The Veggie Hack

Jul 13, 2022

I talk a lot about protein when building strength and dieting, but today, carbohydrates (carbs) get the spotlight!  

People often ask me, “Can I eat carbs when dieting?”  

The simple answer is yes…  

But we need to be especially discerning about carbs when wanting to burn body fat. 

The concept at play is:

Nutrient Density, or nutrition per calorie.  This concept can get confusing because it’s not about good versus bad foods.  It’s about choosing foods that help you reach your goal of burning body fat.  



When dieting, I will reduce or avoid fantastic carbs like brown rice and mangoes.  I will even monitor my consumption of beans and berries, some of the best foods!

Let’s back up for a moment. 

Body fat is simply stored energy.  We ate extra food in the past, and our bodies stored the energy from it.  

Yeah, it was more fun to eat the first time around!  Now it’s pure energy!  Dieting to shed body fat means using some of that energy stored in our fat cells.  

Well, carbohydrates are stored energy too!  Energy that the plants stored.  Our muscles, organs, and brains love to use carbohydrates for energy. 

When dieting, we still want to give our bodies carbs for energy, but we need to eat the leanest carbs available.  These are the carbs with such high nutrient density (ie foods with lots of fiber!) that they are nearly impossible to store as fat

In fact, these slow carbs will keep our metabolic motors running so we can burn the fat in our fat cells, like logs on the metabolic fire. 

Let’s zoom in on the experience of dieting for a moment.  I learned how to shed body fat during the prep (an epic 12 week diet) for my bodybuilding show last year. 

Now, I absolutely hate being hungry.  You know, “hangry”?  That’s me.  Veggies saved me!  I never would have believed this until I had to rely on them for my actual daily sanity. 

When I found out I could eat as many veggies as I wanted, I went all in!

Majoring in the most nutrient dense carbohydrates, vegetables, works dieting miracles.    All the nutrition (fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) will keep you full and give you a slow energy drip. 

Cooked veggies will give you warmth, flavors, pleasant chewing and fullness.  Raw veggies offer juicy hydration, and crunch.

No one could have convinced me that veggies would save me until my epic diet.  So, I’m in the “don’t knock it till you try it” camp.  I have seen veggies surprise, and work dieting wonders, for numerous people now.    

Even if you think that you don’t much like them, do yourself a favor and check them out.

Let’s talk flavor.  Veggies provide the perfect vector for flavors you love.  Experiment with spices and seasonings that make your mouth water!  

As one of my favorite doctors, Michael Gregor MD, likes to say, “Smoked paprika makes anything taste like barbecue potato chips.”  

If you are buying bottled flavorings, read the labels and watch out for sugar, excess salt, and oils. 

The rest is fair game:

  • Herbs (try cilantro, basil, parsley, oregano, mint, chives…)

  • Vinegars (apple cider, balsamic, brown rice, red wine…) 

  • Lemon juice (lime, orange…)

  • Spices (smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, curry, italian herbs, cayenne, ginger)

  • Onion and garlic (fresh or dried)

  • Mustards (spicy brown, dijon, honey, grey-poupon, french, yellow, hot…)

  • Hot sauce

  • Soy sauce (liquid aminos, worcestershire, tamari–be careful not to overdo it because of the sodium, a little goes a long way).  

One of my first tries was steamed cauliflower and cabbage, with diced beets, grated carrot, and garlic, curry and umeboshi vinegar.  I made a big batch and kept it handy in the fridge for when the munchies gripped me.  When I needed it warm, I microwaved it! 

When I craved crunch, I headed to the salad greens, cucumbers, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and red peppers.  Again, adding flavors as desired.  Sometimes I added crunch to the steamed veg! 

I kept going. 

  • Green beans and napa cabbage with fennel, cilantro and spicy mustard.

  • Broccoli, bok choy, and parsnips with balsamic and fresh dill.

  • Asparagus, delightful spears!  

I tried everything I could find and was never disappointed.  Okay, well, I still don’t much like turnips and rutabagas!   

Want an insurance policy?  Frozen green beans are epic, as are peas, kale and spinach, for a quick veggie win. 

The veggie hack will always serve you, to shed body fat, stay healthy, and help maintain your body composition when you reach your goals.

Play around and see how much pleasure you can derive from veggies, while meeting your dieting goals.  Share your brilliant concoctions with me!