"I went from one serving of vegetables to five or six." - Mary Lynn Meyer, Health-care consultant, Churchville, Md.
Last January, Mary Lynn Meyer's attitude was that if it required cleaning, peeling, chopping, or steaming, you could forget about it. Like many moms, Meyer was just too busy—grocery shopping, packing lunches, carpooling, and working. Meals were quick and easy, and that usually meant they came from a box. "Cooking was a chore," she says of her pre-veggie conversion. "After working all day at my job, I felt like I didn't need another one at home."
But a desire to eat healthier inspired her to take on Cooking Light's first Healthy Habits challenge. With the help of online coaching sessions from our contributing editor Allison Fishman, the Meyers' kitchen grew greener. "It opened our eyes to so many different things," she says. "I feel healthier. The quality of food I'm eating and serving to my family is better, and there's more variety. I'm trying new things with a sense of adventure." (She admits, though, she's still not a fan of kale.) Here, in her words, is what helped.
MARY LYNN'S STRATEGIES
- Enroll in Chopping 101. "Learning to chop vegetables in different ways was huge. Preparation became more of a game: Now I can cut matchstick carrots and properly chop an onion. I'll do one big one and put it in the fridge for several days. Having onions cut up makes a huge difference to me and cuts down on my prep time for meals. On a day when I was tired, that simple act would stop me from trying a recipe. Now I just pull it out of the fridge and go."
- Eat veggies for breakfast. "Starting the day with vegetables gets me thinking about that and keeps it on my mind all day. Otherwise I'd be eating carbs, carbs, and more carbs. Now I eat chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, or radishes. Some days I'll sauté spinach or mix it in with scrambled eggs."
- Make extra for snacks and lunches. "When I prepare vegetables—especially winter vegetables—I roast or bake them in bulk. I put them in a baggie and have them cold as a snack. Or, as with butternut squash and sweet potatoes, I'll use the extra and make soup."
- Remember: All food is good. "I embrace the Cooking Light philosophy that there are no 'bad' foods. I once thought I shouldn't be eating starchy stuff, but now I know it's all good in moderation. So when I eat roasted sweet potatoes, I think of it as one of my vegetables, not as a 'bad' vegetable. As a result I'm eating healthier and eating much less processed food."
- Enlist the troops. "I spend more time cooking and going to the grocery store, but I've never had so much fun, especially when I get my family involved. As a bonus, they've become more open to new things."