How to eat more raw fruits and vegetables

February 8, 2010

Whats wrong with this picture? Theyre not in my belly! Photo by Masahiro Ihara.

What's wrong with this picture? They're not in my belly! Photo by Masahiro Ihara.

This week we’re focusing on raw foods, because newsletter subscribers regularly ask how to get more raw fruits and vegetables into their diets.

I had the same problem, frankly, and this is where having a blog network can come in handy: sometimes I can ask other people how to fix something, but you’d be amazed at how many times I’ve been able to say to myself, “if I was to read a blog post about how to fix this problem I’m having, what would it say?” Here’s my solution to the fruits and vegetables problem; I think it’s going to help a lot of you.

You see, the reason we don’t get enough fruits and vegetables in our diets is that we don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.

OK, goodnight everyone, thanks!

OK, OK, let’s go a little deeper: why don’t we eat enough fruits and vegetables? Because they can’t beat the competition. The competition is every bit of convenience food in your kitchen, and especially the really convenient stuff like, oh, that bag of chips that even now is calling out to you.

So let’s be the coach to our fruit and vegetable team. How do we make them more appealing and convenient than that bag of chips, that box of cookies, or that tub of (hopefully vegan) ice cream?

Let’s take it one chunk at a time. The appealing part probably takes the most work. For this, we need to do a minor shift when we have cravings. It’s just a little one, honest! Instead of “I want a snack,” we need to think, “I want to feel even better.

It’s actually almost the same thing, just a little more general. If you’re craving a snack, part of you is uncomfortable. Satisfying that craving is going to make you feel better. But I wrote “even better” because I want you to realize that you already feel pretty good.

With me so far? OK, now which snack is going to make you feel better in both the short and long term? Cookies are great for the instant rush, but in half an hour you’re going to be worse off than before. You know this. It’s happened to you a million times since you were old enough to eat solid foods. The raw fruits and vegetables are going to satisfy the immediate need to munch on something and they’ll provide a more sustainable boost to your energy levels, making you feel, yes, even better.

But that leads to the second problem: the ice cream is right there in the freezer, and you don’t even have to put it in a bowl! Come on, you know you’ve done that…

How do we make raw fruits and vegetables more convenient than a box of cookies? This stopped me for a long time. You’ve got to wash them. And cut them. And maybe peel them. And then clean up. And the commercial’s about to end…

I thought about this for a while recently, and it turns out this isn’t the problem I was having after all. The problem was that I was taught that fruits and vegetables had to be washed and cut just before eating them, or else you’d miss out on all kinds of nutrients.

Here’s the thing though: how many nutrients was I losing by virtue of the fact that I wasn’t eating them?

So now I have a new ritual: when I come home from the store, while I put away the groceries I wash and cut my fruits and vegetables and store them as ready to eat as I can.

There are limits to how far I can take this, of course: apples will turn brown if you slice them a day ahead of time. You can mitigate this by adding some lemon juice, but for these I just prewash them. If you prefer sliced apples, consider investing in an apple corer/slicer to make it as easy and convenient as possible – your grocery store probably has one in an impulse aisle.

For celery, I wash and dry the stalks. You can soak them in water, but I like to smear almond butter in the groove and it’s easier to do this when they’re dry (I haven’t tried pre-smearing them, but now that I’ve written the idea, I might!)

Peppers I’ll pre-wash but won’t slice – that’s mostly because I have a trick to slicing peppers that I think is a lot of fun, so it’s not an inconvenience to me (we show you in our free seven day intro to vegan cooking course, but here’s the direct link to that lesson if you’d rather not sign up.)

Pineapples, melons and mangoes will get peeled and diced and dumped in a covered bowl when they get home (it helps to buy ripe produce for these tips, by the way!) Berries just get washed and stored.

There are lots of other fruits and vegetables out there, but by now you probably get the idea. Just remember, if you live in a home where more than one person puts groceries away, make sure you’re all on the same page so you know your stuff is clean before you eat it! If not, having a separate container that’s clearly labelled can help.

If you’re still worried about the nutrient loss, you can try prepping small batches and adding to them as supplies run low. I’d still recommend making it a ritual though, so do it at a consistent time with a consistent trigger (we’ll be talking more about rituals in today’s newsletter,) such as when you’re preparing dinner, or first thing in the morning.

If things stay in the fridge a little too long, your juicer and blender come in really handy to process a lot of produce in a hurry into a healthy drink! In fact, this pre-prep technique might be the cure to any blocks you have to starting a juicing practice.

Fruits and vegetables can be as appealing and convenient a snack as anything from the corner store. All you need to do is reframe your craving and start a new ritual to make things as available as you need them to be.

Now, this is all well and good for the home, but what about at work? On Wednesday I’ll tell you the single best (and maybe cheapest) addition you can add to your lunch box to ensure a steady supply of fruit at your desk.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

hamishmcbookersons February 10, 2010 at 6:03 pm

My attempt to solution my relative lack of fresh produce is this: I've signed up to get a fresh box from an organics company to deliver once a week. It'll save me some much needed time on shopping! And it'll also, I suspect, force me to eat things I wouldn't normally buy. I see all this as good.

jasondoucette February 10, 2010 at 7:09 pm

We're having great luck with our delivery service – lots of things showing up in the fridge (and subsequently in our bellies) that I wouldn't have thought likely, but I'm becoming a fan of a great many new things!

Kris January 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Ok, do you have any tips on meal planning a few days in advanced? If I prepare my fruits and vegetables a few days in advanced can i freeze them and thaw them out when I get home? Sometimes I only have one free day a week for meal prep and the rest requires quick and easy.

Jason January 25, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Hi Kris, freezing can work well, but it depends on what you’re making, especially with raw fruits and vegetables. If it’s smoothies I’ve found that pretty much anything goes, but I wouldn’t freeze a salad, for example.

Cooked food usually freezes OK, but that means making the meals on the same day that you do the prep, so the other days you just thaw the meal portions.

As a starting point, try this principle: if you see the fruit or vegetable in a bag in your grocery freezer section, then it’s probably a good one to freeze, but keep in mind a lot of those have been lightly cooked first and you might want to do the same.

I hope that helps!

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