Eat your veggies. We’ve heard it since we were children. But what’s so great about veggies, anyway?

1. You can fill up for free. Fiber makes veggies virtual freebies. Because of the fiber in vegetables, eating them causes you to get fuller faster meaning you will eat less over the course of your meal. Combine that with the fact that they are so low calorie (cupfuls clock in at under 100 calories), and you have the perfect recipe for eating to your heart’s content, guilt-free.  How often do you hear that? In addition, since veggies are so complex and fibrous, the body uses almost as many calories just to chew, swallow and digest them as there are in the vegetables themselves. You’d have to stuff yourself on vegetables before the calories even begin to add up.  Learn to use this to your advantage: Fill up on your veggies first, like starting each meal with a small salad so you eat less of the more calorie dense foods overall.

2. They hydrate you. Drinking water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated. You get hydration from the foods you eat, too, and veggies are one of the best sources. The moistest, juiciest vegetables are the ones richest in water, so if you are sick of swigging on water all day, toss cucumbers, celery, lettuce, bell peppers and squash into your grocery cart.

3. Vegetables are nutrient dense. There is more in your veggies than just water. While most people reach for dairy products for calcium, get it, along with less fat and calories, from leafy greens like spinach and kale which are also heavy in iron. While you may reach for meat when going for after workout protein, legumes, like peas and soybeans are the best plant source. They also contain fiber, folic acid and iron, with zero saturated fat like that found in red meat.

Remember: raw is best. Cooked veggies, even steamed ones, secrete out nutrients, so to get the most nutritional bang for your veggie buck, eat them in their natural state. Sauteing in a little bit of heart healthy olive oil also helps to seal in the nutrients.  Buy your veggies as close to the source as possible, like at the farmers market, to avoid them being coated in chemicals and munch away.

If you’re still turning your nose up to vegetables, you just haven’t found the right kind. Branch out from the typical broccoli and try more exotic and flavorful vegetables like artichoke, spaghetti squash, jicama (very tasty!), sugar snap peas and more. Experiment and find varieties you love – then eat them daily. Lots of them.

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