The 20 Veggie Challenge Makes “Eating the Rainbow” Look Like Child’s Play

Photo: Stocksy/Nadine Greeff
If you always return from your Sunday grocery store outing with the the same three vegetables in tow, er, toteI get it: You have your meal-prepping game down to a science. (And I too want to find a way to eat cauliflower at every single meal.)

But here's a case for shaking up your routine. The world has a bounty of veggies at your disposal, and Mia Rigden—a holistic health coach and chef—is throwing down the ultimate healthy eating challenge. No soups or juices involved, TG: She wants you to eat 20 (yes, 20!) veggies per week.

Here's the lowdown: Over the course of a week, Rigden wants you to eat 20 different kinds of vegetables. You can eat them as snacks, incorporate them into meals, prepare them however you want. Fresh or frozen, cooked or raw, it's all fair game—as long as you're eating 20 different veggies in a week.

Rigden says she created the 20 veggie challenge after noticing that so much of the "getting healthy" narrative revolved around cutting things out (like sugar and ultra-processed grains) rather than all the delish ingredients you can add into your diet. She felt it was important for her clients to know that eating healthy isn't about restrictions, it's about bounty.

There's also an important nutritional component at play. "The more that I learned about nutrition, the more I realized that every vegetable has a unique mix of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients and basically just nutrition that we need," she says. For instance, "We know that the brightly-hued orange vegetables—like carrots and sweet potatoes—are really rich in beta-carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A." Eating a variety of veggies on the reg ensures that you're getting all the nutrition your bod needs (while keeping things interesting for your tastebuds, of course). 

"The more that I learned about nutrition, the more I realized that every vegetable has a unique mix of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients and basically just nutrition that we need." - Mia Rigden, holistic nutrition coach and chef

If eating 20 different veggies every week feels daunting (which, I don't blame you), Rigden has some tips to make it easier. First: "Herbs count!" she says. Go ahead and grab some fresh mint, rosemary, and basil and, bam—you already have a head start. Use them up before they wilt by whipping up two or three herbacious sauces (pesto! chimichurri!) during your Sunday meal-prep that can easily pair with the rest of your veggie-rich dishes throughout the week. 

Next, she suggests thinking about how many servings you'll need for the week. If you'll be cooking for your significant other too (or vice versa), you're likely okay to add an enormous head of cauliflower to your cart. But for those who live alone, Rigden says that the best move is heading to your local farmer's market. "I think that shopping at the farmer’s market is really great because you can buy in smaller quantities," she says—which helps cut down on potential food waste. You can also pillage the frozen food aisle for bags of organic butternut squash, okra, cauliflower rice/tots, or some pre-mixed combo to ensure you hit your veggie count without everything going bad.

For those nights when you're dining out on the town, the coach advises boycotting the entrée portion of the menu entirely. "If you’re out to dinner, order a bunch of different vegetable sides. I think dining out is a good time to load up on the diversity because you’re going to see interesting vegetables and different variations that you might not be able to do at home, or that you might not be familiar with," Rigden explains. Just make sure you're keeping count so that you can celebrate that sweet, sweet victory come Sunday. Hey, you did just out-vegetable ROYGBIV.

This vegetarian kale soup knocks out four of those veggies servings. And this rainbow sandwich contains a whopping nine.

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