eat more vegetables

February 7, 2012 |  Category:   life seasonal

Seems easy to do, right? But sometimes fitting in your recommended servings of fresh vegetables a day is hard. Like drinking 8 glasses of water (if I drank 8 glasses of water, me and my small bladder would be running to the bathroom all the time). We’ve always have had pretty healthy diets and seldom eat anything that is processed or packaged frozen mostly because it’s not in our budget to buy these foods which can notoriously inflate your grocery bill. Ok, living with a chef helps a lot, but I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to eat even healthier. I feel like my body is acting older than it should be. Everything hurts these days. I feel…brittle…and achy. It’s sort of alarming, depressing and a reality check all at once. While I may not be able to control certain pain regarding my back and now tail bone (!?) issues (oh yeah, the chronic tailbone pain is new. FUN TIMES! This is really making me feel like an old lady as it often takes me a bit to stand up from sitting because it hurts so much) there are other things I can control to keep other things in check and that’s diet, particularly since we don’t have the best health insurance (I’m working on the exercise part, I swear).


This is where the less meat/ less diary thing has come in, aside from the fact that I have no interest in butter or cheese and I’ve eaten very little meat in the last few months. Guys, I am not even tempted by bacon, the gateway meat that lures all lapsed vegetarians back to the dark side. So what is going on? I have no idea, but I’m just going with it. Mark, having been a vegetarian for a long time too, kinda kicked back into that mode of cooking and he’s been only cooking with any kind of meat once a week or so. I have never actually cooked meat myself so I don’t even know what to do with it! I remember not too long ago pulling a package of beef out of the fridge because it had to be cooked, looking at it cluelessly and then putting it back in the fridge. I know that being a vegetarian and even a vegan, which I was for about 3 years during that time, doesn’t automatically mean you’re eating healthy if all you’re downing is carbs and fries, so this time I’m making sure I get other sources of protein and eating more vegetables. Also, I am not giving up fish (and really, I’m not officially eliminating all meat from my diet either. I’m not declaring myself a vegetarian or a pescetarian or putting any kind of label on it). I’m not a big fan of cooked fish, but sushi was my gateway meat and I will eat it forever.
Mia was curious as to why I wasn’t eating any meat during dinner and I told her some of my reasons, both health and ethically related (swear to god that I became a vegetarian in high school because Morrissey told me that Meat Is Murder). Mia, who despite having some knowledge of how the meat that she eats gets on her plate, is an enthusiastic, self described carnivore. Claudine, on the other hand, overheard our conversation and kept telling us to “stop talking about it” as she quietly continued to work on her drawing. I asked her why and she replied that it made her feel sad and bad and she didn’t want to hear anymore. “It makes them hurt”. Claudine, ever the picky eater, doesn’t eat meat really at all except in the form of the occasional bacon, salami or chicken fingers so I pointed out that bacon comes from pigs and that she likes bacon, which she then replied with a huge smile and insane wide open eyes, “BACON!? I LOVE BACON!!!”.

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  • Jocy February 7, 2012 at 1:59 am

    Is that bacon and brussels sprouts? Yum. My sister made that dish this holiday season. Unfortunately, I cannot find brussels sprouts in Cambodia…

  • Theresa February 7, 2012 at 2:14 am

    Hey! I think it’s great that you have this conversation with them while they are so young! We too try to teach the kids where food comes from… everything from fruits and vegetables (seasonal growing/picking) to meat and fish. My husband hunts with his dad 3-5 times a year and we try to live off that if we can but sometimes we cave (luckily Tony is a chef too and has good local contacts). We also try to have veggie nights where dinner is made of only veggies/olive oil (maybe some fruit). Anyway, my back is starting to act up too. 41? I didn’t know I’d be so old “feeling” already. I’m trying to work my core now a days and do yoga 2 days a week so we’ll see if it helps.

  • maja @yellowsketchbook February 7, 2012 at 2:20 am

    Juicing so great. Have you ever tried it? You can bang out your daily rec of veggies in one glass, then eat bacon the rest of the day and still feel amazing. (Ok, maybe not bacon.)

  • Maria @ Scandifoodie February 7, 2012 at 2:34 am

    I couldn’t agree more, Jenna! I’ve been vegetarian on and off for the past 10 years and have recently gone completely vegan – it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made! If/when I have children I want to give them an option to decide whether or not they want to eat meat, but I’m certainly going to give them no false illusion where meat comes from!
    I hope your health improves and the pains go away! x

  • Melissa@Julia's Bookbag February 7, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Ha ha ha ha! My daughter asked me the other day “We just call this meat chicken, but it’s not really like an actual chicken right?” Wellllllllll……. I told her it really is chicken like an actual chicken. This is what I get for calling everything ambiguously “meat” for so long. “What’s this Mama?” “Oh it’s meat.”

  • mau February 7, 2012 at 3:07 am

    Haha! You’ve got to love kids! I could just picture C’s face reading the last line!

  • Caddy February 7, 2012 at 3:11 am

    I’m so with you there Bacon is most DEFINITELY the gate way food. I don’t eat pork because the site of pork fat has grossed me out since childhood but BACON! I LOVE!! It’s the one exception to my no pork diet (occasionally ribs too).

  • Samantha February 7, 2012 at 8:49 am

    I used to be vegetarian for several years, and I still find myself at a loss for what to do with it meat sometimes. I’ve totally had the same moment standing at the fridge with a package of meat in my hand, thinking, “???” I think my body naturally doesn’t care for most meats, but seafood can never leave my life.

  • Sharon @ Currently Coveting February 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

    I was a vegetarian for a long while until bacon at a friend’s brunch drove me back to the other side. 🙂 However, eating whole foods and having a mainly plant based diet is something that has stayed consistent for me. I, too, have no idea how to cook meat. To be truthful, it scares me. All the warnings about salmonella!!! and undercooked meat!!! over the years have prevented me from trying to cook even a simple chicken breast on a regular basis. Slightly ridiculous, I know.

  • Anne February 7, 2012 at 10:20 am

    I’ve been a vegetarian for 21 years now, and so far as my life changes (through travel, roommates, marriage, pregnancy) there haven’t been any derailments, which I’m pretty amazed by.

    But I’m a vegetarian who isn’t interested by meat, at all, so it’s never felt like a sacrifice. My husband doesn’t cook, and only orders meat or seafood occasionally when we do go out, so he seems fine with it.

    My concern now is my about-to-be child; I know plenty of people have raised vegetarians from the get-go, but I chose to be one at 12, so I know what I’m missing.

    I don’t want to cook meat, and don’t want to serve my kid meat that I didn’t cook (no chicken fingers here!) but is it ethical of me to put my no-meat stance ahead of exposing my child to healthy sources of meat, and eventually letting him or her make their own decision?

    My latest thought is that our home will remain vegetarian, but it will always be clear that it’s okay for my child to have/try meat when with other families. I suppose this can all go out the window when I end up having a picky eater, but I can dream.

  • Helle (Helen) February 7, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Don’t eat much meat either, unfortunately my husband loves meat, otherwise we’d really not have it often. I just don’t crave it much anymore, but also won’t eat anything that is not from smaller farms where animal welfare is important. I don’t think I could eat meat in the US after having read about those huge meat factories you seem to have. And I like veggies – and bacon. Sigh.

  • hyzen February 7, 2012 at 10:38 am

    I’m trying to figure out how to talk about this with my 3.5 year old daughter. I’m mostly vegan, my husband is an omnivore, and the kids are vegetarian–so it’s important to educate without passing judgment or scaring the kids, I think. But it bothered me when my daughter was talking about the chicken nuggets she sees at school coming from “food chickens, not real chickens.” We have pet egg-laying hens, so she knows real chickens. We also recently lost our old dog to cancer, so she knows about death. I told her that there is no such thing as “food chickens” just real chickens like ours, and sometimes people kill them to eat them, and the meat that you see comes from their bodies. That confused her because she was picturing it like milk coming from their bodies in a non-harmful, renewable kind of way, and so I had to go into further detail about where the meat actually comes from. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t think of a factually accurate but non-scary way to answer my 3 year old’s questions, and now I’m afraid I’ve given her nightmares. The same sort of issue comes up when talking about traffic safety, or stranger issues, etc., with young kids. Best to be honest, I think, in general–she’s certainly not going to be one of those kids who doesn’t know where her food does (and doesn’t) come from.

  • Cecilia Madden February 7, 2012 at 10:40 am

    That picture could make anyone want to eat more veggies.
    I love your kids reactions to the whole meat processing conversation. I wonder what I’ll tell my daughter when she gets a little older. We eat quite a bit of meat now, but I’ve had my own vegetarian and vegan stints. It always feels good to eat whole, clean foods, doesn’t it? Good luck!

  • Renita February 7, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Don’t forget your oils … very important for brain function … walnut, almond, pumpkinseed, unrefined coconut oil … can easiley be incorporated in vegetarian diet for an extra kick

  • Sid February 7, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Interesting discussion.

    Just to jump in with a little devil’s advocacy, biologically there’s actually very little difference between a plant and an animal. Plants experience pain too, we just feel more comfortable with their pain because we can’t relate to it. Ecologically, crop monoculture and other standard farming practices (e.g., large-scale land clearing) are just as harmful to the indigenous/natural environment as meat-rearing.

    The modern food production system (and by association our eating habits) is definitely in need of a major reworking but I think that there’s a better approach than starting from the premise “eating any/all meat is bad”. That said, I think that most people would benefit from eating less processed “stuff” and more veggies.

    Health-wise, I saw this TED talk a few weeks ago and really liked it: .

  • diamondkelt February 7, 2012 at 11:20 am

    I found that yoga does wonders for my low back pain and it’s practically resided at this point. I’ve been practicing for 3 years now. I had the beginnings of arthritis in my low back area too. I also go to the chiro once a month to keep things in place. My tailbone only hurts when one of my low back bones is outta place, once I get adjusted it goes away. I know some people say going to the chiro doesn’t do crap, but for alot of people it does help. I forget whether you mentioned if you had tried it before? The combo of yoga and chiro visits I’m about as spry as a 12 yr old and I’m 32.

  • oilandgarlic February 7, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Funny. Morrissey told me to be a vegetarian too….ahh, the influence of pop music on youth! I’m not a true carnivore but it isn’t bacon that lures me back, it’s always Chinese food (pork dumplings, duck, steamed fish, you name it)

  • Atsuko February 7, 2012 at 11:35 am

    It is so adorable how she reacted to the word, Bacon. I agree with your comment on processed foods. My hands hardly reach them just because they can negatively affect my grocery budget. They are a quick solution, but the price and the amount of sodium they contain are not appealing. I am also trying to eat more fresh products, but they are not as easy as I imagined, especially prepacked cookies and chips. They are my enemy.

  • tamera jane February 7, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I was a vegetarian from age 11 – 31 because meat grossed me out. Ira, (the 4 year old nephew) will not eat meat because they’ve raised chickens and he’s been around enough farms that he just refuses to eat the animals, he loves them too much.

    I need to go back to eating less meat, I’ve definitely scaled way back from 4 years ago when I started up again, but it still grosses me out and I do feel better when I am more careful with what I eat.

    Exercise I feel is the secret to helping our aching bones. Slowly but surely.

  • Samantha February 7, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I’ve been trying so hard to focus on cleaning up my diet and getting the proper amount of servings. I find it incredible eating to fill both the milk and meat alternatives (I’m also a vegetarian) categories, but SO hard to get up to the required amount of vegetables. It’s much easier to chow down an apple than it is to snack on vegetables, so aside from meals it’s very hard to fill. I’d love to know how the above photo is cooked up. Looks yummy!

  • rebecca February 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    i’m a vegetarian. i grew up on a farm and had cows as pets. seriously.

    my husband and i share the same thoughts towards meat and have always wondered how we will handle these beliefs when we have a child. i’m not sure there’s any right way to handle it, but just starting the discussion (when they are old enough) is a perfect way to start.

  • Laura February 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    So what are some of the meals that you eat during the week if you don’t eat meat? I know it definatley helps to have a cook for a husband! I have been reevaluating what we eat lately and am trying to come up with new ideas for dinners! I love that you dont buy much processed food or frozen foods. I have heard that if you dont shop in the middle section of the grocery store you save so much money! but i am lured into that section, ugh, but trying so hard not to be!

  • christine // darling studio February 7, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    This post really speaks to me, Jenna.

    For one, I am suffering from all kinds of aches & pains, and I’m starting to realize it’s just my age. I’m no spring chicken anymore. I can’t bounce back from these late nights & early mornings like I used to. I need to slow down. And, like you said, I need to eat well.

    I am a carnivore. I don’t cook or eat meat often, but I don’t like to deprive myself of it, either. Food is such a big part of my culture, of who I am. I am married to a vegetarian, and I have family & friends who don’t eat meat. I don’t mind, just like they don’t mind my eating habits. It’s a fun challenge to create meals that accommodate everyone.

    But I do wonder about raising a child vegetarian from birth, as was done with my husband and his family, and a few cousins on my side. I believe that they suffered from malnourishment–not because there aren’t enough nutrients in a no-meat diet, but because they became picky eaters with bad habits. As with so much in life, I am in favor for a middle ground. Moderation. Healthful eating. And the occasional slice of bacon with brunch!

  • gia February 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I read that instead of trying for the right number of fruits and veg everyday- try to eat fruits and/or veg in every meal- and that has been great for me.
    I’m also a big big believer in exercise. I’m 31- I have hip and back pain if I stay sitting at work, once I go for a 20 minute walk- it is gone. I do 2x 20 minute walks each day. It’s my go-to for stress relief and getting the blood moving. Sometimes I also go for longer walks in the evening. Good luck!

  • Sora February 7, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Your entry revisits a good point…Do we need that much meat in our diets? I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately because I see how much meat we prepare on a daily basis and I wonder if we should be consuming so much. We eat it because it’s readily available, but I am working on a plan to cut back as well. Good luck with your diet and exercise! I better try that thing called exercise as well. I think I’m turning into mush.

  • Misha February 7, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    mmm, bacon 🙂 I don’t cook it often, but we go way back. I eat turkey bacon more often…

  • Gina February 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I don’t know what your choice of undergarments is but I was having a lot of pain in my tailbone a couple years ago (almost couldn’t sit) and my doctor told me to stop wearing thong underwear. Within a couple weeks the pain was gone. Hope this isn’t weird and TMI!

  • Kate365til30 February 7, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    “BACON! I LOVE BACON!” – best line ever. Cracked me up!

  • Jenna February 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    @maja Yes, we have a great juicer and we used to juice more often. We just made a comment the other day that we should juice more.

  • Jenna February 7, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    @Jocy – no bacon in those brussell sprouts. Oh, I am sad that you can’t find them easily. One of my favorites!

  • Jenna February 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    @diamondkelt I do a bit of yoga at home, but I am pretty carefully not to do anything physical that may worsen the herniated disks brewing back there. Also, I felt as spry as a 12 year old when I was 32 as well 😉 It’s really only in the last 3 years that I have felt this way.

  • Jenna February 7, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    @Gina, no I don’t…and I almost wish it were that easy as that would be something easy to fix!

  • Rebecca February 7, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    I just love Miss C 🙂 She’s adorable.

  • kim February 7, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Jenna, My sister-in-law is having the same tail bone pain issue. She has seen several doctors because it has gotten to the point where she can barely sit and when she does she has to use a Hemorrhoid pillow (yikes). The last doctor she saw said it is possibly from an old sports related injury (she played soccer in high school, etc.) that is creeping back into her life. She had one natural birth over three years ago and that may have made it worse. Not sure if any of this info helps but I thought I would pass it along.

  • Kiana February 8, 2012 at 6:06 am

    @Anne I’m right with you. I’d been a vegetarian from 15 years old to 28 but recently gave it up when I got pregnant. It was kind of a bunch of things at once. First of all, I wanted to make sure the baby was getting all it needed and I wanted to expose it to a variety of tastes (I’ve read that the more varied foods the mother eats, the more varied foods the baby will be willing to eat). Second, because I’ve been thinking of how we’re going to raise the child and what we’re going to say when the child asks about our eating habits. I became a vegetarian by informing myself about the meat industry and the treatment of animals but I’m no preacher and I’ve never tried to make anyone a vegetarian just because it suits me. My husabnd is an omnivore who only eats meat when we go out to eat because I don’t know how to cook it. But when we have kids, and I want them to make their own decision, what am I supposed to say about my choice and their dad’s? I don’t want to paint my husband as an animal-murderer or me as a picky eater? Also, I want our kids to eat the foods we grew up with because our heritage (and thus our food) is very important to us. I’m half-Persian and my husband is Cuban. Meat is very big in these cultures and I want to expose our kids to this and to be proud of their backgrounds. How can I do that when I tell them that eating meat is wrong?
    Jenna, thanks for starting this discussion. It’s given me much to think about. 🙂

  • rebeccanyc February 8, 2012 at 10:17 am

    This so speaks to me, but from the opposite spectrum entirely. Aches and pains, bad knees, inflammation issues led me to seek the help of a physician who focuses on nutrition to fix our ailments instead of instantly doling out medication. After an incredible bout of tests, it turns out I should be eating mostly…meat. Amazing since I always thought a vegan/vegetarian diet would be the best. Turns out one size does not fit all in nutritional matters! So it’s (organic) protein with lots of non-starchy veggies for me, and nuts and berries for snacks. Inflammation reduced, knees feeling better and weight loss, And BACON! oh I love it too!

  • Lia February 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    I used to focus only on the food I was eating, and wanted everything to be one hundred percent right and natural. But I only started to feel better when I relaxed a little bit in the food department and also focused on supplements. I started to take a good probiotic (5 billion) every morning and olive leaf extract. Also, when I remember I take vitamins and extra vitamin D (from Garden of Life) and a Natural iron form. For drink, lots of green tea during the day, and now I feel healthier and better than when I was an almost vegetarian eating lots of greens. Funny how that works!

  • Anne February 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    @Kiana, congrats! It’s a tough balance – and I don’t know what the answer is! – but as far as how you could explain the difference between your husband and yourself without creating a picky eater/villain dichotomy, I’d perhaps stress all of the things you do eat – all the different flavors & combinations & ethnic dishes etc – rather than emphasize what your palate is missing. And that it’s about choice, and one that most people have to make for themselves. (I’m also a non-proselytizing veg. Catch more with honey than vinegar, right?). And perhaps the way to ensure that your children have the opportunity to choose as well is to expose them (a bite of your husband’s meat when at a restaurant, okaying sharing a meat dish when served at a friend’s house) without serving it to them. Keeping what you do serve as varied & interesting as possible, without meat, shows them perhaps more convincingly than telling them one way is better than the other. Just a thought.

  • Jenna February 8, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Oh, it really warms my heart that you guys are talking to each other here. I so wish I can figure out how to do threaded comments, but until I rework the whole blog again from scratch, it hasn’t proved easy. It would make it so much more easier to go back and forth.

    About kids and vegetarian thing. I really did wonder about this when I was a vegetarian before I had kids. As it turned out though, I started eating meat before I got pregnant and the diet change evolved in earnest once I got pregnant and I didn’t restrict my diet and just ate according to what I wanted. I was also anemic in the years prior to my pregnancies so I just wanted to make sure I was eating healthy and getting everything I needed while pregnant.

    As far as kids go, I don’t think you can ever plan these things out because each kid is so very different. I think if you are a vegetarian home, just making sure the child gets lot of other sources of protein is fine, but personally I would be ok if they wanted to eat meat outside the house if at a friend’s house or restaurant. I’m not sure that I would also deny them meat if they really wanted to eat it inside the home either (though cooking it would be a whole other story I guess). I believe that kids should be able to make their own choices in that regard.

  • Alycia February 10, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Jenna, about your back problems. Do you ride a bike? I spent four months in awful back pain and was set for surgery due to a severely herniated disc, but riding my bike and swimming brought me back to normal. I tried the chiropractor, all sorts of meds, the orthopedic but in the end it was just time and bike riding. I really understand what you are going through, having a hard time standing up and all of it. It really sucks. I hope you find a way to relieve the pain.