There is a lot of nutrition talk out there these days, and it can be really confusing - and frustrating! - to navigate. One element that a large proportion of nutrition approaches (be it vegan, vegetarian, paleo, whole foods, even keto!) have in common is this:
If nothing else, we are generally better off eating more vegetables.
Seems our parents were right on some things afterall!
Why vegetables matter
I would hate to bore you with the seemingly endless benefits associated with eating more fruits and vegetables. The TL;DR is that consuming more produce is linked to a decrease in cardiovascular disease, healthier blood pressure, decreased risk of developing certain cancers, better intestinal health (fiber may not be sexy but it’s important, y’all) and weight management.
The 800g Challenge: finally a target!
With this in mind, Eva Claire Synkowski developed the 800g challenge , in which she invites participants to consume 800g of fruits and vegetables every day. She explains the 800g figure based on a meta-analysis by Aulne et al (2017) , which points to improved health in subjects consuming 800g of produce daily.
The rules are simple: eat 800g of fruits and veggies, daily. It does require you to weigh produce before you eat it, but hey - you don’t have to do it forever. Once you have a good handle on what 800g looks (and feels!) like, you can ditch the food scale. Beyond that, you are the master of your own destiny - no foods are explicitly off limits, though you can probably see how focusing on eating nearly a kilo of fruits and veggies daily leaves less room in your stomach for ice cream and coffee cake :)
Putting it into practice
Now, as with anything, the theory is well and good, but changes will come from implementation. If you would like to try the 800g challenge for yourself, I would actually suggest that you DON’T start with the challenge itself.
That’s right - before jumping in headfirst into a…. Pasture of spinach (just bear with me), I would urge you to take a few days and just monitor your current eating habits. Using a food scale (you may have to purchase one if you don’t have one, but they are super cheap at big box stores or on Amazon) and either a pen and paper, the notes app on your phone or MyFitnessPal, spend a few days just keeping track of the produce you are consuming. Aim to answer these questions:
How much fruit and veggies are you consuming daily on average?
At what meals do you struggle to include fruit and veggies?
Where could you improve?
From there, take it slow - there is no point in trying to overall your eating habits overnight. Let’s say you are currently averaging 500g a day - great! You are well on your way. Over the next few days, why not try and push the needle to 600g? Once that feels easy, just challenge yourself a little more. You get the point!
What about fruit?
Fruit is included in the 800g challenge, though dried fruit is not. However, I’ve rarely met someone who struggled to include fruit into their diet; I think it has to do with sweetness and portability (take a banana with you on your mountain bike ride! Or grab an apple on your way to class!). This is why I’m not so focused on fruit in this blog post; but please do get in touch if you have questions about fruit, too!
The beauty of the 800g challenge is that no foods are off limits - though some (like dried fruit, and French fries) don’t count towards your total. You are therefore entirely free to make whatever food choices you wish. No restriction, no deprivation, no resentment, so no bingeing later on!
The 800g challenge is also meant to be a very sustainable approach to health and nutrition, because it doesn’t demand perfection (remember, you can do whatever you want with your life, as long as you are getting your 800g of produce daily!). To me, this comes as a non-judgemental breath of fresh air in an area that can feel very polarizing.
Include veggies at every meal
Make them a priority: build your meals around them instead of starches or meat
Eating a large amount of one type of vegetable at a meal will probably leave you bored and over it pronto. This has to do with palate fatigue - eventually, your palate (and brain) grow bored with just eating broccoli. Solution to help you get more veggies in: add a little variety! What about a broccoli, carrot and snap pea stir fry instead of just steamed broccoli?
Keep it in sight: keep less-perishable fruit (think bananas, oranges, apples) on the counter, where you can see it and grab it easily when you need a snack
Find yourself reaching for the same old staples each week? Challenge yourself to try something new! Download Spice Up Your Grocery List for inspiration.