when time to buy and prepare a lot of fresh vegetables may be limited.
Since I make a protein “sludge” for at least one of my meals each day, I’ll toss in a serving of greens powder. Many brands have chocolate-flavored versions that mix well with most protein powders. This is another product I’ll throw into my oatmeal from time to time if I know my actual vegetable intake will be lower than normal.
Diet Hack #4: Sautéed Spinach
Getting in plenty of vegetables can be especially tough in the offseason when food intake is fairly high. After taking in all the protein, fat, and starchy carbs for the day to support muscle growth, the additional volume of many vegetables can become uncomfortable.
To reduce the overall volume of vegetables that has to be eaten in the offseason, I prefer to sauté spinach whenever I’m making omelets, or to mix into my chicken – or beef – containing meals. Several cups of raw spinach can easily be cooked down into just a few bites by throwing them into a pan and cooking with light cooking spray. Doing this allows me to get in an additional 1-2 servings of vegetables without feeling overly full.
Diet Hack #5: Mushroom Pizzas
I occasionally use large mushroom caps to get in additional vegetables during the week, and also to add some variety into my diet. Using large portabella mushroom caps, with the stems removed, as the “crust,” I’ll add toppings such as low-fat cheese, tomato sauce, grilled chicken, turkey pepperonis, oregano, and garlic. I broil them in the oven for 2-3 minutes until the cheese has just began to melt.
These mushroom pizzas work well for sneaking in additional servings of vegetables, not to mention coming in handy when dieting and looking for that pizza “fix.”
Diet Hack #6: Sneaky Smoothies
A classic go-to is, of course, throwing vegetables such as spinach or kale into shakes for extra nutrients. Getting in extra vegetables, as well as more fruit, is pretty easy with smoothies since the flavor can be easily controlled with ingredients like protein powder and yogurt, both of which add flavors reminiscent of our favorite desserts.
There are nearly endless variations that can be made, but I’ll usually add 1-2 from each of these lists and blend together for a meal I can take on the go or knock back while I’m finishing up emails.
- Whey/Casein-blend protein powders (Core PRO)
- Meal Replacements (Core MRP)
- Weight Gainers (Core GROW)
- Greek yogurt
- Ground flaxseed
- Favorite nut butter
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
Diet Hack #7: Find Vegetables You Actually Enjoy!
This sounds painfully obvious, but making an effort to branch out and try new vegetables—and different preparation methods—can go a long way in keeping your vegetable intake consistent and enjoyable.
It’s all too common for physique athletes to approach their vegetable intake as having to be “broccoli or green beans added to chicken and rice,” because that’s what so many of the classic bodybuilders are believed to have done.
Anyone that has gone down that road knows just how monotonous and bland that can become. Other than making it mentally easier to enjoy, getting a better variety of vegetables into our diets also benefits long-term health and performance, since the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content varies considerably between different types of vegetables.
Don’t like spinach? Try out other dark-green, leafy vegetables, like kale or romaine lettuce. Not a fan of asparagus? Give steamed Brussels sprouts or sugar snap peas a go. Finding a group of vegetables you truly enjoy can turn a once dreaded chore into the highlight of your meals, all while helping to incorporate the variety necessary for maximizing the health benefits we get from our diets.
Diet Hack #8: Realize the Importance of Vegetables
I alluded to this in #7, but I find that for many of my clients and I, simply keeping in mind the importance of so many vitamins and minerals in supporting athletic performance and, especially, long-term health can help form a habit of consuming a sufficient amount of vegetables on a regular basis.
- Vitamin C: found in high amounts in Brussels sprouts; very effective antioxidant within the body, supporting recovery from exercise and the prevention of various diseases.
- Vitamin D: contained in mushrooms; supports, among other things, optimal hormone production, bone health, and calcium absorption, as well as the prevention of several diseases.
- Magnesium: found in high amounts in dark-green leafy vegetables; is important for energy production, muscle function, and many other roles within the human body.
These are just few of countless nutrients that can be found in vegetables. As people that place our appearance, performance, and health very high on the priority list, keeping the countless benefits of vegetable consumption in mind can help athletes make them a regular part of their diets.
Leafing Poor Diet Habits Behind
Finding easier ways to consume a higher amount of vegetables can help us reach our long-term performance and physique goals, support our general health for years to come, and, possibly most importantly, keeping Mama happy!