To Eat Your Veggies, First You Have to Buy Your Veggies

Clean your plate of veggies, or it’s no gains for you.

A diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits is the simplest way to reach your health and fitness goals. Vegetables contain invaluable vitamins, minerals, and nutrients with minuscule calories. By just filling half of your plate with vegetables at each meal, you are on your way to improved well being.

However, despite the simplicity of it, I have come to realize some people don’t know how to acquire good vegetables. This dilemma became apparent to me when my gym started taking part in a farmer’s market delivery service. Every week, the service brings a basket of vegetables and fruits straight to the gym. Customers are given the option of different sized baskets, depending on their family size and health concerns, like a lower carb option (no veggies) or a “workout” edition (sweet potatoes instead of white).

My gym members absolutely love the service, because it gives them convenient access to an array of foods they normally wouldn’t purchase, and most of the items are locally grown. I hear tales of people biting right into a red pepper, bursting with flavor, and being excited in the pure bulk of food received.

I tried the service of for three weeks, and I must admit, I wasn’t as delighted. A small market basket contains about 15 pounds of vegetables and costs $20 per week. Now, that is a substantial amount of vegetables, and for local, organically grown, a reasonable price. Or so I thought. The vegetables I received were certainly not worth the cost. I received exuberant amounts of cabbage, green peppers, and green onions. These vegetables are the cheapest of the cheap. Additionally, a lot of the options clearly were not locally grown. The bananas, oranges, and apples, all had stickers from the stores they originated from. When I do my own grocery shopping, I allocate my veggie money, my “greens green”, to broccoli, kale, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, etc. These vegetables can be turned into salads or stand alone as a side dish. No one wants to eat two pounds of cabbage, and green onions are an adornment, not a hearty edible option.

So, why was my opinion of the service so different from the experience of the others? It’s because I know what I’m doing when I hit the grocery store. Others don’t seem as knowledgeable. And that’s fine, they may not have been raised on or accustomed to veggie shopping. We live in a society where fast food and the freezer section have made shopping “convenient”, but possibly at the cost of personal health. For these people who are a bit intimidated by the produce section, I’d like to offer the following tips:

  1. Shop Aldi. I am such a strong proponent of Aldi, but their produce prices seriously cannot be beat. They are also constantly expanding their local, organic section, so you are sure to find quality fruits and vegetables at exceptional prices.
  2. Check the reject bin. Don’t have an Aldi, but still want to find low produce prices? Ask a store associate where they put their “ugly vegetables”. These fruits and vegetables may be misshapen or a little past their prime. They are still completely edible though, as long as you quickly consume or freeze them. Not only will you save money here, but you will help reduce food waste.
  3. Buy headliners. Vegetables and herbs like green onions and cilantro add tons of flavor to meals, and if you have room in your budget, buy them up. But, they cannot stand alone as a meal or side dish like broccoli or salads can. Additionally, they tend to go bad a lot faster than other options, so be sure to use or preserver them before they do, or again, your just wasting your money.
  4. Pick what’s in season. A lot of my gym members noted how great the vegetables tasted, well that’s because they are in season. Although we have access to most fruits and vegetables year round, that isn’t how it works in nature. Fruits and vegetables are at their peaks during certain times of the year. That means seasonal vegetables are fresher, tastier, and most likely traveled a shorter distance to get to you. Don’t know what’s currently in season? Check out this great list provided by Fruits & Veggies More Matters.
  5. Chop for Yourself. Mixed in with the fresh, whole produce are plenty of prepped items. There are vegetables sliced and ready to be tossed into a fajita, fruit salads already yummy yummy, and greens mixed into the perfect caeser. While this produce is convenient and fairly fresh, it costs way more than buying and prepping the ingredients yourself. It takes a few minutes to slice a bell pepper or chop some pineapple, so buy whole and do the job yourself. Your budget will thank you.
  6. Try new things. The one thing I did actually enjoy about the service is that it forced me to try new things. One week, I received a bundle of collard greens. Collard greens are not something I usually pick out, because being from the South, they’re typically paired with plenty of bacon fat. I checked Pinterest for some inspiration, and found a recipe for collard green burritos. Instead of tortillas, you blanch the greens and roll up your goodies inside. I filled mine with a blend of shrimp, rice, and cabbage (since I had pounds on pounds of cabbage). They were incredible! Now I’m adding collard greens to my normal rotation. You don’t need a service to try new things, pick up a fresh seasonal vegetable you normally wouldn’t try, and do your own experiment. You might find something delicious that will make you actually want to eat your veggies.
  7. Plan before you shop. If you are new to the produce section, it can be a bit overwhelming. There are countless rows and bins brimming with fresh options. Where do you start? To ensure you come home with vegetables and fruit you can and will actually eat, make sure you go in with a plan in mind. Look for some vegetable side dish recipes or think about what kind of snacks you would like to have, like apples and pb or carrots and hummus.
  8. Love your veggies! Fruits and vegetables give you so much wellness and love, can’t you love them back? Vegetables shouldn’t be scraped off  the plate or shuttled under the table to the dog. If you don’t like a certain one, find something you do! There’s an entire rainbow of produce available, you are sure to find your gold.

While I wasn’t impressed by the quality of this particular service, I fully support their mission. They want to give people convenient access to fresh local food. If you simply don’t have time to go to the grocery store, then it could be a life saver. However, if you have some time to do your own shopping, I encourage you to learn how to shop for veggies and fruits the right way.

Go forth, procure your produce!

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