It's time to eat more vegetables - starting with broccoli! 它

It's time to eat more vegetables - starting with broccoli! 它
Photo by Mockup Graphics / Unsplash

For 2024, one of my goals is to learn to eat more vegetables. It isn't a promise; it's more of a goal, and I am generally pretty good at achieving my goals. I'm also pretty good at NOT setting goals that are not realistically achievable - often due to lack of time and focus.

But why?

Ever since I was a kid, I've been very picky about the type of food I eat. My parents honestly struggled with my upbringing in that sense. The usual foods I enjoyed eating as a child were cucumber and the whitest white macaroni. Note, though, that the cucumber had to be peeled first.

Since then, especially during my 20s and 30s, I've expanded on this quite a bit. I've tweaked my diet for lactose-free and less carbs in the past ten years. In a somewhat peculiar way, I have two modes when I'm evaluating the food on my plate:

  1. If I'm at home or in a non-formal setting, I am more picky
  2. If I'm attending a business dinner, I usually eat anything that is put in front of me

Thus, the second option here implied that I am capable of enjoying food I don't like that much. And plenty of times, the food I've eaten tastes pretty good.

The goal

The goal is simple: Eat more vegetables, and generally eat more of the good stuff - less of the things you can instinctively say are not great. The subtext here is that I'm actively avoiding pasta, excess sugar, cheese, and potatoes and proactively trying to replace those with vegetables and fruit.

As I like setting goals to challenge myself, I figured I'd need a system. Something relatively easy, as on busy days, you don't want a complex approach to getting food on the plate.

Thus, my system is to fill half of the plate with green stuff. For the rest, I'll optimize for chicken, fish, or the occasional red meat. This only requires a bit of mental focus when prepping a meal and when putting stuff on the plate. I've seen friends do severe meal prepping, which is admirable, but I'm not quite there yet.

We start with broccoli.

In the past few years, I've learned to sort of like tomatoes. The small cherry tomatoes are pretty OK. Still, I don't like the slushy big ones, especially in a hamburger. Carrots, cucumber, paprika, green salad, lettuce - the "easy" veggies I will happily do any given meal.

Broccoli and cauliflower have been my nemesis forever. Thus, I've started with broccoli to reach new heights and challenge myself. During as many meals (lunches and dinners) I'll strive to add broccoli on the plate.

Initially, I started with a single piece of broccoli. Usually, it's boiled in hot water for 7 minutes, so it becomes a bit crunchy but not icky.

It's been about a month now. I've had broccoli perhaps 20-25 times now. Not every day, and not on each meal. I've had more travel than usual, and sometimes, it's hard to include broccoli when you're having a business dinner with a group of 20 people with a pre-set menu. In those cases, I've happily optimized for more veggies and left the potato and pasta mostly untouched.

What will this change?

For me, there are a few things I'm looking to achieve here. First, I want to like to eat more vegetables. I'm not quite there yet with broccoli, but on a scale of 1 (yuck!) to 10 (I love it!) I'm at around 7 or 8- right now. I don't pause when I see broccoli on the plate. Although, I often mix broccoli with something to make it easier to ingest - like a slice of watermelon or cucumber.

Will this change anything for me? I'm confident it will. I hope to become a little bit leaner, and I've now learned that lifting weights four times a week won't do it alone. More cardio and a better diet are the following stepping stones for me. Both are relatively easy to do and enjoyable at the same time.

(What's more lean, you ask? Without losing muscle, I think 5% less body mass for me.)

Besides the obvious health benefits, I hope I'll become so used to eating more green that, eventually, there will be less and less space on the plate for stuff that I enjoy hugely but don't need. Again, that's pasta, cheese, potato, white rice, red meat, and anything with excess carbs. Also, there is way less bread and less - if any - butter in anything.

Cutting other things, too

Besides focusing on more vegetables and eating more healthily, I've also cut down drastically on candy, ice cream, cookies, and alcohol. When I write "drastically," I don't mean to sound like we popped open a new bottle of fantastic Cabernet every evening. But more to the tune of "we never open a bottle at home" unless we have special guests. This allows me to enjoy excellent wine during conference dinners and other events.

I love good ice cream and cookies but do not need them. It has been surprisingly easy to cut them out altogether. The trick? Please don't buy them, and don't have any of them at home.

Counting calories, or not?

I generally do not count calories in my diet. On a typical non-sports day, my body burns about 2500 kcal. On a typical day with a tough gym and a bit more moving around, I'm at about 3500 to 3800 kcal. My absolute max is perhaps 4000-4200 kcal, and that's when I'm taking it too far with my body.

I've tried counting calories every now but haven't locked it down. I doubt I will now, but that's a goal for the future.

The fun anecdote that I sometimes think back on is that in modern times, it's never been as easy to find food and have food, and it's never been as easy to be as sedentary as possible. For me, it's a stark reminder to use public transportation more, even when it's super convenient to hop in the car and get from A to B. Putting in the steps each day and avoiding excess sitting - which, on busy days, is something I find myself doing a bit too much when work puts me in the flow.

On intermittent fasting

A topic that I'm peculiarly interested in but haven't set as a goal is intermittent fasting. I see 8:16 as the model many seem to prefer eat within an 8-hour window during each, and do not eat for 16 hours. Coffee, water, and tea - I guess - are still allowed.

Playing with the idea, especially on days with gym sessions, would imply eating between noon and 8 pm. I'm a big proponent of a healthy breakfast, so giving up on that would hinder me. Yet, I don't want to go to bed without eating anything in the past 4 or 6 hours.

Intermittent fasting is something I'll try out for a limited time - perhaps for a solid month to begin with - and for that, I'll need a month with less hectic obligations.

What next?

I feel I'll conquer broccoli in the next week or two. Then it has integrated into my diet so naturally that I'm mentally graduating it to "an element of my meal" instead of "stuff I have to eat besides my meal."

For February, I'm thinking of cauliflower or avocado. I dislike both, yet I'm OK with them in limited quantities. I need to enjoy them more and have them more on my plate.

You can follow my journey on X with the hashtag #YearOfBroccoli. I'd appreciate any tips and tricks you might have to help me expand my culinary taste!