“Eat your vegetables. You’re not getting up from the table until you eat your vegetables!”
The Mommy Dearest approach may have worked for us as youngsters—but that dog won’t hunt now. It doesn’t work for adults—no one likes being condescended to. And its tough to force kids to do anything when they aren’t of your seed.
We need strategic approaches. Simplicity and automation drive the process.
Over zealous prescription is the first step toward failure. Our clients, as humans, should be eating vegetables at every meal. But most of them have developed habits and behaviors that don’t allow a complete vegetable dietary overhaul.
So we take it one step at a time and we start by thinking of barriers to entry. Vegetables aren’t sexy. Most aren’t overwhelmingly delicious and our minds are conditioned to believe that eating them is a chore.
So we start by including them in one meal, and we make that meal a super shake at breakfast.
Super shakes mask the taste of the vegetables—if done right we don’t even taste the veggies. They’re also simple and easily prepared ahead of time. They work great for busy folks and teenagers—two categories that cover most of the clients we all work with.
Here’s a great, simple way to get super shakes rolling:
When Todd ran his nutrition program at Ranfone Training Systems this was hands down the most successful strategy that he used to get his high school and college athletes to start a healthy nutrition habit and increase their vegetable intake.
Once we have the super shake habit on lock, it’s time to make lists and pair. In one of your client nutrition meetings, sit down with make a list of all the vegetables they like. Maybe they actually like a ton. Maybe they can only stomach a handful.
Once you have your list, place the vegetables under meal categories. Talk with your client and have them decide which meal each vegetable sounds best with—breakfast, lunch or dinner. Some vegetables will fall in multiple categories—that’s great. Others will solely be confined to a single time of day. The answers are often interesting when you ask the client why they think that vegetable fits best with that meal.
The list gets possibilities out of our heads and gives them a concrete home in the real world. Now it’s time to match them with other foods.
The next step in the exercise is to get them to think of what foods each vegetable goes well with. It could be single food items like steak or chicken, it could be recipes or it could be entire meals. The goal is to foster their creativity so they get excited about including vegetables into their diet.
Once you have some pairs set up, it’s time to add vegetables to another meal. The super shake takes care of breakfast—time for them to choose either lunch or dinner. They’ll choose the veggies they want to add in and how they want to add them. The only stipulation is that they include at least a fistful in the meal.
Simple as rattlesnake humping a garden hose. (If that makes sense to you I know a good psychologist you should talk to, because I have no fucking clue what that means.)
Graduate them from two meals to three once they’ve managed to maintain the habit for two weeks. They already have the list to pull from—and they’ve likely been able to expand on it.
The key is to remove the drudgery from vegetables.
Depending on client goals, and personalities, we progress in several ways. We can include veggies in more meals or we can increase the amount of servings per meal.
Fat loss clients can increase the amount of servings per meal by working from one fist to two. That way fibrous foods take up more room on their plate and starchy ones take up less.
Maintenance/health/mass gain clients continue to work on getting veggies in at more meals so they can maintain their starchy carb intake.
It’s all a game of simplicity and automation. Attach vegetable intake to simple habits so the process is automated. Allow people to make choices and be creative. Veggie intake increases consistently.
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