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I grew up in Chennai (and I live there today) in a vegetarian household. Our meals were rice – lots of it, and some vegetables. I didn’t eat the vegetables much, except if they were roasted and fried potatoes.
Even when I expanded my eating horizons, the template was largely the same. Lots of rice, with bits of other things around it. What this means is
I’ve been back in India for nearly a decade now. I firmly believe in eating produce that we get locally. Obviously. But I am also not a fan of eating south Indian food daily. So, we do mix it up quite a bit.
It was still jarring to move back and change the eating habits, and it took me a few months to figure out a process. Indian food still had huge amounts of rice/roti around it, and that much carbs is a real problem. So, I came up with a simple system to combat my upbringing and cultural context of “THIS much rice”.
I call it the plate inversion protocol. It is so brutally simple that you will ignore it. But here it is.
If you are generally used to a lot of rice/grain as the central part of your meal, and not eating too much vegetables – this one’s for you.
Start with your plate/meal as you normally start it off with. It is useful to measure out how much rice there is, and how much vegetables you are eating – just to set a baseline.
Step 1: Take a regular spoon, and remove 1 spoon of rice.
Step 2: Pick a vegetable and add 1 spoon of it to your plate. It is okay even if it is potato.
Step 3: Eat.
Step 4: Tomorrow, start with the same baseline and remove 2 spoons.
Step 5: Add 1 spoon of potato, and 1 spoon of another vegetable.
Step 6: Eat.
Step 7: Repeat daily.
Yes, it is that simple. And yes, it works like a charm.
You can also reduce a spoonful every 2 days or every 5 days or weekly. It does not matter. In a matter of a few months, the structure of your plate and meal will be dramatically different.
I find it easy to eat more vegetables today, whichever cuisine I am eating. Even in a south Indian wedding, I am one of the few people who ask for seconds (thirds, fourths) of the meagre vegetable offerings. But so what? It is not forced. It is how I eat today. It took me a while to get here but it slowly became the new way of eating.
Here are 5 tips to help you eat more vegetables in your diet.
A lot of your diet is decided when you shop, so it’s important to follow some smart shopping strategies.
Firstly, eat before you head out for grocery shopping.
When you shop on an empty stomach, you make poor choices.
Second, make a shopping list & stick to the list – no exceptions. Lastly, include any treats in the list, do not leave it till you get to the shop. Plan your healthy meals and your treats in advance (make sure they are occasional) and shop accordingly.
If cooking a lot of vegetables is difficult and takes too much time and effort, you can use raw cut vegetables like tomato, carrot, cucumber & capsicum as a side salad. Add some lime, salt & pepper for taste.
This need not be anything elaborate. But preparing a raw cut salad of carrot, cucumber, tomato etc and keeping it in the fridge will help you add vegetables to any meal. Whenever you need to add some veggies to your meal, just get this box out. It can also serve as a healthy snack.
Having healthy food with you is very important in the evenings when you get very hungry but do not have any healthy options available.
Doing some advance preparation will help you in these situations and support your weight loss diet plan.
Cut veggies in a snack box
Do not think that you need to add exotic or new vegetables to your diet. Indian grocery stores are full of a wide variety of local and nutritious vegetables. So pick any seasonal vegetable that is easily available (and affordable) for you. You will realize that you have plenty of options and you can experiment with creative ways to use them.
You may be required to eat in restaurants while traveling or at social gatherings. While this can be a challenge, it is possible to still eat healthy. The key is to look for vegetable options. For example, at an Indian restaurant you can pick soups, malai broccoli, mixed veg raita, dry vegetable curries or a side salad. This way you can enjoy such lunches & dinners but not mess up your weight loss diet either.
I am mostly vegetarian today (well, so far this year) and it is still rather straightforward because vegetables and not grain is what I structure my meal around. Of course there’s grain involved but it is not the central factor. This takes some practice but it’s an important skill to learn for life. We spend a lot of emphasis on this in our coaching programme and the results speak for themselves.
So, take the next 2-3 months and use the plate inversion protocol and watch your nutrient and vegetable intake change.
You need to have the courage to take the slow and reasonable approach.
Soon, you will become ‘one of us’, a person who eats a lot of vegetables.
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