What you eat affects your performance, and a vegetable-rich diet is ideal fuel for a full-contact day – with a higher intake of vitamins and minerals comes an increase in productivity. But even with the full-blown kale obsession and oh-so-trendy Brussels sprouts comeback, vegetables are still seen as a secondary player rather than the main event on our plates.
When it comes to eating your greens, health rock star Mikaela Reuben knows the secret sauce. The chef and nutritionist travels the world to cook for the stars (see: Ben Stiller and Woody Harrelson) with a methodology that’s all about making vegetables taste damn good.
“In a perfect world, we’d love to pick up a raw cucumber for lunch or eat a red pepper like an apple. We’re told to like these vegetables, but most people just don’t!” Reuben explains.
But her approach to healthy cooking, may change this mindset one colourful salad at a time. With the goal of adding more leafy greens to our diet, we talked to Reuben about her tried-and-true tricks for training your appetite to fall in love with vegetables.
1. WASH AND GO
Reuben recommends acting fast. “I can’t focus on vegetables unless I go to the market, bring them home and wash them right away. If I’m making a healthy smoothie and I have to wash and prep the kale first, the kale is not going in the smoothie.”
2. CHOP WITH SCISSORS
Choose scissors to chop greens over a standard knife. “Using scissors makes a salad much more appealing. Take handfuls of spinach and arugula and chop it all down into bite-sized pieces. Suddenly it’s small, manageable and I’ve got two cups of leafy greens.”
3. SEASON LIKE MEAT
Reuben believes in treating vegetables like a perfectly-seasoned piece of meat. “I season each ingredient differently. I’ll finely mandolin a carrot, toss it with lemon juice and then let it all soak for five minutes. If I’m making salad rolls, I’ll marinate thin strips of red pepper in sesame oil and lime juice. Taking care to flavour vegetables is something we don’t do regularly.”
4. BULK UP
Make things easier and cook your veggies in bulk. “If you’re going to steam, roast or bake a bit of broccoli for dinner, make a big batch it. If you toss it with some sea salt, olive oil and lemon, you’ll be more likely to pick a piece of broccoli from the fridge when you’re peckish than if it’s raw.” Just don’t go overboard – cook a reasonable amount for the week.
5. DRESS TO IMPRESS
Reuben goes above and beyond to use seasonal flavours and spices to dress her food. “If I sauté spinach, I blend cilantro and garlic over it. If I make a cashew dip to go with veggies, I lightly steam red pepper and carrot (rather than serving raw) to take the sharpness away and then toss them in garlic powder. People need to take the time to dress their ingredients.”
6. VALUE YOUR TIME
Use your chores around the house as prep time, suggests Mikaela. “If you’re at home doing laundry on a Sunday, then roast, steam or marinate your veggies – you’re at home already. If you can take an extra 10-minutes to make something much more enjoyable, why wouldn’t you?”
Discover Reuben’s healthy plant-based recipes at mikaelareuben.com.