The Wholefood Approach
Our parents were onto something when they would tell us to eat all our vegetables!
Think back to the list of veggies previously provided, if you need a reminder take a quick glance at it now (from week 1) and notice all the vegetables listed. Amongst this list is an even bigger list of vegetables when we take into consideration the varieties of each vegetable. Take mushrooms for example – there are button, brown, shittake, oyster, enoki, portobello, porcini. When you add it all up, there are literally hundreds of edible vegetables! And the simple fact is most of us only stick to the same veggies each week.
The other incredible thing about vegetables are their versatility in how they can be eaten and cooked. Not to mention how different they taste when prepared in different ways. Think about roast veggies compared to steamed, or more specifically mashed potato compared to roasted potatoes.
The sheer amount of vegetables added to the different ways they can be cooked means that there are endless options with this food group!
The high amount of nutrients in vegetables means they are a powerhouse for your body! And eating a variety of vegetables means your body is getting the right amounts of carbohydrates, protein (yes, veggies have protein!) and fats.
Vegetables are low calorie dense foods, so they do not contain a lot of calories, but are full of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, including fiber which makes you feel full! This is opposed to calorie rich foods such as processed food that doesn’t contain as many nutrients, yet is high in calories – therefore when you eat these types of food, your body takes longer to recognise that it is full and by then you have consumed a high amount of calories.
Vegetables also have a high water content. As we know being hydrated is essential for our bodies, but water alone is not the only means to keep us hydrated. The water in our food also helps us with this and by eating vegetables you are providing your body with good amounts of water to increase your hydration levels.
A note about Fibre:
Fibre is an extremely important nutrient that we don’t talk enough about. Many people focus on getting enough protein in their diet, and loads of products on the market claim to be high in protein, but there is little mention of fibre. The most known thing about fibre is it keeps you “regular”. However this underrated nutrient does so much more than this. It is incredible for our bodies, our gut and our immune systems. It is also a strong indicator of our overall health. The great news is all plants are full of fibre!! By eating a diverse range of vegetables, you are giving your body the fibre that it needs to perform so many functions of the body.
The Cooking Experience
Before we talk about all the different ways that vegetables can be cooked, let’s first talk about two things that can enhance your cooking experiences, especially if you don’t like to spend too much time in the kitchen, you don’t have the time, or you are still building up your skills and experience in the kitchen! Remember there is no such thing as being good or bad at cooking – it is simply a skill that you get better at the more you do it! The other part of this is understanding how flavours and food combinations work together. This is easy to understand once you have the knowledge on food – if you simply follow recipes your whole life, you will never understand this – but my program is much more than learning how to follow a recipe so you will gain an understanding of it throughout the program.
The second thing that can enhance your cooking experience is having the right cooking equipment. The good news is you don’t have to go out and spend a fortune on every little thing for the kitchen – there are a few things you need to have and the rest is up to you.
Knife – A good chef’s knife will make all the difference to your cooking experience. You certainly don’t need a dozen different knives for different uses – one quality chef’s knife is good enough, especially to begin with. This is one thing I invested in at the very beginning along with a sharpener which I use to sharpen my chef’s knife. This means your knives last a lifetime and you don’t have to replace them when they go blunt.
Cooking pans and pots – Like above, you certainly don’t need too many pans and pots. 1 of each will be able to suit most uses. I personally have 2 pans and 2 pots of different sizes which came in a set. You want to have good quality ones as this will make all the difference to your cooking experience and meals. Plus by spending a little more on good quality ones, they will last much longer than if you bought cheap ones.
Kitchen Appliances – these days you can find something for just about anything when it comes to cooking – there are pie makers, slow cookers, air fryers, sandwich pressers, waffle makers, blenders, food processers, rice cookers, bread makers, food dehydrators, juicers and the list goes on and on. The key is to find the appliances that work for you and fit in with your lifestyle. For example if you work all day and don’t get home until the evening, something like a slow cooker is great because you can prepare everything in the morning and have it ready by the time you get home. If you don’t like cutting up ingredients or lack the time, food processers are great for this. You definitely don’t need to have every appliance in your kitchen, simply choose a couple that suits you. Personally I only own a blender so I can easily make up smoothies, juices, sauces, dips, dressing and Nice Cream (see the Challenge under fruit below!).
Cooking with Vegetables!
There are tons of ways to cook vegetables, as mentioned previously the problem is we tend to use the same vegetables over and over in our meals and we cook them in the same way. Start to add some diversity to your cooking of vegetables by having a look at all the different ways vegetables can be prepared:
Raw: simply washed and cut. There are lots of vegetables that can be eaten as is. Carrots, capsicum, tomato, celery, avocado, cucumber and the list goes on. These are great snack ideas! The benefit in eating raw is you get all the nutrients of the vegetable without losing anything to cooking! It is also a good idea to have some raw veggies on your plate each night, this can be a salad or just some cut up veggies.
Roasting: Roasting is super easy because all you have to do is cut the veggies and put them in the oven. This is my go-to when I don’t have the energy to cook – it’s called passive cooking – where you are cooking without doing much! Sprinkle over some spices and they come out delicious! You can have roast veggies as is, or as a side, try them in a sandwich or in a warm salad with some steamed kale and spinach.
Note: It is easy to roast veggies without oil, you can keep the vegetables whole, such as sweet potato, or add a little bit of stock and season well.
Steaming: Steaming veggies is a great option to retain the flavour and bring out the beautiful colours of the vegetable! It is another easy method and you don’t even need a steaming basket. Simply add a few dashes of water to a pan, add the veggies with the lid and steam to your liking. To enhance the flavour of steamed veggies, without adding fat like butter, it’s a really good idea to add some spices for extra flavour. Experiment with what you have in your cupboard or go out and buy a couple to try it out.
Boiling: Boiling vegetables is a quick and easy method, and great for different types of vegetables such as potato, broccoli and cauliflower. Boil for a few minutes and test, then just before they are ready, drain the water as they will cook a little after being taken out. Like steamed vegetables above, it is advised to add some flavour in the form of herbs and spices.
Sautéeing: Sautéeing vegetables on a pan, or stir-frying them which normally means cooking them on a higher heat is a great, easy and quick method to cooking vegetables. You commonly add in some aromatics such as garlic, ginger, spices to add flavour to the dish. Again avoiding oil in this method is easy and produces similar results, simply use a little bit of water or broth and stir frequently.
Grilling: Grilling vegetables either on an indoor grill or a BBQ adds a rich, smoky flavour. You can use a variety of vegetables including potato, corn, capsicum, zucchini, squash, asparagus, tomato and mushroom. Marinating the vegetables before grilling will add even more flavour.
So which method is the best for nutrients?
There is no ONE best method to cooking your veggies. Some methods retain more nutrients than others but the most important thing is simply to eat your veggies. Make sure they are part of each meal, or even better make them the STAR of your meal!
The methods above are a great way to start experimenting with cooking vegetables in a different way. However whilst having veggies on the side of the meal will provide you with nutrients – the key to making them taste delicious and satisfying is to incorporate them into dishes where they are the MAIN EVENT! By doing this you are not simply eating cooked veggies, but you are eating dishes packed with veggies and adding heaps of flavours so your meals are delicious and filling. You will get lots of recipes throughout the program that is loaded with wholefoods.
Herbs and Spices are fantastic in the kitchen because they not only provide many different flavours for your food, but they also come with a range of nutritional benefits. There are so many herbs, both fresh and dried, as well as a huge amount of spices. The trick is to experiment with different flavours, go back through the Grocery List to see a list of herbs and spices.
Here are some EAT THE RAINBOW dinner ideas for you to try this week to boost your intake of veggies:
Dinner idea #1 – make a veggie roast! Simply choose a selection of veggies such as shallots, pumpkin, sweet potato, squash, zucchini, potato, cauliflower etc, pop it into the oven with some spices and serve with wholemeal pita bread and homemade hummus.
Dinner idea #2 – make a rainbow salad! This salad recipe has a range of raw vegetable ingredients, along with a grain and bean! This means it is bursting with wholefoods and nutrients. Make a bigger batch and have it for lunch through the week, or put it into a big bowl and have it for dinner. Get the recipe here.
You know the saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away! This couldn’t be more true!
Fruit is filled with loads of good stuff – including vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein, fat and carbohydrates plus lots of antioxidants which help fight disease! Take an apple for example, have a look at the multitude of nutrients it contains.
When we fuel our bodies with wholefoods that contain a package of nutrients, like shown above with the apple, our bodies thrive. It is receiving the variety of nutrients in the right amounts. On the other hand, when we consume processed foods, and foods that contain concentrated amounts of one or two nutrients, our bodies have a harder time processing it. This is because our bodies are having to work harder to handle additional amounts of a certain nutrient.
This is why its so important to fuel our bodies with wholefoods, because this not only ensures that our bodies are getting every single nutrient it needs, but it also ensures that it is getting it in the right levels.
Just like vegetables, there are hundreds of different options when it comes to fruit, from bananas to berries, mandarins to mangos, apples to apricots and everything in between.
When you eat fruit, your body takes time to chew and digest it, and because of the high levels of water and fiber in fruit – you feel fuller for longer, meaning you’ll unlikely overeat at your next meal! You can also eat the skin of many fruits including kiwi, peaches and plums as they tend to have the highest amounts of nutrients in the fruit.
But what about all that sugar in fruit?
In recent times, fruit has got a bad rap, and unfortunately there is a misconception that fruit contains too much sugar so people either avoid it all together, or limit their consumption of fruit. The idea that fruit contains too much sugar couldn’t be further from the truth. Whilst fruit contains natural sugars, it is packaged with a whole range of other nutrients your body thrives off, like in the example above with the apple. Therefore when eating fruit your body knows exactly what to do to break it down.
The sugar in fruit is also very different to the sugar you find in processed products, and when you eat these products, this is when your body has to work harder to process it – not to mention the fact that this sugar hits your bloodstream very quickly which is why you experience a surge in energy, followed by a crash.
Whole fruits are always the best option, and it is advised to avoid processed fruit products that claim to be healthy, such as fruit juice and fruit bars that change the profile of the wholefood, include many additives and are usually very high in calories.
Whilst some fruits have higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals than others, the most important thing is to eat a diverse range of fruits. This is why it is good to eat with the season – so when summer comes, stock up on tropical fruits such as mangoes and lychees. A easy way to know what is in season is to see what the supermarket and market has a lot of and what is on special!
As the food pyramid suggest, its very beneficial to eat berries daily as they contain a whole range of nutrients your body needs. The great thing with berries is you can easily get frozen berries all year round and which tend to be cheaper than fresh berries, plus they contain roughly the same amount of nutrients.
Fruit can be eaten in many different ways, here are some suggestions:
Raw – the best way to eat fruit – just as it is!
For breakfast – try some pancakes topped with blueberries, strawberries and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Or make a fruit salad with almond/coconut yogurt. How about some wholemeal toast with peanut butter and banana!
Fruit based desserts – You could try warm apple pie, with whole apples, blended apples and cinnamon (no added sugar needed!), or oven baked figs topped with almond yogurt and some maple syrup.
Smoothie/Juice – the difference between a smoothie and a juice, is that with juicing the fiber is removed, meaning that your body doesn’t have to work to digest the food. I always recommend to eat the whole food, however smoothies and juices are good to get a lot of nutrients at once from time to time. Just be mindful of exactly how much you are putting into these type of drinks as the calories in them can add up quickly.
Here are some additional challenges for the week:
Challenge #1 – here is an easy one, try a fruit that you have never had before. You know that fruit you see in the shop that you always wonder what its like – give it a try! You never know, it may become your new favourite fruit! Take a pic and send it to me!
Challenge #2 – Let’s make N’Ice Cream – this is a fruit based ice cream and is super delicious! All you need to do is put some fruit in the freezer, such as bananas and/or berries. Once frozen put it in the blender with a dash of almond milk. The result? A creamy ice cream! Don’t worry if it comes out too soft, just add it back into the freezer to harden up. Then add toppings such as peanut butter, maple syrup, dark choc chips or roasted desiccated coconut. Here is a recipe, if you wanted to follow one:
Peanut Brittle N’ice cream! by Lazy Cat Kitchen