So how have I been doing with the Eight is Great challenge? Looking back over my log, I have eaten the full eight servings of fruits, beans, or vegetables 16 out of 18 days, and two days I had six servings. On one of those days I went to an evening meeting and on another I went to a party, which threw off my eating schedule. I'm finding that, of my eight servings, I eat about half fruits and half vegetables, with a bean serving about every other day.
Positives I've noticed: I've been much more attentive to the amount of nutritious food I'm serving the family and myself. I like my serving log; it helps me focus on what we're eating without feeling deprived. After all, this is not a calorie-restricted "diet" but an effort to choose healthier foods.
I've enjoyed experimenting with recipes to find interesting vegetable sides - kimchi (more on that in another post) and some new carrot, cauliflower and turnip dishes.
The biggest plus: I haven't been sick since the time I completed an easier version of this challenge last year (four or five months ago I did a "Plus Five and Thrive" challenge that I didn't blog about at the time). I picked up several healthy habits at that time, so I've been eating more fruits and veggies since then.
About a month ago, several nasty viruses and colds made the rounds; one flu incapacitated my husband and son for four days. I didn't come down with the plague then, which was so helpful (and unexpected) since I was caring for the rest of the family. I've also noticed that my allergies seem much better than they have in previous years. I can't definitively attribute the virus-avoidance and reduced allergy symptoms to the increased amount of fruits and veggies in my diet, but it seems possible that the additional phytochemicals and anti-oxidants have boosted my immune system.
Negatives I've noticed:
My stomach feels full pretty often, leading me to think that I may be eating more calories than usual. I'm not always substituting good food for other calories, instead, occasionally I'm adding a whole extra fruit or vegetable serving to try to get the full eight servings. I may have miscalculated the calories and servings that I need for my height (5'2")/weight/activity level.
I am spending more time looking for recipes and cooking, probably an average of ten minutes per day. The amount of time and mental energy I spend on cooking should decrease as choosing fruits, vegetables and beans for my meal planning becomes more of a habit.
Strategies I'm using to get the full eight servings:
- Starting the day with orange juice and 1/2 cup of fruit in my oatmeal or parfait
- Snacking on whole fruit, dried fruit and nuts, or hummus and carrots
- Cooking extra vegetables at dinner to use in lunch meals the next day
- Cooking vegetarian meals several nights per week
- Often skipping the "starch" part of a meal, instead eating a small protein portion and two servings of beans and/or vegetables
- Choosing quick veggie meals on days when I need to cut cooking time (sweet potato quesadillas or veggie omelets, for example)
For me, the benefits have far outweighed the small additional effort needed to eat more fruits and vegetables. I feel positive about setting a good example for my son and helping him develop healthy eating habits. I've also found several new vegetable recipes that my son likes.
I'll continue this challenge for the full month, when I'll decide what habits to keep for the longer term. I hope the rest of you are seeing some positives from this challenge as well - feel free to share your experiences and tips!