I've got a friend who was raised in an East German orphanage run by the state. It was like Oliver Twist, only with soccer instead of Artful Dodger and pocket picking. As such, he wasn't introduced to a whole lot of different foods. For instance, the orphans pretty much had sauerkraut or turnips every night. On state holidays they got rutabagas instead, which is downright cruel because rutabagas are really just fancier turnips.
Anyhow, my friend has now decided, many years after the orphanage, that he wants to start eating healthy to try to make up for all those years of lousy eating. As part of this, he's taken to eating microwaved broccoli almost every night. What he doesn't realize is that he's still in a huge nutritional rut; that he's just switched from eating one dull root vegetable every night to eating one dull flowering-head vegetable every night.
Obviously, he needs variety. We all do, but I suspect that most people are doing what my East German friend does: They find one (or a scant few) palatable or semi-palatable vegetable and hang onto it like grim death, eating it at most meals and forcing it down like a Gila monster swallowing a dried-up grasshopper.
I've got a solution for him and people like him. It's my best overall healthy eating, live-a-long-time tip, and it's also conveniently my best fat-loss tip.
Five nights a week, I slice up small amounts of about 10 different vegetables into tiny bite-size slices or pieces. While I constantly vary the mix or add new players, core constituents include the following:
- Brussels sprouts
- Yellow squash
- Sweet potato
- Golden beets
I then put them in a vegetable steamer for about 25 minutes, or until they're al dente (or slightly mushier, if that's your preference). I then ladle a few spoonfuls into my big-eatin' Jethro bowl, drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil onto it, salt to taste, and then spice it up with my favorite Szechuan or Mexican hot sauce.
It's really, really good. So good, that it's become my favorite part of the meal. Not only that, but it's so filling that it's all I can do to cram down a serving of meat afterwards. I generally don't feel like eating again until the next morning. Fat loss ensues, without actually trying to lose fat.
Not only that, but I've probably ingested more polyphenols and carotenoids in one meal than most people get in a month.
Where Can I Get Me One of Those Steamers?
There are all kinds of vegetable steamers, ranging from inexpensive metal baskets that you put into a boiling pot of water to fancy electronic versions. My personal favorite has always been the venerable Oster 5712 double-tiered. 6.1 quart, electronic whiz-bang steamer, but for some reason the damn thing's been discontinued. You can still find used versions all over eBay, though.
However, the Hamilton Beach Digital Food Steamer seems to be a viable option. It sells for about $40 on Amazon. These things are supposedly also great for steaming fish, but I've never gone that route because, you know, steamed fish. Yuck.
No Need to Worry About Ingesting Pesticides
There's an unheralded benefit to these steamers: You can eat non-organic produce and still feel pretty good about it. As I wrote about in Do This to Fix Non-Organic Produce, you generally have to soak vegetables in baking soda for up to 12 minutes to really be sure you've gotten rid of all the pesticides.
But by using a steamer, you're doing to your vegetables what the city does to the sidewalks outside the taco restaurant every Sunday morning – cleansing them through steam. The pesticides and chemicals "come loose" in the steam and drip back into the boiling water.
For that reason, it's best to ignore the advice of a lot of well-meaning but deluded granola munchers who tell you to drink that residual liquid or add it to soups.
Remind Me, What's the Point of Steaming My Veggies?
- Fat loss. By eating a big, fibrous, low-cal and reasonably low-carb meal, you fill your belly and won't feel like eating all those evening snacks that cry out to you.
- Consumate nutrition. By eating so many different types of vegetables, you're getting the benefits of hundreds, if not thousands, of polyphenols and carotenoids.
- Virtually pesticide-free. The steaming process washes away most, if not all, of the pesticides and non-agricultural chemicals that have affixed themselves to your produce.
- A tasty way to eat vegetables. Eating a blend of vegetables, especially if it contains a few sweet vegetables like sweet potato, corn, or peas, and flavoring them with olive oil, salt, and the hot sauce of your choice, makes a really good-tasting dish that you actually look forward to eating.