We know we’re supposed to eat at least 5 cups of veggies every day, but only 2% of Australians actually manage to consume the recommended daily intake of the good stuff.
So what difference does it actually make to eat those 5 cups of veg a day? Carly and Kelly share their experience in today’s episode – the final one of our big launch week extravaganza.
After today’s show we’ll be back to regular weekly shows, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss next Wednesday’s episode.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT
Welcome to Straight and Curly, a podcast for the self-improvement junkies.
Kelly Exeter: I’m Kelly Exeter.
Carly Jacobs: And I’m Carly Jacobs.
Carly Jacobs: Hi everyone and welcome to Episode 5 of Straight and Curly. Today’s episode is not so much on life hacks. It’s just diet that I recently got from a dietitian and it’s the concept of including five cups of vegetables everyday into your diet. This is a particularly interesting topic for Kelly and I because we’re both naturally quite healthy people and have spent most of our lives eating quite well. Even if you ask someone who does eat really well and healthy and you eat for optimum ways and that kind of stuff, it can actually be easy to slack off a bit on the vegetables.
Kelly Exeter: Yeah. Absolutely. And interestingly, I have a health and fitness background from my university days. I’ve always been interested in nutrition. I’ve always been an athlete as far back as I can see. Interestingly. probably in my triathlon days, I really wasn’t on board the veggie bandwagon. I think that’s because I was a committed meat-eating, carbohydrate-arian. So it’s so funny the difference in knowledge I have these days. I wish I had the nutritional knowledge I have now and I wish I could take it back 15 years when I was competing because things would be so different. So back in those days, it was all about carbo-loading. It was all about pasta. It’s a lot of pasta and rice and bread. And I just didn’t eat a lot of vegetables and interestingly, what that got me back then was a lot of gastrointestinal issues.
Carly Jacobs: That doesn’t surprise me at all.
Kelly Exeter: No, and it was awful and every running session in the afternoon, you would see me dipping off to the toilet halfway through and I often joked to my coach that I’d come back and complain the second half of the session, one kilo lighter. But it was just unpleasant to have these constant GI issues and it wasn’t until I did the I Quit Sugar program going back. I did it kind of really, really in its infancy. It’s this massive thing now but I did it back maybe five years ago when it was just an eBook. And it’s the whole, the I Quit Sugar program sounds like it’s just about quitting sugar but really, it’s about removing processed foods from your life. Ironically, that was all I ate.
Carly Jacobs: Because it’s so easy when you’re trying to eat healthy. And because you know veggies do require a little bit of extra work. But in terms of my background with healthy eating, I’m not quite like triathlon sort of nutrition person. But I actually come from a family where we’ve got some weight issues on both sides of my family. Like basically no one in my family is thin. I don’t have the greatest genes, we’re kind of like serial over-consumers and there’s quite a few weight problems in my family. So I don’t have the greatest genes but I am currently 22 kilos lighter than I was when I was in high school so I’ve maintained quite significant weight loss for most of my adult life. So I’m very into eating healthfully for weight maintenance and weight loss as well when I sometimes get a bit lazy and pack on a few kilos. So the reason why this whole vegetable thing came up was because I’m doing some work with 4:01 , a health insurance through my website Smaggle. And part of that is that I went to a dietitian and a dietitian gave me some advice on how to eat for weight loss and the first thing that she gave me was, she wants me to eat 5 cups of vegetables every single day and I was like, “oh yeah, no worries. I can do that everyday.” I actually don’t. And I conscientiously try to eat lots of salads. I frequently do challenges where I eat salad a day or trying to make sure I have enough colors on my plate and that kind of stuff. But when I’m really, really busy, I eat far too many tomatoes on protein toast for lunch and oats and maybe like some canned vegetable soup for dinner. And theoretically, it’s all good stuff but it’s no way near five cups of vegetables a day. So for the last two weeks, I’ve been conscientiously eating 5 full cups of vegetables everyday. And actually, one of the most simple changes I’ve made to my diet and easily one of the most effective, so I’ve lost two and a half kilos in two weeks, which is huge because my weight hasn’t shifted in years. And really the only difference I’ve made is adding a full cup of vegetables to every meal that I have.
Kelly Exeter: And the beauty of adding vegetables and this is I guess what I’ve learned with veggies through doing I Quit Sugar and also through doing a nutritional challenge with my crossfit buck is that the more veggies you eat, it’s 5:30 so it’s removing that whole deprivation thing of any kind of diet that you tend to do tends to come with the feeling of deprivation. It tends to focus on what you can’t eat as opposed to what you can.
Carly Jacobs: Like no chocolate. No processed food. No fats. No chips. That kind of thing.
Kelly Exeter: And that’s it. And the beautiful thing about shifting the focus to just have five cups of vegetables everyday so which means you have to have veggies with your breakfast, with your lunch, and with your dinner. And what these veggies do…
Carly Jacobs: And to snack base. A snack, a vegetable-based snack per day.
Kelly Exeter: That’s it. And what those veggies do is they crowd out your plate so they fill your plate with vegetables and then you have a bit of protein on there as well and then also, you don’t feel deprived because you have this full plate of stuff. You work, you start your way through vegetables. And because vegetables have, although this is my health and nutrition geek coming out of me, I’ve been writing and reading about this stuff for years in addition to going to uni about it. But the beautiful thing about vegetables is that they are just packed with fiber. They’re packed with nutrients. There is so much stuff in there that’s to fill your stomach that you don’t ever really feel deprived.
Carly Jacobs: Exactly, And it also takes a lot of the choice out of it. So like if I’m feeling a bit tired or a bit run down and it’s lunchtime, I’ll be like oh what am I going to have for lunch? I don’t automatically think oh I might just grab one of those.
Kelly Exeter: Toast.
Carly Jacobs: Exactly. I want just to eat toast or grab one of those like semi-healthy kind of toasted sandwich type things at the cafe down the road. Because I know I have to have a full cup of vegetables. So I’ll be like well, obviously, I’m going to start with a salad and then I’ll add some protein to that or maybe if I’m going to have toast, I’ll have a salad as well.
Kelly Exeter: Yeah, so I guess because with these things are fun. The hardest for people to get their heads around is what do I actually do? I usually have oatmeal for breakfast with berries in it and how the hell am I going to get five cups of vegetables in this? I guess this is a good time to talk about, okay let’s talk about the practicalities of how we actually get five cups of veggies throughout the day.
Carly Jacobs: So I’m a huge oats person. I actually live in a gluten-free household because my partner is a celiac. The only thing I won’t give up is my oats because they’re just the source of food ever so I just keep both separate to make sure I don’t put them in any of his food. So in summer, I’ll have an oat green smoothie and it sounds disgusting but if you get oats and almond milk, some kind of like chocolate protein, half a banana, and a giant handful of spinach. And it sounds gross but you don’t even taste the spinach.
Kelly Exeter: And that’s a bit also that’s what I do as well. I’ve got two kinds of breakfast options. I either go to… the green smoothie is pretty much my go-to at the moment. It’s so easy and as you say, it’s like you put two giant handful of spinach in there and you’re 8:43 already. So that’s the great thing about green smoothies. And as you say, you can put spinach like baby spinach. You can put baby spinach in pretty much anything. And you’re just not really going to taste it so that’s what I like. And it might look a little bit disgusting but it tastes really good. The other thing that I’ll do to get my veggies in in the morning is I have those packed of frozen veggies. Those single-serve packs of frozen veggies in the freezer and so I would freeze them, whatever, check it in the microwave. And I just fry them up in a pan and then I throw three eggs on top of them. And that’s brilliant. And that’s protein and veggies and that gets you through to lunchtime so easily but then…
Carly Jacobs: So for morning tea for veggie-based snacks, I just generally have like cherry tomatoes I quite like. So I just buy like a packet of cherry tomatoes and eat some of those and another thing I really like is getting cucumber and then you slice it up so it looks like little crackers and then you can spread it with a dip or I’d have a little piece of ham or like a single slice of cheese and cut it into four pieces or you can have cucumbers…
Kelly Exeter: Cucumber crackers.
Carly Jacobs: And like people laugh at you but it’s like who are you? I’m healthy. Get stuffed.
Kelly Exeter: The other thing I love too is I love putting celery together with nut butter, peanut butter or almond butter or anyone of those nut butters. Because now that we’re in 2015, we know that fat isn’t bad for you. We know that fat doesn’t make you fat. So I love getting a really good hummus. I’m dairy intolerant so I can’t have egg and dairy so a good dairy-free hummus or a nice nut butter. And yeah, with broccoli 10:38 , the whole celery, even mixes very well with carrots to be honest. So all those crunchy kind of vegetables that makes good snacks, I pair it well. And I do find vegetables tend to go through my system quickly so I could be hungry like an hour later but if I pair it with a good fat like an avocado, like a guacamole type dip or with a nut butter, it slows down that path.
Carly Jacobs: Yeah, definitely. And like by including five cups of vegetables a day where it’s not just to make only eat vegetables. It’s about adding vegetables to what you’re already eating. The other day, we had a leftover gluten-free pizza base and Ben was like, should we have pizza slump chunks. And I was like I’m really trying to do this really healthy eating thing and it’s like, you know what, it was like a single-served pizza base that theoretically would only have served one person. So I made it. We ate half of it each and had an enormous salad as well. So it was just like the perfect way of using up leftover food in the fridge, eating something super tasty and delicious for lunch in a smaller portion and then adding just a shitload of vegetables around it. And it was the perfect lunch. I would eat that everyday. It was amazing.
Kelly Exeter: That said, another thing that I love about salads is that you can do a load of that stuff ahead of time and you can make a load of interesting salads. Like I eat a lot of spinach. I’m not a cook but I can roast veggies. I can roast pumpkin in the oven and the beautiful thing about roast pumpkin is it sits really well in the fridge. And it goes really well in salads and makes salads really amazing. You throw in some pine nuts and some pumpkin in with some spinach, and that’s just a really yummy quite filling type salad even without any protein. So I know a lot of people kind of go, oh salad, boring. But they don’t have to be. You had it with your salads day thing where you had like heaps…
Carly Jacobs: Yeah, definitely. I’m a huge salad eater. I have been for years because I have this weird theory how depending on when you were born and what year you were a teenager, you will be deathly afraid of one particular food group for the rest of your life. So I was born in the Atkins era. Well, I like to claim to be a dieting teenager during the Atkins era so I will be terrified of cobs for the rest of my life. So my mom used to really weird about fat because that was the big thing. When she was going through her dieting phase and the people that are coming through now are really scared of sugar. So it’s like whatever was the big thing when you’re a teenager. So I ate heaps and heaps of salad because basically bread terrifies the shit out of me. So one of the things I’ve been doing recently, because a lot of people get really weird about convenience and stuff. Like people end up eating toast for lunch four days a week because it’s quick and easy. It is just as easy. So my partner often has tuna on toast or salmon on toast for lunch and he doesn’t understand that it’s just as easy to grab a handful of spinach and have a tuna or salmon salad instead of having it on toast. So I actually always go to the supermarket and supermarkets have cottoned on to these guys like it is so good. If you go into like a Coles or Woolies, they have ready made salads that they’ll just have like a bowl that has little bits and pieces, what I love at Coles, it’s got spinach and like superfood nuts and this really yummy dressing. And it’s $5 and it’s enormous and I’ll buy one and my partner and I will split it and they actually sell shredded plain chicken in the deli so I just grab like a hundred grams of that, pop it on the salad, add some extra bits and pieces, and it’s super cheap and it ends up being like $6 or $7 per serve. And it’s super quick like I can get it at any Coles or Woolies pretty much anywhere. And it’s absolutely brilliant and it’s cheap and healthy and delicious.
Kelly Exeter: And I love that how it belies the fact that eating healthy is more expensive than eating…
Carly Jacobs: It’s def not.
Kelly Exeter: And certainly, if you’re going to have pop tarts for breakfast and lunch and then yeah, eating healthy might be a little bit more expensive than those. But realistically, like I said, you can roast up so veggies. You have them in the fridge. You have a lot of stuff in the freezer that’s ready to go and it’s just a matter of assembling everything and it takes a little bit of forward thought but what I’ve found, so I’m not a cook. This is why I got really into convenience food and into processed foods as an adult because I lack imagination in the kitchen. I was always strapped for time so I just made whatever was easiest. And so the hardest thing for me in getting on board the fresh fruit, the fresh unprocessed food bandwagon was like when in the hell am I going to find the time to serve this stuff. But you know what, it’s just like anything in life, you develop systems and procedures around it so when you first go to do it, you’re like, I just don’t have time for this. Oh god this takes so long. But it’s now such a part of my day, my green smoothie in the morning, it takes 5 minutes to make which is a lot less time than bacon and eggs or even then poached. It takes the same amount of time as that. It’s just as filling. I have a pea protein powder that I put into that, which yes, costs money but it’s kind of all swings and roundabouts. What I’m not spending on that, I’m making up in these. Quite often on the weekend, I live in Perth, which is possibly the most expensive place.
Carly Jacobs: It’s so expensive out there. I have only been there for like 20 minutes on my way through to my first job a few years ago and I ordered food somewhere it was like $30. I was like, I nearly died because I’m from Canberra which is also very expensive but I live in Melbourne now which is just really cheap and I live like in Fitzroy kind of Abbot Food, Richmond Dairy also. I can get an amazing giant soup for like $9 at any time. So going to Perth and being like here’s a shitty sandwich. That would be $35. I’m like, you’re the worst.
Kelly Exeter: Carly is not even joking. I remember once when Ant and I had been in Melbourne and we landed back in Perth and we got hungry so we just went and okay is at the airport but it’s still, this is just indicative that I think I just ordered a panini and two coffees and it was like $30. And I didn’t even blink and then I walked away and I was like, oh yeah, we’re back in Perth now. So we’re not in Melbourne anymore. So I live in the most expensive place on the planet so if you like just a little lunch by next to our office, I’ll go down there and get a little salad and a coffee and that’s $15-$17. So whenever I kind of go, oh it’s so expensive to go and buy my own vegetables from the shops and put this together and I go, if that costs $5-$7 which is a lot cheaper than the $17 that I just spent on that salad next door.
Carly Jacobs: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s also important to have a look at your lifestyle and how you can make changes to make incorporating vegetables into your diet, not seem like a huge giant chore. So I live literally, like if you walk outside my apartment building, there’s a supermarket 20 meters outside my front door which is fantastic. Like I love it. I go there like four times a day because I don’t have to plan ahead anymore. So it’s fantastic but it’s also totally changed the way that I consume food because it will be lunchtime and before the supermarket… because it’s actually just recently opened and the supermarket that I used to use is a good 7-minute walk away, which is still really achievable but it was a bigger chore to go there whereas now and it was easier to kind of go the sushi joint down the road or get something else that was a bit closer. Now the actual thing that is closest to my house is an enormous supermarket that has everything I could possibly need, I just have to reach off my thinking because there’s no excuse now. It is actually just cheaper, healthier, and more convenient for me to go to the giant supermarket and make myself a salad and something healthier than I used to go even further to like the sushi joint or the Vietnamese place to dabble some noodles.
Kelly Exeter: That’s it. And the payoffs are huge. So you just mentioned some of your payoffs. I’ve found for me since I’ve shifted my diet away from processed, I know it sounds so obvious when we say it. But when I shifted my diet away from processed foods and more towards getting closer to the source with what was eating, so my skin just looked amazing. Like I just would catch myself, I would just stare at myself in the mirror because instead of every so often having this good day where you go, I really look quite nice today. Like everyday I was like going, wow I look really nice. And it was purely because my skin just looks so different. I had good color like before that it would tend towards the gray or my eye would be droopy. Also my gut just did not work. I shatter to think how many years my gut did not work effectively.
Carly Jacobs: I noticed that a lot like every time I go to Asia because you obviously avoid eating vegetables because they would have touched the water when you’re out there. I go a week without vegetables. My stomach is just like bloated and revolting and I just feel so gross.
Kelly Exeter: And it’s a horrible feeling like it’s funny I got a bit bloated the other day for I’m not sure what reason. I suspect hormones but that was like how I used to be everyday so again it was spoken in earlier podcast that how quickly something can become normal like that was my normal so I just thought that’s just how life is. I’m always going to have this constant pain in my lower intestines and that’s just how it is or I’m constantly going to be like whoa. And then I started eating this way and now it’s just like I don’t have that feeling everyday. I don’t have to let out my belt latte in the afternoon because that’s when the bloating comes on and when I do have it, I get a good reminder of why I eat well and that’s what I found. I found the better that you eat, the more quickly your body will give you a reminder about why you eat that way when you don’t. And it’s kind of a bit of a whole due to that good eating habit because I found when I used to eat poorly back in the day, it was just like this is what I always feel so I don’t notice any difference. But now, like when I was in Sydney, I was eating a lot of food, I don’t know how many I ate a lot of rich food and I came back and like for two days after I was a bit doubled over and I was like oh yeah that’s right. This is why I eat this way. And then when I was back home, I got back into my groove of eating all this stuff that I normally do. And this is a good reminder.
Carly Jacobs: It’s awesome. It makes such a big difference. My partner, Ben and I, are like that because we eat really good healthy food. I make lots of vegetables at home and if we travel a lot together, and you eat out and see all your friends and you’re eating things that you’re not used to, both of us just end up feeling so toxic really, really quickly because we just eat so well most of the time that it’s like when other people are in control of what we’re eating it’s just foul. Another thing that I think is really awesome about including five cups of vegetables in your diet everyday is that it stops that awful feeling of deprivation. So like if you’re trying to eat better or trying to lose weight and this is the one thing that you’re focusing on, and your friends say, do you want to come out for dumplings for dinner on Thursday night? You can totally go. But what you do is you order a giant plate of steamed broccoli and you fill up. Make sure you get your full cup of steamed broccoli before you start eating your dumplings and I just guarantee you’ll eat half the amount of dumplings that you would have.
Kelly Exeter: Absolutely, and without the feeling of deprivation. Yeah I absolutely love that as a tactic. The other tactic is obviously to just take it slowly so if you just go, oh my god I can’t do this five cups of vegetables, just start with two cups of vegetables and work your way up or just add a cup of vegetables to breakfast and do that for the first week. That’s kind of how I started. I started with just with breakfast and then I started go…and then once I got it on top of breakfast, then I started looking at lunch and going okay what can I do to move away from having toast for lunch every single day.
Carly Jacobs: Yeah, that’s easy.
Kelly Exeter: And I developed my message around lunch and then I got onto dinner because this year I’ve also gotten away from bread because bread is also a bit of a bloating thing for me. And yeah, so it’s just figuring out the substitutes and once you’ve got the substitutes, everything becomes so much easier. So do give yourself permission to go at it slowly if you’re going, okay I can’t go five cups of vegetables a day so I’m just going to go none. Just go instead of doing five, I’ll do two and then once I see how easy that is then I’ll do three and work up from there.
Carly Jacobs: And I’ll be honest. I often don’t end up having my vegetables for breakfast. I started actually having tomatoes on protein toast which has been working out quite well. I’m not eating a cup of tomatoes on protein toast. One tomato sliced up on protein toast. It’s all about just doing the best you can and just making healthy choices whenever you’ve got the option to. Like a friend of mine and I went out for dinner on Saturday night and we went to a pizza joint and neither of us are huge pizza people and we were like oh do you want to just split a single-served pizza and get a giant salad on the side as well. And it’s all about being able to eat whatever you feel like you want to eat in small portions surrounded by vegetables.
Kelly Exeter: Yeah, that’s perfect. That is a really, really good way of describing it.
Carly Jacobs: Yeah, so this month, our challenge to you is to try and include five cups of vegetables everyday if you can. If you can only manage to three, that’s fine. But just generally becoming more vegetable-aware so this is something we’ve both done at several times and you do need to remind yourself that you’re doing it because most of the time, it is second nature for me to include vegetables but today actually because we’ve been recording for a few hours and I’m starving, I was like it’s lunchtime, I was like ooh I might go get some sushi and then we just recorded this episode about vegetables and I’m like I better get a salad as well.
Kelly Exeter: Yeah, definitely. And yeah, I tagged it on Instagram with your vegetable concoctions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And just tag us with using the #straightandcurly. We’d love to see the different things that you come up with because we’re always looking at creative habits so I tend to revert to the same green smoothies and the same salad every single day so I’m always looking for ideas if you guys have got any.
Thank you so much for listening to Straight and Curly. This week’s show notes and links will be available at www.straightandcurly.com.