When I was a boy I would do anything to get out of eating those dreaded vegetables on the plate at dinner time.
They were green and often overcooked. The very thought of putting slimy spinach near my mouth was enough to turn my stomach. I'd try every trick in the book from hiding the peas under the leftover mashed potato to pleading stomach cramps.
I thought mum and dad were trying to inflict some kind of slow poison to my system. What had I done to deserve such punishment?
But it turns out that my parents were in the right for a host of reasons. I should have eaten my greens. It was the delivery system I wasn't too keen about, not the food itself. Who wants slimy spinach anyway?
Since those days I have learned that you can eat healthily without forcing disgusting stuff down your neck. I have only relatively recently realised this is not just A-Good-Thing-To-Do.
It's also a boost to my cricket performance and you can do the same.
The benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables
Statistically speaking, there is a fair chance you don't eat enough fruit and veg.
Only 12% of British people eat 5 portions a day (which is the minimum recommended by the government). The average person eats between 2-3 portions and an amazing 1 in 8 people don't eat any fruit or vegetables at all!
Why should you care if you don't eat that much?
It could be causing you problems on the pitch.
Research has shown a myriad of benefits:
- Help with weight loss. Vegetables are low in calories but high in fibre meaning you can fill yourself up yet still be in a calorie deficit for weight loss purposes
- Help with body composition. Players with more muscles and less fat (you can use the word 'toned' if you have to) have better speed-strength and are able to run faster, bowl faster and hit the ball harder. Most vegetables help with this by controlling insulin through their low position on the Glycemic Index.
- Prevention of diseases. The more good stuff you eat, the less likely you are to get cardiovascular issues, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. All life threatening stuff, and certainly no good for your cricket career.
Fruit and vegetables also have a vital role in keeping your body in pH balance.
Your pH level shows how acid or alkaline the cells in your body are at any point. It's the exact same scale as the pH strips that change colour you might have used in school science.
If your body is in acidosis (You eat more acidic food than alkaline food) you can suffer. You body goes into overdrive to rebalance you out, taking nutrients from your muscles and bones. In the short term you may not notice much. Our bodies are highly adaptable and can cover up problems. However, in the longer term you are looking at reduced strength and power as well as a possible decline in kidney function and an increased chance of osteoporosis. Ouch.
Fortunately, the solution is simple. Eat more fruit and vegetables.
Plant based food has a net alkaline (or base) load. Pretty much all other food has a net acid load (especially meat, dairy and grains). Simply by eating 1-2 portions of vegetables with every meal is enough to balance things out again.
It's a solution endorsed by nutritionists and coaches alike. Greg Chappell is a fan and Bob Woolmer discusses the benefits in his coaching book too.
How to get more fruit and vegetables in your diet
But what if you get the shakes even thinking about a salad?
As a reformed vegophobic, here is what worked for me.
- A portion is less than you think. A portion of veg is just a couple of spears of broccoli or one carrot. It can also be a single tomato, about 5cm of cucumber or just three tablespoons of chick peas.
- Snack between meals. An apple or some carrot sticks fill you up and contribute to your portions for the day without feeling like it. I'm very anal about going out without a baggie filled up before I leave the house.
- Try new things. If you don't like certain vegetables or fruits you don't have to eat them. The mistake I made was thinking if I don't like cabbage and sprouts I don't like anything. There are many different types of fruit and vegetable with an incredible variety of colours and flavours. That's before you think about the different ways of cooking them. Work your way through everything before deciding. I wasted years.
- Drink smoothies. Who doesn't love a fruit flavoured smoothie? You can get several portions of fruit into a blender and drink it down as a healthy breakfast meal or a mid afternoon snack to keep the post lunch dip away.
- Blend vegetables. You can hide vegetables from yourself. Mix carrots into pasta sauces or serve raw vegetables with hummus or guacamole dips.
- Rope in your friends and family. Social pressure is a powerful tool. Get your family to buy into the health kick too or start a club who meet once a week to tell of their veg eating exploits. Failing that, join an online community of likeminded people, all with similar aims to you.
Finally, enjoy it. Food is supposed to be a fun experience so rope everyone in and cook up a storm. Try it for 30 days and you might find it has become a habit.
Photo credit: funadium