The idea started with a realization -- as ideas tend to do. OK, actually it started with an expletive, as my ideas tend to do.
"Shit. I really need to focus more on eating vegetables."
Let me clarify, though. I eat a lot of vegetables, if "a lot" is measured on a scale of "everyone jammed into this particular baseball stadium [or wherever humanity congregates] at this moment." In other words, I eat more vegetables than "most people." But this is America. "Most" of us are overweight. I'm not and I don't want to be.
You probably eat more vegetables than "most people" too. You likely wouldn't be here if you weren't interested in good health, and vegetables are awesome in the good-health department. Antioxidant-rich vegetables are particularly great.
But do you really eat "a lot of vegetables?" Or do you just eat more vegetables than "most" people?
I got into a lazy habit over the past few years of making fermented vegetables a large portion of my vegetable intake. They are good for you -- probiotics and all that -- but no one eats as many fermented vegetables as they would fresh vegetables. I didn't either.
But there's a bigger issue here. If I think the dead-animal part of my plate is overly large and the vegetable portion overly small -- and I'm right about that -- how did that really happen? Was it just the laziness of reaching for that jar of Wild Brine fermented veggies more than I was cooking vegetables? Yeah, sure, that had something to do with it, but the bigger problem, for me anyway, is one of mindset.
Here's how I traditionally think about the answer to the question: "What's for dinner?" It begins with an animal: chicken, beef, lamb (mmmm, lamb), fish. Only then do I think about what the vegetable will be and it's only an add-on in my brain to the animal protein. You know, like: "chicken and asparagus," or "lamb and broccoli," etc.
I've decided to knock that shit off.
The plan is called Vegetables First.
I bulk-cook a lot. I don't mind eating the same things -- or bouncing back and forth between a few things -- for days and days. I used to bulk-cook meat and vegetables, but there was always -- ALWAYS -- more meat than vegetables in the pot
Now I've started bulk-cooking vegetables -- huge pots of things like eggplants and red peppers, or Brussels sprouts, or broccoli. I still bulk-cook meat too, usually still with vegetables, but the answer to "What's for ____ [breakfast/lunch/dinner]?" begins with one of those bulk-cooked vegetables. Only then do I consider what animal protein I am adding to my vegetables. It leads to conversations with myself that go:
"What's for lunch?"
"Um, eggplant and peppers. And I'll add some ____ [lamb, sardines, beef, chicken, whatever dude] to that."
The difference, measured in numerous ways -- increased vegetable consumption, decreased meat consumption, lower grocery bills -- is insane. The ratio of meat to veggies on my plate is less. I'm eating so many more antioxidant-rich vegetables, and our grocery bills are lower. And yet I'm still low-carb.
But, you say, loudly: "HOW WILL YOU GET ENOUGH PROTEIN???!?" Let's put it this way: I've never been in danger of eating too little meat since I started my paleo/primal journey and I'm still not. Yeah, I'm eating less meat, but the main difference is that I am eating a lot more vegetables. It's like I'm living that piece of advice from Michael Pollan about: "Eat [real] food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I've even been working out more lately too, and haven't had a bit of trouble with "recovery." Take that, protein-powder junkies.
My primary mantra in this lifestyle has always been "whatever works for you." Only you know if you should be eating more vegetables and only you know, if the answer is that you should be, whether a "vegetables first" mindset will help you eat more. But it sure does here.
Like they say in the law, "Res ipsa loquitur."
The thing speaks for itself.
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”