Many of us understand the value of eating well, even if we haven’t quite managed to do it. So I’d be wasting precious digital real estate extolling the virtues of a diet chock-full of fruits and veggies. How the stuff is so packed with vitamins and minerals that you wouldn’t need over-the-counter remedies for great skin, hair and nails. How the low calorie-to-volume content of many of them make them ideal for weight loss and even controlling diabetes. How you wouldn’t need any trendy ‘cleanses’ because the natural fiber in a vegetable-centric diet would also clean your colon and keep you regular (just saying). Your mood, memory and other brain functions are fine-tuned because of the antioxidants and other substances found in fruits and veggies. Manufacturers make millions of dollars by cramming these naturally occurring goodies into shakes, smoothies and nutrition bars.
And then there’s the stuff that you can’t see—the stuff that doctors tend to worry about, but sometimes have a hard time explaining. It’s the stuff that can kill you (ie., heart disease, strokes and cancer). These conditions are less likely to occur if you maintain a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables. But if you ‘re like me, it still seems difficult to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, let alone the new recommendation of 7 servings. Now, for the career vegetarians and vegans, this isn’t your fight. You’ll have others (perhaps wrestling with an insatiable sweet tooth or maintaining healthy iron levels). But for the rest of us, there must be a better way.
But before I go on, can we eliminate the term “food desert” from our vernacular? I’ve come across a number of plausible excuses for our barriers to eating right. “All the good produce is halfway across town,” for example. But so is the Jay-Z concert and the newest Nikes, but somehow that never stopped us from getting either, regardless of the price tag. So let’s dispense with the excuses!
I am not vegetarian, and I’m not campaigning for you to become one. I’d much rather have you convince yourself that eating more plant-based foods than you eat meat is in vogue. Then, it will stick. You understand just how important fruits and veggies are…but perhaps you could use a little inspiration integrating them into your diet.
A simple way to get more veggies in your diet is to go vegetarian for a day! Think about it: if all you eat all day is fruit and veggies, you can’t help but get the recommended amount. Do this for 3 days a week and your average for the week will be golden!
CHALLENGE: Vegetarian For A Day
Transform any 3 days out of the week into a completely vegetarian food day. For clarification, and not to offend anybody, vegetarian simply means meat-free. You can have dairy. It should not be confused with vegan, which means completely free of animal products, including dairy and eggs. Can you do it? I think so! 3 days, no meat—all day. At the end of your week, let us hear from you. Leave a comment below about your experiences!
Dave Montgomery, M.D., Ph.D., is a board-certified physician and EBONY's Special Contributing Health Editor. You can find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter: @DMontgomeryMD. Send your health questions to [email protected].