Why should you eat more vegetables and fruits?

Weight Loss

Vegetables and fruit are nutrient-dense without being calorically dense; which means, per serving--they fill you up without causing weight gain and they keep you extra full due to their high fiber content and micronutrient load (vitamins and minerals).  All of this put together means that veggies and fruits fill you up preventing that “hungry” feeling that some people associate with losing fat/weight.

The Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI Score) measures the nutrient density per volume of food. For example, 1 ounce or 1 cup of different foods rates high or low on the scale depending upon how many nutrients are contained within that food per weight measurement.  For example, if we compare an ounce of “Lucky Charms” cereal with an ounce of kale, we would find the kale rates higher on the scale because it contains far more vitamins and minerals within a 1-oz serving than the cereal; whereas, the “Lucky Charms” really only provides the macronutrient we know as a carbohydrate without providing any other beneficial nutrients.

So, if you’re having a hard time losing fat/weight, replace some of you other foods (carbs, especially and possibly some of your fat calories) with vegetables, and a bit of fruit. More on this below! Don’t worry, I’m not just gonna leave you hanging like that!

Enhanced Performance in the Gym

Maybe you’re happy with your weight, does that mean you shouldn’t eat so many veggies? Heck NO!  In addition to filling you up with great stuff but without a dense calorie load, the micronutrients--which are your vitamins and minerals, the phytochemicals, and the enzymes, which add to the stomach and intestinal juices help you extract the nutrients contained in your proteins, fats, and starchy carbs more effectively. 

Vegetable and fruit enzymes enhance the breakdown of the amino acids contained in your proteins helping you to maintain and rebuild your muscles, ligaments, and bones (this is why a lot of marinades for meats contain fruit juices, yo!).  Also, the enzymes in veggies and fruits help you to break down the glucose in your starchy carbs for increased energy (better WODs!), including supplying the energy it takes to rebuild your spent muscles (better future WODs!).  Lastly, these enzymes help break down the fats contained within meats, nuts, oils, and butters, all of which serve to lubricate your joints keeping you supple and flexible.

How Many Veggies a Day?

Number of servings?

We’re shooting for 8-10 servings a day. I know this sounds hefty, but you can work up to it, and I’ve provided some ideas and recipes below.

So, if you’re currently eat no veggies/fruits, start with 3-a-day: maybe some salad with lunch and some steamed broccoli with dinner and a piece of fruit prior to your WOD or as an afternoon snack.

What exactly is a serving of vegetables or fruit?

Veggies: A serving of vegetables is about the size of your own fist, or 1-cup, or 8 oz on a food scale: raw or cooked is fine, although many find that they digest their veggies without as much gas if they’re, at the least, steamed.

Fruit: As for fruit, a serving is about the size of your cupped hand, or 1 medium piece, or ½-cup raw, chopped, or about 4 oz on the food scale.

How many veggies vs how many fruits?

This depends upon your personal health goal.  Some general rules include:

5:1 veggies to fruit ratio for a person actively trying to lose fat/weight

4:1 veggies to fruit ratio for a person concerned with maintaining/improving performance in the gym

3:1 veggies to fruit ratio for a person who is a “hard-gainer” or is looking to add mass

How to get ‘er done!

Different colors indicate different minerals and micronutrients.  Shoot for a variety of colors, such as 5 different colors per day.  Try to get at least two servings of veggies per meal and 1-2 pieces of fruit a day, which gets you to 8 servings!

Preparation of Veggies

  •  Steaming: takes only a few minutes, and you can do it either on your stove-top or in the microwave (they have special microwave steamer elements at places like Target and Bed, Bath, and Beyond; it might make eating veggies at work a lot more convenient).
  •  Baking/roasting: roasted winter veggies, roasted asparagus, and roasted zucchini are all wonderful.  Or, you could make an entire meal like a meat and veggie-stuffed pepper, or a meat and veggie-stuffed winter squash; or possibly a zucchini pizza with some other veggies and meats, and maybe a sprinkling of cheese on top.
  • Sautee/stir-fry: Make a HUGE veggie stir-fry with onions, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, eggplant, and kale in a bit of oil.  Consider cooking meat for that meal separately so you have a ton of extra veggies to throw in with your lunch/snacks the next day.
  • Blended: try adding veggies/fruits such as any kind of frozen berry or other no-sugar-added frozen fruit, spinach, kale, steamed carrots or baked or canned pumpkin, a few nuts or nut butter and some protein powder into a supershake.
  • Substitute: Instead of eating steak and potatoes, try steak and mashed parsnips, mashed turnips, mashed cauliflower, or cauliflower rice (Trader Joe’s now sells pre-riced cauliflower in their frozen aisle!! Making a “rice” dish super-fast to prepare). You could try a zucchini lasagna or spaghetti squash spaghetti instead of using traditional pastas. By substituting veggies for some of your favorite starchy carbs, you get many more nutrients, including fiber, but you get many fewer calories and fewer total carbohydrates.
  • Guacamole/Hummus: make it chunkier and less creamy by adding many more veggies like onions, tomatoes, peppers, and jicama and use a smaller amount of avocado. Try a roasted eggplant hummus instead of the traditional garbanzo bean hummus.
  • Juicing: juicing can be great, but should be used occasionally as the process removes the fibers and concentrates the sugars in the vegetables/fruits (think carrots/beets).  It is a great way to get your veggie content up but should not be used as a strategy more than 1x/day.  Think of it as a vitamin shot. 

Some Easy Ideas:

  • Omelets can be loaded with veggies such as spinach, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, or sliced or grated zucchini.
  • Your AM snack might be fruit, some beef jerk, and a few nuts
  • Lunch might include a salad with a minimum of two different veggies (lettuce and tomatoes keeps it simple) along with some protein and dressing for fat
  • A nice PM snack might be a protein shake with super-greens powder (such as Greens+) or fresh spinach and some berries, a serving of protein powder, and some raw nuts such as almonds or a bit of nut butter.
  • Dinner can showcase a mixture of broccoli and cauliflower topped with a bit of butter along with salmon or chicken and possibly some starchy carbs like rice, quinoa, or a few small tortillas, or whole-grain bread.

WARNING: potatoes, including sweet potatoes and corn as starchy carbohydrates so don’t be thinking of these as traditional veggies. These should be considered a starchy carb and eaten post-workout only for fast-loss. They can possibly be eaten pre-WOD as well as post-WOD for those concerned with their performance at the gym (eat several hours ahead such as at breakfast or lunch depending upon your exercise schedule).

Some Elaborate Ideas: AKA formal Recipes

*Adapted from Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso

Pureed Turnips (serves 4)

o   4 turnips, scrubbed and rinsed

o   3 TBS organic butter or fat of choice

1)      Quarter the turnips or cook in the pressure cooker for 8 minutes or steamed for 45 minutes or until very tender

2)      Blend in the blender or food processor with butter and spices of choice (salt and pepper, paprika, garlic, etc.); serve warm

 Kids Love Cabbage Slaw (serves 4)

o   2 cups purple cabbage, diced or sliced

o   1 cup cucumber, diced

o   1 shallot or ¼ of a traditional onion or choice, minced

o   ½ c green mango, finely diced (optional)

o   1 TBS Balsamic vinegar

o   2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil

o   Black pepper to taste

1)      Combine all ingredients into a medium bowl; mix well; chill and serve

TIP: this recipe could be really easy by purchasing pre-sliced cabbage, and making the recipe a few days before it needs to be eaten.

Hasta la Vista Pasta Lasagna (serves 4-6)

o   1 red onion, diced

o   4 cloves garlic, minced

o   2 TBS olive oil, butter, ghee, or other fat of choice

o   1-lb ground beef

o   1-lb mild, Italian sausage (optional)

o   2 TBS dried oregano

o   ½-c fresh basil, chopped

o   1.2 tsp cayenne pepper

o   ½ tsp sea salt

o   ½ TBS black pepper

o   1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained

o   1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

o   5-6 zucchini, thinly sliced, long ways with a mandolin slicer, a food processor slicer, or a very, sharp knife; soaked in salt for 10-minutes to 1-hour, rinsed, drained, and patted dry with a tea cloth or a paper towel.

o   1 c sliced, black olives (optional)

1)      Slice zucchini and place in a bowl with 2 TBS salt for at least 10 minutes up to 1 hour; rinse in a colander, pat dry with a tea towel or paper towel, set aside

2)      Preheat oven to 350 degrees

3)      In a large soup pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil or other fat of choice for about 3 minutes

4)      Add ground beef and sausage, cook until browned

5)      Season the meat mixture with all of the dry ingredients, add the drained sliced tomatoes and tomato paste; mix well

6)      In a 9x11 Pyrex dish, place a layer of sliced zucchini, overlapping the long slices

7)      Ladle on a thick layer of meat mixture; top with sliced black olives

8)      Add another layer of sliced zucchini, top with another ladle of meat mixture

9)      Cover tightly with aluminum foil and back for 30 minutes

10)   Let sit for approximately 10 minutes prior to slicing and serving

TIP: this recipe could be really easy by purchasing a pre-made pasta sauce, preferably organic.  Look for the lowest amount of sugars and the smallest list of ingredients.  You could also prep the zukes the night before (wash, cut, soak in salt, rise, drain, wrap in a moist tea towel or paper towel and lay in a glass dish).

*Adapted from Everyday Paleo Around the World: Italian Cuisine by Sarah Fragoso

“Risotto” alla Milanese (serves 4)

o   1 head cauliflower

o   2 pounds marrow beef bones (optional)

o   1-2 cups beef broth

o   1 TBS butter, ghee, lard, or bacon grease

o   1/2 yellow onion, finely diced

o   1 tsp saffron threads (optional)

o   ¼ c white wine

o   ¼ c Italian, flat-leaf parsley, finely diced

o   Salt and pepper to taste

1)      Preheat oven to 450 degrees

2)      Line a baking sheet with foil; place marrow bones on top

3)      Bake for 45 minutes

4)      Once the bones are cool enough to handle, scoop out the roasted bone marrow; set aside

5)      Cut cauliflower into florets; place in a food processor and pulse until the size and consistency of rice (or go and buy about 2 bags of frozen, riced cauliflower at Trader Joe’s!); set aside

6)      Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, heat broth over medium-high heat until it simmers; turn the heat to low and keep the broth warm.

7)      Place saffron threads into a small bowl; add 1/4 of the hot broth over the threads; set aside

8)      In a large sauté skillet, add the butter or fat of choice; heat over medium heat; add onion and sauté until browned

9)      Add the beef marrow; sauté 1-2 minutes

10)   Add the cauliflower; mix well

11)   Meanwhile, cook the cauliflower, onion, and marrow, for 7-10 minutes, stirring often.

12)   Add the white wine to the sauté pan; cook 3-5 minutes

13)   Add the saffron-infused beef broth to the sauté pan; mix well

14)   Add another 1.5 cups of broth to the sauté pan; bring it to a simmer

15)   Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper; serve warm

TIP: this recipe could be really easy by purchasing frozen, pre-riced cauliflower at Trader Joe’s

*Adapted from The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf

Roasted Green Beans (serves 2)

o   1 lb green beans

o   1 TBS olive oil, butter, or ghee, or oil/fat of choice

o   1 TBS thyme

1)      Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2)      Chop the ends off the beans

3)      Place into a roasting pan; add fat and thyme

4)      Toss until well-coated

5)      Bake 20 minutes; check occasionally, tossing each check; serve warm

TIP: this recipe could be really easy by purchasing pre-trimmed green beans or frozen green beans

 Beet and Apple Salad (serves 2)

o   1 lb beets

o   2 TBS olive oil

o   2 TBS lemon juice

o   1 apple

o   ½ c finely chopped red onion

o   ½-1 tsp tarragon

1)      Cut the tops off the beets, place beets in a pot and cover with water.  Simmer, covered over medium-low heat for 1.25 hours; allow beets to cool.

2)      Drain beets, cut off root, and peel the skin

3)      Slice beets crosswise into thin slices; place into a bowl

4)      Pour olive oil and lemon juice over them and chill in fridge

5)      Core and chop the apple, chop the onion, mix into beets and sprinkle with tarragon; chill and serve or serve warm

TIP: this recipe could be really easy by purchasing pre-cooked beets, as sold in Costco’s organic aisle (called Love Beets); or it can be prepped a few days prior to eating.

*Adapted from Gourmet Nutrition by John Berardi

Sesame Broccoli with Feta (serves 2)

o   1.5-cups broccoli florets

o   ½-c feta cheese (optional)

o   ¼-cup raisins (loosely packed)

o   1 tsp lemon juice

o   1 TBS black sesame seeds

o   ½ TBS sesame oil

1)      Steam broccoli for 4-5 minutes or until desired tenderness

2)      Remove from pot to a mixing bowl

3)      Combine all ingredients with the hot broccoli; toss together until combine

4)      Serve warm

TIP: this recipe could be really easy by purchasing a pre-cut broccoli florets as sold at Costco; frozen broccoli florets work just as well!

*Adapted from Paleo Indulgences by Tammy Credicott

Zucchini Pizza Boats (serves 4)

o   4 large zucchini, washed, ends trimmed off, and cut in half, lengthwise; soaked in salt for 10 minutes to 1 hour; rinsed in a colander, drained, and patted dry

o   ¼-c olive oil

o   1 small onion, diced

o   1 clove garlic, minced

o   ¼-c chopped parsley

o   2 (4oz) cans tomato paste

o   1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes

o   ½ tsp oregano

o   ½ tsp basil

o   Pinch rosemary

o   1 tsp sea salt

o   Freshly ground pepper to taste

1)      Slice zucchini and place in a bowl with 2 TBS salt for at least 10 minutes up to 1 hour; rinse in a colander, pat dry with a tea towel or paper towel, set aside.

2)      Preheat oven to 400 degrees

3)      Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat, add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes

5)      Add garlic and parsley; stir

6)      Add remaining sauce ingredients stirring well to combine, turn heat down to low and simmer, covered for 30 minutes

7)      Meanwhile, clean and prep the zucchini.  With a spoon, hollow out the middle of each zucchini half, removing only enough to make a shallow well.  Place the zucchini on a parchment-lined baking sheet, hollowed side up.

8)      Spoon some sauce into each boat, top with your favorite items

9)      Bake about 20 minutes or until toppings are cooked, sauce is bubbling, and zucchini is hot.

TIP: this recipe could be really easy by purchasing a pre-made pizza sauce, preferably organic.  Look for the lowest amount of sugars and the smallest list of ingredients.  You could also prep the zukes the night before (wash, cut, soak in salt, rise, drain, wrap in a moist tea towel or paper towel and lay in a glass dish).

 *Adapted from Sprouts “Farmer’s Market” Magazine

Kale and Peach Salad (serves 4)

o   1 large bunch of kale, stems removed, rinsed and shredded or finely chopped

o   2 peaches, rinsed and cut into wedges (sub nectarines, if you’d like)

o   ½-c shelled pecans, finely chopped (optional)

o   2 TBS agave syrup, honey, or maple syrup

o   1 TBS apple cider vinegar

o   2 tsp light miso (white or yellow)

o   Salt to taste

o   Fresh, ground, pepper to taste

o   ½ tsp basil

o   Pinch rosemary

o   1 tsp sea salt

o   Freshly ground pepper to taste

1)      Place kale in a large salad bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk agave, oil, vinegar, miso, salt and pepper together.  Drizzle over kale and massage into the kale using your hands, add peaches and pecans; gently toss, serve; or chill and serve later in the evening.

2)      Preheat oven to 400 degrees

TIP: this recipe could be really easy by purchasing pre-chopped kale and making the vinaigrette the night before eating or on a food prep day

 Apple and Ginger Green Smoothie (serves 2)

o   1 apple, rinsed, cored, and chopped

o   1 handful spinach or kale leaves; stems removed

o   1 small cucumber, rinsed and chopped

o   1 TBS fresh, minced ginger

o   ¼ -c fresh mint leaves, rinsed, stems removed

o   1 TBS honey, agave nectar, or molasses (optional)

o   1.5-c water

1)      Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until desired consistency; feel free to add ice if you wish

TIP: this recipe could be really easy by purchasing pre-chopped spinach or kale and pre-minced ginger or ground ginger (use 1 tsp), and by pre-prepping the cucumber and mint leaves the night before or during food prep.


  • Inspiration for this blogpost by the Barbell Shrugged Podcast and their Faction Foods Nutrition Course: http://members.barbellshrugged.com/faction-foods-nutrition-course/
  • ANDI Score Information: https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/andi-food-scores.aspx
  • Vegetable/Fruit Serving Recommendations: Precision Nutrition, by John Berardi and Ryan Andrews
  • Recipe inspiration: Everyday Paleo and Everyday Paleo Around the World: Italian Cuisine, both by Sarah Fragoso; The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf; Gourmet Nutrition by Precision Nutrition; and Paleo Indulgences by Tammy Credicott.

-Amber St. Claire

Check out the Veggie Storage Tips below. I recommend printing them and storing this document in your kitchen! Happy eating!

Kitchen Makeover

Limiting Factor: something in your life that makes it difficult for you to achieve a goal.

Well folks, you're a few weeks into the Country Strong Challenge, and hopefully, you've been incorporating some new healthy eating habits into your life. If not, we need to go back and be sure your goals are realistic for you (Feel free to message or email me if you're struggling with this).  If they are realistic, and you're serious about committing to change, then we need to look at your limiting factors and eliminate them as obstacles.

The next few blog posts will help with getting rid of some common limiting factors in your life.

Today, we discuss your kitchen as a potential limiting factor. Making over your kitchen so that it can better serve you in your healthy-eating goals is simple, but not necessarily easy.

Step 1: Toss Junk Foods

  • if it's in your house, you'll will eat it
  • if it's not there, you CAN'T eat it 
  • Trash/Donate junk 
  • Tossing the stuff out that doesn't serve your goals is step 1. Now, throwing away food that you spent money on can be difficult because it seems wasteful. However, most likely, if you have an item in your pantry that's off-limits to you, you're setting yourself up to cheat; whereas, if the item is not in your home, you're less likely to cheat because cheating requires much more of an effort. Therefore, if you cannot fathom getting rid of food that is not so good, have a friend come over and do it for you (you may even want to leave the house during this process).

Junk includes: most processed foods, cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, chips, sugary snacks and drinks, hydrogenated oils, fake meats. 

Step 2: Restock Quality Foods

  • Meats: organic or pasture-raised if feasible
  • Veggies: go for a variety of colors and try to purchase in-season, local, organic veggies
  • Nuts/Seeds: unless you have an allergy to these or you have issues with portion control. In that case, stick to other fat sources like avocado, coconut oil/butter, grass-fed butter, or ghee.
  • Fruits/Berries: most of you won't be eating too much fruit daily, so I advise not to overstock. Berries are your best "anytime" fruit option especially if you stay in the 1/2-1 cup range. I typically buy organic, frozen fruit for my smoothies, and that's about it. 
  • Water/Tea: or any other non-calorie beverage of choice. I like Crystal Geyser sparkling mineral water. You can purchase (unsweetened) iced tea or make it yourself. Coffee is fine as well. If you're a diet soda fan, it's obviously not your best option, but it's also not your worst option. Try mixing some tea with sparking water for a diet soda alternative. 

Step 3: Tools and Appliances

  • Pot with Steamer Basket: it's a lot quicker to boil 1 inch of water than a whole pot of water. In addition, food retains its consistency and nutrients when lightly steamed verses heavily boiled.  Lastly, you can steam a veggie halfway, then sauté it in butter for a few minutes to get better flavor while using less fat (if you have to cook a veggie from start to finish in fat, you need a LOT of fat, which might be too much fat for a meal). 
  • Crockpot with a Plastic Liner: the plastic liners are usually sold near the ziploc bags. Essentially, you line your crockpot and cook. When finished, throw the whole pot insert in the fridge, eat out of it for a few days, throw away the entire liner and your crock is ready for use once again!
  • Non-Stick Skillet: leave it on the stove for easy access every morning if omelets or eggs are your go-to breakfast item. Non-stick items clean up very fast and save you time.  Additionally, you won't need as much cooking fat.
  • Blender: great for super shakes/smoothies. Put everything in your blender container except for any frozen fruits or ice and store it in the fridge; in the am, blend and go.  A quick tip...after you've poured your shake, fill the blender container half way with hot water and a bit of soap, and blend again, rinse, and you're out the door! 
  • Food Processor: hate chopping veggies? Pulse them in the food processor for quick veggies for omelet or on top of salads.
  • Lunch Cooler: gotta keep all that good food cold and fresh. Great for people who work out of their cars a lot such as truck drivers, construction workers, and salesmen. 
  • Baking Pan with Aluminum Foil: I'm sure most of you have a baking pan or cookie sheet. This item is great for baking or broiling meats. But, if you cover the pan with foil first, your cleanup will be super quick and easy.
  • Bare Essentials Utensils: knife, silicone spatula, tongs, and a large cutting board. A single, quality, well-sharpened chef's knife is really all you need. Keep it sharp for easily cutting veggies and meats. Yes, there are other knives for other purposes, and if you have those...awesome! But, if you lack one large, quality knife, this is where you need to start. The spatula can be used to clean out your blender and/or processor, to cook your eggs, and to stir your soups. The tongs are for flipping meats and bacon.
  • Easy Cleanup: use paper plates and plastic utensils. While this option is not so eco-friendly, it is time-friendly. If there are a few days in your week that end up being crazy, don't be afraid to resort to this option...it's better than ordering fast food.

Step 4: Storage and Tupperware

  • Large/Medium/Small Tupperware: large options can hold all the meat and veggies you've prepared ahead of time. The medium pieces are for your to-go lunches and/or dinners, while the small can be used for pre-chopped veggies and fresh herbs that you can use to enhance the flavor of your food throughout the week. 
  • when you get home from shopping, if you can block out an hour or two to wash, chop, and store your veggies while you're cooking up a lot of protein to last for a few days or throughout the week, you're much more likely to eat the food rather than letting the food go bad.
  • Also, if you're prepared, lack of time or lack of healthy, prepared food in the house is no longer a limiting factor for you!

Step 5: Spices

  • Buy in Bulk: salt and pepper get old after a while. Trader Joe's has pretty good deals on spices. Costco sells spice blends such as Taco Seasoning, Montreal Steak Rub, and Lemon Pepper. Even their Chili Powder is actually a blend of several spices.  Winco is also a great place to purchase spices in bulk.  I recently discovered that my Winco has some great spice grinders with salt, pepper, and dried garlic all included in the grinder. They also have Sriracha Salt Grinder which looks intriguing! 

That's it for the kitchen makeover. Next time, we'll talk about grocery shopping!!

Remember to post or email any questions or concerns you have throughout the challenge!!

Cheers! - Amber St. Claire