Nutrition Coaching: Fruits and Veggies
If there’s one thing that’s overlooked in the nutrition world, it definitely has to be the power of fruits and veggies. While many people get wrapped up in the workouts, or how much protein to consume, your weight loss goals can receive a major upgrade from vegetable intake. Keep in mind that adequate vegetable intake goes far beyond just having a salad here and there – and we’re also going to ditch the common recommendation of “four to six servings” of vegetables per day.
Harness the Power
Fruits and vegetables are what we call nutrient dense foods. This means that they have a high amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants compared to their low calorie content. This is what we a bookie would call a “sure thing” as it’s extremely difficult to overeat on plant foods while they give you plenty of nutrition. If you don’t believe me, bring a bag of carrots with you the next time you do some binge watching on Netflix. You probably won’t get far into the bag before feeling satisfied.
Research shows that combining fruits and veggies provides a benefit to both body and mind. One study measured the brain activity of senior citizens; they had subjects consume spinach and blueberries each day. At the end of the study, the senior citizens had higher levels of cognition and memory recall (1). Scientists believe that the antioxidants from both foods were responsible for these results. Your intake of plant foods can also trim down your waist. In a study where subjects replaced their diet with protein, fruits, and vegetables, subjects lost 10 pounds, shaved inches off their waist, and even lowered their blood pressure (2).
Why They Work
For one, most fruits and vegetables provide plenty of fiber in the diet. Fiber can make you feel full and satisfied, leading to you eating less calories elsewhere. It can also clean out your internal plumbing. Fiber helps clear toxic substances from your body as well as making your trips to the bathroom a tad more pleasant. I can tell you from working with a lot of clients over the past decade that I’ve never come across one that gets enough fiber. For frame of reference, most clients will benefit from an intake of 30 grams of fiber a day (which is about three times more than most get). Fiber can also help keep your blood sugar levels stable through insulin control, which is a huge process in keeping weight off.
Fruits and vegetables can also bring your cravings to a halt. Hunger isn’t necessarily a bad thing; sometimes your body is trying to send you cues that you’re lacking in nutrition. If you’re lacking in vitamin C, you’ll benefit from oranges and strawberries. If the body is missing out on Vitamin B3, then you’ll need some asparagus. We call these nutrient deficiencies, and they not only cause cravings but can lead to weight gain and sickness. Unfortunately most people make poor choices when they do get these cravings, and instead of grabbing an apple they take a trip to the vending machine.
In fact, you can use what’s called a “pre-load” to prevent overeating at social events; simply eat a serving or two of fruits and veggies prior to eating a main course. You’re less likely to overeat; when subjects used a preload over the course of several weeks, there was an average weight loss of 7%. A preload could be a grapefruit or a spinach salad.
I stated it’s hard to overeat on vegetables but you do want some sort of guideline to follow. Ideally, most clients start at 4-6 servings a day within their first month at UEFP. In the long term, we shoot for 8 to 12 servings of fruits/veggies per day. What is a serving you ask? A medium piece of fruit or ½ cup veggies/fruit equals one serving.
While some people pinch their noise and mimic a gagging sound at the sight of brussel sprouts, veggies really aren’t that bad. You can eat them raw, bake or roast them, cook them with a bit of steam or even try a stir fry. Yes, you can juice them, but make sure to drink the juice literally after making your drink. The longer the juice sits as a liquid the more nutrition you lose from it.
You’ll want to avoid just eating the same vegetables over and over again. Exposing yourself to a wide variety of different colored fruits and veggies gives your body a wide range of nutrients.
Start slow and build up though. If you haven’t consumed a lot of raw vegetables, you want to start with two servings a day and work your way up. The raw veggies may do a number on your stomach, leading to feelings of gassiness and bloating.
-Most people get 1/3 of the fiber that they’re supposed to get
-Fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense foods that provide the body with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
-Consumption of fruits/veggies can improve brain function while helping you lose weight
-In the long run, shoot for 8-12 servings of vegetables a day
What to Do Now
Still have questions? Shoot me an email or simple schedule a nutrition session. In the meantime, keep up the great work and see you at your next session!
1. Joseph, J.A., Shukitt-Hale, B., Casadesus, G. “Reversing the Deleterious Effects of Aging on Neuronal Communication and Behavior: Beneficial Properties of Fruit Polyphenolic Compounds.” (2005) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 81;1: 3135-3165
2. Ryberg, M., Sandberg, S., Melberg, C., et al. “A Palaeolithic-Type Diet Causes Strong Tissue-Specific Effects on Ectopic Fat Deposition in Obese Postmenopausal Women.” (2013) Journal of Internal Medicine. (274.1) 67
3. Silver, H.J., Dietrich, M.S., et al. “Effects of Grapefruit, Grapefruit Juice and Water Preloads on Energy Balance, Weight Los, Body Composition, and Cardiometabolic Risk in Free Living Obese Adults” (2011) Nutrition and Metabolism 8:8