Thursday, August 20, 2015

Does Your Life Suck? Try Vegetables for Breakfast

Vegetables for breakfast (VFB).

I know, it sounded so odd at first.

Unless you aren't from the United States. It's fairly common all over the world to eat vegetables for breakfast. Just not in the United States. 

Here we eat decadent desserts for breakfast like pancakes or waffles in syrup, pastries or sugary cold cereal. VFB is totally weird.

Now, if you are at a healthy weight and you have been successful at transitioning over to a whole food plant based diet, you don't need to get all upset with me and tell me that there's NO WAY in heck you are giving up your beloved bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Because, good news . . . you don't have to!

This blog posting is for the folks out there who, try as hard as they might, are still caught in "the pleasure trap" and just can't seem to lose the weight no matter what plant based diet they do. 

Or worse.

They're like me and they managed to gain 50 pounds on an otherwise healthy plant based diet.

Did I tell you that I was on an episode of The Doctors to talk about how I had gained 50 pounds on a Vegan diet? Okay, that's another blog posting entirely.

Back to those of you that haven't lost weight or haven't achieved your ideal, goal weight on a plant based diet. Your life sucks. (That's a joke, I have no idea if those 30, 40, 50 or even more extra pounds is making your life suck or not. I'm just guessing that it is.)

When Chef AJ came to visit me two years ago and explained to me how she had lost all that weight, a key component of her success was starting out each and every day with at least one pound of non-starchy vegetables. You see, AJ was running an in-person weight loss clinic in Los Angeles called "Take the Unprocessed Challenge" (or something close to that) and a few of the participants emerged even more successful than every one else (they lost the most weight). One of the rules of the program was that every day you had to include at least two pounds of non-starchy, raw and/or cooked, vegetables in your diet.

These extra successful participants had all adopted the habit of starting their day with their required non-starchy vegetables. 

Why? Because they had really busy lives and they needed to leave their house very early in the morning. They were concerned that if they didn't start their day with them, that they might not eat the two pounds.

So they ate them first.

Kale for breakfast.

That's how this whole thing got started.

Once AJ figured out what they were doing, she started having all of the participants in her live program do the same thing. And she did it herself. And the weight started melting off of all of them.

And, like they say, the rest is history.

AJ changed the name of her program to Ultimate Weight Loss. Because that's what ended up happening. It became people's way of ending their weight loss battle for good.

Why does this work? Heck if I know, I'm not a doctor or nutritionist. But I have my suspicions. Here are my guesses, in no particular order:
  1. Neuroadaptation. That's fancy for "change your brain with chemicals." Whatever is going on in these vegetables, it's having a darned good effect on my brain. My uncontrollable cravings for junk food? GONE. My obsession with birthday cake? Vanished. I'd rather eat a peach.
  2. Calorie density. If you don't know what that is, I highly recommend you learn about it. It's like magic for your body. Basically, if you eat foods that are high in volume (they take up a lot of space in your stomach) but they are low in calories, you simply consume less calories in a day. Non-starchy vegetables are so full of water and fiber, and so low in calories (about 100 calories per pound of food) that you simply cannot overeat them. In fact, if you start all of your meals with non-starchy vegetables, you will be doing yourself the biggest favor (I'm not totally there yet, but hey, I'm also a work in progress.)
  3. You won't eat until you are actually, truly, really and in fact HUNGRY. Think about it, would you eat steamed kale if you weren't hungry? Probably not. And that turns out to be a very good thing. Veggies for breakfast gets you in touch with your actual hunger signals. You learn over time to get very comfortable with that feeling that "I'm sort of hungry, but not really hungry enough to eat." In the past, as soon as I felt any amount of hunger I would start to eat. That's a really bad habit. That habit leads to consuming too many calories per day, which leads to too much fat on your body). Like AJ says, "If you're not hungry enough to eat kale, you're not hungry!"
Now I bet you're saying to yourself, "Sure, I'd like to try that if it's so good for me, but who the heck has time to make vegetables for breakfast? I need to just grab a sports bar and run out of my home in order to barely make it to work on time! This would simply put me over the edge!"

Well, I'm going to try to make this easy for you. It's not going to happen in one single blog posting. I'm sorry about that. 

I can only bore you for so long before you stop reading this post.

So without further ado, here's a step by step on how I make my vegetables for breakfast about half the time. It looks fussy, but it's not.

I always start with low sodium vegetable broth (I hope to be making my own veggie broth from scraps really soon) and one of my large collection of salt free seasoning blends.

I get that veggie broth into the bottom of a large skillet and I wait until it's bubbling rapidly.

Then I start broth sauteing the vegetables. I like to start with cut up grape tomatoes a lot of the time because I find that in addition to the salt free seasoning blends, cooked tomatoes make a really nice sauce for my veggies. I'm just not as excited by simple food, but if you are, that's awesome!

I just happened to feel like putting in onions, so I made sure that they went in early as well. You want to cook your vegetables in the order from hardest to softest. I like to let my onions cook down for a bit in all of my cooking.

But in the morning, without a lot of time to really caramelize the onions, I maybe let them cook for 5 minutes.

Next I threw in quartered cremini mushrooms.

Here's that salt free seasoning again. 

I didn't add that until after the mushrooms had cooked for a few minutes.

When the mushrooms had cooked I added the baby spinach. That cooks in about 15 seconds, so in no time flat, my breakfast looked like this:

An omelet without the eggs!

I generally try to make at least 2-4 pounds of vegetables in one shot. That way, I can eat the exact same thing for lunch that day, with the addition of potato or brown rice, and I can eliminate having to prepare one whole meal of the day for myself (assuming I've got those potatoes or rice batch cooked and ready to reheat).

Now I know what you are thinking. You're thinking that you'd be so darned hungry if that's all you ate for breakfast. Don't worry, I've got you covered. As soon as you get hungry again, just eat some fruit, a potato, some more rice and vegetables or anything you are in the mood for, just so long as that first meal of your day was that pound of non-starchy vegetables.

Or you're thinking, "If I had to eat that for breakfast, I'd never be in the mood to eat!" Have you ever heard of intermittent fasting? It's a really cool thing. If you fasted every day from 8 pm until noon the next day, I promise you, you won't die and you'll be a lot thinner.

What you might find is that over time, you become less and less hungry. Which is a really good thing if you have struggled with weight most of your life!

You might also be thinking, "Yeah, I'd like to give that a try, but does it need to be that fussy?"

No, it doesn't.

A plain bowl of fresh or frozen steamed green beans will work just as well. I particularly enjoy cooked frozen broccoli, but I might be weird.

Does the thought of unsalted vegetables make you gag? If you really want to try this and you just can't get any traction doing it, try spraying your veggies with a little bit of Bragg Liquid Aminos on them just to get you through the first few weeks. I promise you, your taste buds will adapt and soon enough those VFBs will start tasting like candy!

It also doesn't need to take more than 15 minutes to throw together. I keep my fridge stocked with convenience vegetables at all times to make this process as fast and painless as possible.

But not as fast and painless as a sports bar. Those will kill you (just kidding)!

And if you never want to miss a single Healthy Girl's Kitchen VFB, follow me on Instagram. I've posted a picture of them just about every day for the past 231 days.

So does VFB still sound totally crazy to you?
Blogging tips