Clean Vegetable Options:
• Any fresh vegetable
• Frozen vegetables with no added ingredients (no sauce, added salt, etc)
• Canned vegetables with no ingredeints (no sauce, added salt, etc.)
Vegetables should be the foundation of each of your clean eating meals because they’re packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Fresh vegetables are always preferred because they have the highest nutrition content – vegetables lose some of their nutrition content when they are frozen or canned.
However, canned and frozen vegetables are allowed as long as they have no additional ingredients (including salt).
As always, follow the cardinal clean eating rule and be sure to read the label since even canned or frozen vegetable products that seem to be just the natural vegetable may have added salt or other ingredients.
Adventures With Vegetables
There are so many ways to prepare vegerables and so many veggies to choose from. Even if you’ve never been big on vegetables before (I wasn’t), keep an open mind and view it as a bit of adventure to explore all the new possibilities. You’ll discover that a whole new exciting world of food that you really never knew existed will open up to you to explore.
I’d neve thought of vegetables as exciting before I started eating clean, and I will admit when I first got started I wasn’t crazy about filling half my plate with veggies and eating them at every meal. But I kept an open mind and went into it with a positive attitude, and what a surprise I had!
I started having so much fun exploring different vegetables I wasn’t that familiar with or had only had limited exposure to. When you’re not that cracked up about veggies, you tend to be very limited in what you do force yourself to put on your plate everyday, so my repetoire of cooked veggies previously consisted of canned spinach (because I knew it was on of the healthiest veggies at all, so I figured might as get all the hang I could out of it!), canned corn, frozen peas and carrots, and maybe on occasion sliced fresh carrots. Little did I know that apart from the spinach, I was choosing some of the least optimal veggies available. Corn actually counts more as a carb than a vegeatable and is high in sugar (therefore not the best choice of veggie when monitoring weight), carrots are also high in sugar as far as veggies go, and peas are also more of a carb and high in sugar.
Of course, these veggies were better than no veggies at all, but there were options that had higher nutrient value and less carb and sugar content.
In any event, the point I’m making is that my adventures with vegetables had been slim to none prior to my dipping my toe into clean eating.
But once I began to eat clean I realized that there was likely much more to appreciate in vegetables than I had before considered, and if I was going to do this right and make it work, I was going to need to make some new friends.
Not only did I embark on a mission to include a broader variety of vegetables into my diet, but I actually had fun with exploring all the many ways of having fun with each.
For example, in addition to serving diced zucchini simply steamed in the microwave and drizzled with a little lemon juice (oe: the fast and easy way of preparing zucchini), I also used zucchini to make delicious soups, chips (they can be both a replacement for french fries or for crunchy potatoe chips), and get this – even chocolate brownies. Those are SO yummy! Don’t knock it til you try it – ooey gooey chocolate goodness, and you will have no idea that you are eating zucchini! The zuchinni brownies recipe is included in the recipe section.
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There are also a lot of convenient ways to eat your veggies even when you’re short on prep-time. Supermarkets offer a variety of pre-cut vegetables and even pre-spiralized veggie noodles (plus, there’s always frozen).
But a word of warning: Don’t be fooled by pre-made veggie chips and veggie pasta you’ll see in supermarkets. As always, read those labels. In most cases they have just have a sprinkling of vegetable dust, rather than a full serving of vegetables – and a whole lot of other ingredients you should not be eating. But you can certainly make your own vegetable chips at home. Expand.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eating 9-13 servings of fruits and veggies per day to maintain optimal health. Most people in the Western world don’t eat anywhere close to that.
Vegetables are a rich source of vitamins and minerals that are essential to heart and immune health as well as healthy skin, bones, and vision. Vegetables are also rich in fiber, a nutrient that supports a healthy digestive tract and keeps us feeling full and satisfied throughout the day.
Beyond just those all important greens we talked about, strive to include more veggies into your diet. Both fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that can help prevent inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer.
Where ever possible, try to stick with fresh veggies, or at least frozen, and avoid those in cans as they often have added ingredients, especially salt. As always, check the ingredients on the label. If there is anything added, choose fresh instead.
As part of a clean eating lifestyle, you should have vegetables with every meal. Better yet, try to fill half your plate with veggies. They add volume and nutrition to your meal without a lot of calories..
There are so many to choose from and plenty of variety, so there is no reason not to be able to keep things interesting. If you’ve never been big into veggies before, once again, it comes down to re-framing the way you think about food. Get creative, use your imagination. Find new ways with vegetables! Think oven roasted eggplant (actually, almost any vegetable becomes amazing when you over roast it – try drizzling with a bit of balsamic vinegar to kick it up a notch if you like), broiled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms as a healthy side dish or snack. This is real food. Learn to love it. It will love you back. Savor the flavors of good, wholesome nutrituous food.
Eat Your Greens
The most nutrient packed veggies you can eat are green leafy vegetables – aka: “greens”. Greens need to be a core part of any healthy lifestyle and eating plan, so they are definitely a key part of how to eat clean.
They are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that provide you with energy, protect your body and fight off disease. They are super-low in calories so you can eat lots and lots of greens to keep you feeling full, with no worry of weight gain. Greens are also alkalizing for the body, which is very important in maintaining good health. Green vegetables are packed with chlorophyll, which cleanses the blood and helps increase the number of energy-boosting, oxygen rich and revitalizing red blood cells.
So as part of your eating clean regime, you should be sure to put an emphasis on eating greens as often as you can throughout the day – every day.
You’ll do great if you can get them onto your plate or into your body multiple times in the day, but at the very minimum you need to get in a minimum of one serving of greens every day.
Adding just one extra serving of greens per day boosts energy and overall good health.
You can have a serving of Swiss Char, spinach or cooked kale with your dinner (kale, by the way, is the most nutritious green on all). Or use greens as the base of a nice big salad. Or put them in a smoothie. Or add some kale to homemade soup. Toss a handful of spinach into wholegrain pasta dishes. You can even use a big leaf of lettuce to create a wrap in place of a wholegrain pita or a tortilla. I use large crisp leaves of lettuce to sandwhich a chicken patty between and eat it like a burger. I also use crisp, crunchy lettuce leaves as a wrap for homemade tacos (using ground chicken and home made taco seasoning – yum!).