Nutrition Foundation: Prioritizing Protein & Veggies

Milton Holdiem

Prioritize protein & veggies at most meals

Whether you've been in the nutrition game for a while, or you're just starting to improve the way you eat, here's a simple nutrition concept that can make the entire process easier.

Prioritize protein + veggies at most meals.

This means making sure most meals have enough protein + veggies, and finishing them before finishing the rest of our plate

Here I talk about:

  • Why prioritizing protein & veggies is a great place to start, especially when new to nutrition.
  • How prioritizing protein & veggies make it easier to stick to your nutrition goals.
  • How to stay on track of nutrition even on vacation.

Why protein & veggies matter

Whether you're looking to build muscle or burn fat, getting enough protein + veggies help you get the most out of your training sessions.

Proteins are the building blocks that make up the structures in your body. When we train, we damage our muscle fibers and other tissues. During recovery, our body uses protein to rebuild and repair itself to withstand more stress.

Veggies give us micronutrients that help maintain our immune system. Fibers in vegetables keep our digestive system running smoothly.

The benefits of prioritizing protein + veggies

It's simple

Planning is easy. Choose your protein(s), pick your veggie(s), then add your carbs + fat to that base to create a meal.

It reduces overeating

We tend to overeat foods high in carbs + fat, and under-eat protein + veggies.
Prioritizing the latter, makes it harder to overeat on carbs + fat because you'll be more full by the end of your meal!

It isn't weird when dining out

Things go wrong when you go out with friends, or have a family dinner, and you can't sustain the same nutrition you have at home. Because you have a game plan, you'll know what to prioritize, even when you don't have total control of your options.

Building Meals

When building meals, start with protein + veggies, then add your carbs + fat. That's pretty much it. Like I said earlier, it's simple. But like most things, it's a skill to practice.

Lean Protein Tips

  • 2-3 palm-sized portions of protein at each meal is a good place to start
  • Have batch proteins available. Precook proteins in bulk to splash into meals. Rotisserie chicken is an easy option for most days as well!
  • When thinking about proteins, try to keep it on the "leaner" end. Think chicken breast or thigh versus fried chicken. (Fried chicken has breading added to it- while still protein, we have carbs + fat added to it.)
  • Other examples: Lean cuts of chicken, beef, pork, tofu, seafood
  • Precooked foods at the grocery store work great
  • Protein shakes are great to add some easy protein, especially for people with busy schedules. Prioritize actual food over supplements, but there's nothing wrong with some protein shakes!

Veggie Tips

  • 2 fist-sized portions of veggies at each meal is a good place to start
  • Mix it up with different veggies, raw + cooked, multiple colors
  • For convenience, have frozen veggies available for steaming in the microwave.

At Restaurants

Tips for Fast Casual & Fast-Food Restaurants

Fast casual restaurants like Chipotle are nice because protein portions are simple and often involve veggie choices. At Chipotle, getting lettuce + fajita veggies are key!

Fast-food restaurants are harder to get veggies and lean protein but there are definitely ways to do it. Look for grilled chicken sandwiches, and mini veggie sides.
At Chick Fil-A get your base of protein, then add a mini salad. The Kale Crunch side works great here!

Tips for Sit-Down Restaurants

  • It's a lot easier to get your veggies at sit-down restaurants than fast-food restaurants. Most have side veggie options + leaner proteins that are still tasty.
  • An option for veggies: full salads or side salads with light dressing
  • Or when you order sides, make at least one of them veggie-based! Broccoli or asparagus are pretty common!
  • Example: Steak + Mashed Potato + Grilled Asparagus

When in Doubt

And let's be real, there will be some situations you can't add enough protein or veggies.

Maybe you're eating at a restaurant that doesn't have enough lean protein + veggie options. Or you're at a family gathering where you aren't able to choose the dishes.

And that's okay!

The key is to do it as much as possible so it becomes an exception to the rule, and every meal has the protein + veggie building blocks.

To recap:

Whether you're new to working on nutrition or are looking for a new approach, prioritizing proteins + veggies makes it easier to make choices that align with your goals.