GIVE the veggies a little more love, says a certified health coach and yoga teacher.
Elham Kolahchian, a Muscat-based health coach, has come out with her own practical tips of creative ways to eat more vegetables everyday.
She has a holistic approach to wellness for residents in Oman.
She also helps her clients in various aspects of health such as nutrition, weight management, exercise, stress management and self-care.
Elham works with families and individuals to improve their eating habits and overall health by creating positive lifestyle changes.
Her main focus is on eating a balanced diet of whole foods, mostly sourced from plants, clean proteins and healthy fats.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential nutrients that our body needs everyday to run efficiently and their high water content helps hydrating your body, especially during the present hot summer days of Oman.
Most vegetables and fruits are rich in fibre which helps with digestion and promotes a healthy weight loss. They are filling while being very low in calories.
According to her, for example a cup of broccoli has only 30 calories while same amount of white rice has over 200. This is still significantly fewer calories compared to meat, cheese and sugary treats. That is one of the reasons why she encourages her clients to make sure at least 50 per cent of their plates are vegetables.
Though we all know vegetables are good, but still somehow most of us do not eat enough of them on a daily basis.
Based on her experience with local clients, a typical Omani diet has less than recommended 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables in a day, and for many families includes more than one serving of red meat and chicken.
What could be the reason?
Perhaps, she reasons, that we are so used to eating out these days, or we do not have enough time or skills to cook healthier meals at home. Or maybe we find vegetables boring and tasteless!
“By adding more vegetables in your diet, you will fill your stomach with all the good nutrients and fibre so there will be less room for the rest. Plus your body will receive all the minerals and vitamins you need from the vegetables, resulting in more energy, better mood and even clear skin,” she explains.
According to her, we are so used to eating the way we have been while growing up. We find comfort in eating what mum used to cook for us, and it is a big challenge to completely change that.
“In Oman, food is a big part of the culture and most events are centred on food. And the local food is heavily focused around eating lots of red meat and rice, with little to no vegetables at all. Shifting from this diet will be hard but not impossible,” she mentions.
However, Elham says even for a person who likes the taste of vegetables, it could be a challenge to eat the recommended servings a day.
She has come out with creative ways to add vegetables to the diet.
This has greatly helped several of her clients to adopt practical healthy eating habits. “Food prep” becomes a weekly routine after sticking with it for the first few weeks.
Her top five easy and practical tips to help incorporate more vegetables in your everyday meals are:
1. Plan ahead and prepare your veggies: It is more likely we eat vegetables if it is ready and handy. Better to set aside one or two hours a week to wash and chop some greens, carrots, celery sticks and cucumbers.
Place them somewhere visible in the fridge and snack on them during the day. It will also make your life easier to cook some vegetables on the weekends (broccoli, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and brussels sprouts) and have them ready in the fridge for your busy weekdays.
2. Buy frozen produce: Organic and local fresh vegetables are the best to eat but they are not always available or affordable. Frozen fruits and vegetables can actually be as nutritious as fresh. It is a huge time saver to have ready to cook vegetables handy in the freezer, and organic frozen produce is usually more cost effective than fresh.
3. Sneak in extra vegetables into your favourite recipes: Whether it’s an omelette, pasta or favourite curry, add in some finely chopped vegetables for that extra nutrients and fibre. Start with small amounts and work your way up.
Elham works with young families who find it challenging to get their little ones eat any vegetables. Hacks and tricks like these come very handy with children as well.
4. Cook with proper seasoning: Most people don’t like vegetables because they don’t know how to cook them. Honestly nobody likes steamed broccoli and string beans! Give the veggies a little more love. Add a generous amount of sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, garlic or soya sauce to add flavours. Consider taking a cooking class and trying out new recipes or just watch and learn from the thousands of cooking videos available online.
5. Make smoothies: As a healthy breakfast or midday snack, blending up a smoothie is one of the best ways to sneak in a handful or two of spinach or kale into your day. Mix in some fresh or frozen berries, mangoes or pineapple and you will not be able to taste the greens anymore.
Elham also teaches group workshops on various topics such as holistic nutrition, mindful eating, workplace wellness and prenatal nutrition.
Those interested can contact on email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram@healthcoach.elham