The short answer to this question is that there’s really no such thing as too much fruit and vegetables, but as always there’s a little more nuance to this so read on. If you’ve ever tried to change your diet or been advised to do so by a health professional, you’ve probably thought about or been instructed to eat more fruits and vegetables.
There’s a reason why this advice has been given so often as to become a cliche:
because fruits and vegetables are packed full of nutrients that your body needs. In fact, non-starchy vegetables and fruits are one of the types of food that are absolutely required on the VAFs® mental model for lasting weight loss.
Plus, we’re yet to discover just how important these food groups are to our bodies. For instance:
- First it we learned about the critical vitamins and minerals,
- Then we learned about the importance of fiber – a natural part of vegetables and other plant-based foods,
- And now scientists are discovering the antioxidant component of these foods that can help prevent some cancers and a host of other diseases
This elevates fruits and vegetables above the category of foods to eat only when you’re trying to lose weight. Ideally you should eat them all the time for good health, but here are some things you should consider.
Fruits and Vegetables alone don’t create a healthy diet
Fruits and vegetables are naturally lower in calories per gram when compared to protein, carbohydrates and fats. So when trying to lose weight your temptation might be to alter your diet in a way that puts fruits and vegetables so much in the center that it pushes out critical protein and carbohydrates. Don’t do this.
There’s a reason why some amino acids are called essential nutrients and there’s a reason why vegetarians and vegans need supplements to make up for the one’s they’re missing because they aren’t eating meat. There’s also a reason why low-carb diets like Atkins eventually re-introduce carbohydrates in moderation into the diet at the later phases. It’s because our body needs these nutrients.
Cutting out essential nutrients in the name of losing weight can cause deficiencies and can also backfire on your initial intention. It can backfire because you can do harm to your metabolism in ways that are hard to repair and you set your weight up to yo-yo because the weight you lose will inevitably come back when you go back to normal.
But they make your meals more nutritious and help you stay on track
With that being said, giving fruits and vegetables a big role in your diet is not a bad idea. By “big role” I mean including them in every meal and snack so that you get the filling properties of eating these foods along with the nutrient benefits that they provide.
Having an apple with your morning oatmeal or adding spinach and peppers to your normally plain plate of fried eggs adds bulk to your meals in a way that will allow you to go longer without reaching for food. Eating fruits and vegetables with some filling protein as a snack can also help keep your blood sugar steady so that you’re not struggling to find the willpower to say no when a coworker offers you a meat pie or some cake in the middle of the day when you’re more prone to have tapped out your willpower resource.
Fruits and vegetables can also add diversity to your meals in ways that keep things interesting and allow you to have some foods that you would normally consider as forbidden. For instance if you love white rice so much that you can’t give it up, you can try a different steamed vegetable everyday to go with your white rice and replace half the amount of white rice that you normally eat with that vegetable.
How can apply this information to make your healthier and weight-loss friendly?
There are many possible ways that you can incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet to help you lose weight, but today I want you to think of it as a volume adder to your meals so that you feel fuller for longer periods of time. This will help you eat fewer calories without necessarily having less food on your plate, and can translate to fewer inches on your waist and a lower weight on the scale.
Here’s an example of typical day of meals without fruits and vegetables, and two examples of how it can be tweaked to be more filling and still weight-loss friendly.
Without fruit and vegetables
- Breakfast: Oatmeal
- Lunch: Rice and Stew with Fish and Dodo
- Dinner: Eba and Egusi
With fruit and vegetables
- Breakfast: Add an apple to oatmeal and use skim milk and only a little sugar in your oatmeal
- Lunch: Cut the rice in half and replace the half you took out with the same amount of spinach and fish and skip the dodo
- Dinner: Eba (cut the eba portion down to the size of your closed fist) and egusi and close with watermelon for an after dinner snack (this can help keep the urge to eat after hours at bay)
This is just one idea on how you play with the original meal plan
The bottom line is – eat your fruits and vegetables, but make sure you’re also getting your Animal and Plant Protein, healthy Fats, and whole grains. Remember that you’re not only trying to lose weight, but you’re building a lifestyle that you can stick to for the long term AND that’ll still help you lose weight.
It’s time to take action
Based on what you knew before and what you’ve just learned, answer these questions:
- How will you incorporate more fruits and vegetables in a way that will help you lose weight by adding volume to your meals?
- How can you do it while ensuring that you’re still getting the other nutrients that your body needs?
Here’s a free resource to help you put your healthy food choices on autopilot…
Fruits and veggies are a big part of eating to get in the best shape of your life, but there are other food types you should be enjoying as well to make this goal happen for you.
I created a cheat sheet to help you make these healthy food choices on autopilot, and you can click the button below to get it…