Fitness has never been more popular than it is today. It is a 96.7 billion-dollar industry that has people hitting their local gym, pushing tires for the emerging cross-fit revolution, or exercising at home with any of a huge multitude of both physical and online offerings. With so many ways to be active, we can easily get overwhelmed with our exercise routines. However, we must keep in mind the saying that so many of us have seen: You can’t out-train a bad diet.

Let’s not sell exercise short. Even one short bout of exercise can have immediate positive effects on our bodies. According to Julia C. Basso, Ph.D., Center for Neural Science at New York University, acute sessions of exercise have profound effects on brain chemistry and physiology. However, if we want to maximize our potential, if we want to become the best human that we can be, then eating clean is an integral component in making that happen.

One of the most difficult changes that people can make in a clean eating diet is to make vegetables the bulk of their daily intake. This is a dramatic shift for most people, as it has been reported that about 90% of Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Indeed, for most people, vegetables comprise the smallest portion of their diets, with people only eating vegetables 1.7 times or less per day. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to making such a dramatic shift in our diets, from the mental aspect of ‘not liking veggies’ to the physical aspect of not having vegetables available where we are eating at. So, here are 5 easy ways to incorporate more vegetables into our daily routine.

#1: Eat at home

Eating out has become an epidemic of unhealthy living, and some of the greatest offenders are fast-food establishments. For many people living stressful demanding lives, these establishments meet certain needs in their lives because they are fast, cheap, and readily available. However, to shift to a clean-eating lifestyle, we must abolish fast-food restaurants from our lives. Not only do they rarely offer any vegetable selections of note, but their food is grossly high in sodium, fat, and cholesterol. By preparing yourself fresh clean meals at home, you can avoid the caloric gluttonies of the restaurant industry.

#2: Shop the perimeter of the grocery store

This idea was recently introduced to me at a conference, and the truth of it really struck me. If you want to eat clean, it is imperative to shop within the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s where you will find fresh produce and other healthier choices. There is almost nothing of dietary worthiness in the center aisles. These aisles are loaded with processed foods that are often high in fat and carbohydrates, which not only makes them unhealthy but addictive as well. The shocking truth that was revealed to me at the previously mentioned conference is that items high in fat and carbohydrates do not occur in nature. Nature provides us fruits, nuts, vegetables eggs, fish, and seeds that we can use as our main sources of energy from carbohydrates and main sources of healthy fats. What has happened with industrial-produced processed foods in the middle of the grocery store is that they are the products of highly subsidized crops such as corn, soy, wheat, and rice, which get transformed in industrial settings into ultra-processed foods that are high in unhealthy fat and carbohydrates. By sticking to the perimeter of the grocery store and avoiding the processed middle sections, you can fill your cart with healthy clean items that will bolster your at-home eating.

#3: Cucumbers

Once we’ve committed to eating clean, shopping the perimeter of the grocery store, and eating our healthy choices at home, there are other logistical barriers to making vegetables the bulk of our diet. Luckily, I’ve found one veggie that breaks through all those barriers: the amazing cucumber. My go-to favorite has been mini-cucumbers, and I slice them for terrific snacks and add-ons to any meal. Cucumbers are healthy, taste great, are refreshing, are easy to chew, fast to prepare, and basically ready to eat just like they are…no steaming or cooking required.

Yes, cucumbers are a terrific addition to any meal, including breakfast! One of my favorite breakfasts that I make at home is a plate of two sliced mini-cucumbers with a sliced banana or a sliced apple. If I go with the banana combo, then sometimes I indulge myself with a twist of sea salt on top. This little addition can really bring out an unexpected zing that is quite satisfying. Just be sure to stick to one twist or less of your sea salt grinder.

#4: Smoothie time: frozen baby spinach

A while back at a dear friend’s party, I needed to store something in their freezer. When I opened it, I was intrigued to discover a huge box of frozen baby spinach, and it was genius! Frozen baby spinach has now become a must-have ingredient in my near-daily smoothie. It keeps for a very long time and blends to a perfectly smooth texture that mixes well with whatever ingredients you add. The health benefits of baby spinach are staggering, it is readily available in large tubs in the produce section of the grocery store, and freezing it is a perfect way to keep it in your house for an easy smoothie addition.

Here is one of my favorite smoothie recipes, in the order that I add them to the smoothie machine:

  • 1.5 cups plain unsweetened almond milk.

  • 1 scoop of protein powder (optional).

  • 1 fresh banana, broken into pieces.

  • 1 to 1.5 cups of frozen baby spinach.

  • 1 to 1.5 cups of frozen fruit of your choice.

#5: Smoothie time, or eat it like it is: cauliflower

Making vegetables the bulk of your diet is very difficult to do without finding some raw vegetables that we can easily add to our routine. One of these is cauliflower. This incredible veggie is considered an anti-cancer superfood, and it has a plethora of other amazing health benefits. It is readily available in the produce section, both as whole heads or already cut up and packaged. Even raw, it makes for the perfect easy-to-chew snack, and it has a very pleasing taste that is fairly nutty and almost sweet. Here is a tip for storing your cauliflower. When exposed to air, the oxidization will turn it an unpleasant blackish color, so keep it wrapped up tight in plastic wrap in your fridge. Any time you open it, be sure to seal it back as quickly as possible.

Cauliflower is also a great addition to a smoothie. Just like baby spinach, it blends perfectly smooth and goes well with any other flavors you decide to add. To make one of my favorite smoothies with cauliflower, just replace the banana in the recipe above with a cup of broken-apart cauliflower. Don’t worry about chopping it…let the smoothie machine work its magic.

Vegetables are key

Making vegetables the bulk of our diet is one of the most important ways to start eating clean and becoming the best person that we can be. Eating clean maximizes our potential. When combined with an exercise routine, it will create an energetic healthy version of ourselves that we never dreamed possible. However, it isn’t easy to shift from a diet of primarily processed and unnatural food choices. Many of our bodies will literally experience a type of withdrawal but committing to a clean-eating lifestyle is a choice that you will never regret.

While there are real barriers to making vegetables the bulk of our diets, there are ways to overcome them. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store to fill your cart with healthy choices. Take these items home and prepare your meals and snacks at home. Know everything that you put into your body. Add veggies that are quick and tasty to your routine such as cucumbers and cauliflower. Finally, make smoothies to help integrate veggies such as frozen baby spinach and more into your diet.