prepare to eat more veggies

We fitness professionals approach nutrition with varying degrees of personal interest and investment.  

For some of us, food is just fuel (yes, I think they’re missing out too!).  For others, it is a tool to manipulate body composition, drive performance, optimize health, etc.  

For Patrick and me, food is a big part of lives.  We’re both athletes and both have personally experimented with different nutritional approaches for improving  our performance and/or body composition.  We also love to prepare diverse and healthy meals for our friends and family.


Here’s where our approach might stand out; having both lost parents to cancer at early ages, we look at preparing meals through all the same lens as other fitness pros but also as an opportunity to prevent disease

Funny enough, the common theme in nutritional approaches that often yield the best results, regardless of goal, is that they get us eating lots of veggies!  Often, the biggest struggle our students deal with as they adopt healthier habits is doing just that: getting in more vegetables. 

The top comments we hear regarding the struggle to eat more veggies are: 

  • I don’t know what to do with it when I get it home from the store
  • I get bored eating the same things over and over
  • I need something done faster 

Well, we’re here to help overcome those obstacles, and it starts with the breakdown process.

Here, we chose four veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and summer squash.  We picked these four because they are almost always available at the local supermarket, are pretty simple to prepare, offer a diversity of color and nutrients and can be flavored in different ways. Here, we’ll show you efficient ways to break these veggies down so you’re ready to store them or to cook right away! 


Patrick’s primer on preparation: 

All vegetable preparation has a few essentials: a paring and/or chef’s knife, cutting board, a large bowl for washing, vegetable peeler, and sometimes a salad spinner.

Gather your essentials and organize them so you can wash, process and set aside your vegetables as you go. Having plenty of countertop space is helpful in the beginning.


Fill your bowl with cold water and place your veggies in to soak. Give them the occasional dunk and shake in the water to loosen any remaining dirt/debris.  Scrubbing your vegetables may be necessary if they’re waxed or they’re just plain dirty.

During this time make sure you have all you need to peel, cut, dry and store your veggies.

The veggies: 

Breaking down broccoli


Cut the dry end of the stem off and cut the stem from the head. To prepare the stem take the edge of your knife and begin to cut just under the woody outer part of the stem. You will see a ring that indicates the woody part when you look at the base of the cut.

Once you begin to cut under the skin, press the skin against the blade of the paring knife with your thumb and pull back to peel the skin off. Continue working around the base of the stem until you have all the woody layer removed. For some of parts you may need to cut away in addition to peeling. Lay your clean stem on its side and cut into equal slices.

Separate the florets using your knife as shown in the video. Use the point to split the stems and pull apart the florets into smaller pieces.

Cutting up cauliflower

The first step is to remove the stem from the head.  To do this, take the head of cauliflower and hold it firmly in the palm of your hand with the stem facing up.  Angle your knife at 45⁰ towards the core of the head of cauliflower and slowly work the knife into the head toward the merging point where the stem meets the florets. Begin carving around the base of the stem while maintaining the point of the knife at the place where the stem and florets meet. You will carve out a “cone” around the stem and base. Pull on the stem to remove it from the head.

Begin separating the large florets form the head, cutting away as needed.  Use the point of the knife to split the stems of the florets and pull to separate them into smaller pieces. You want your pieces to be of equal volume.

slicing up squash

Wash your squash and remove the ends. Cut the skinny neck of the squash away from the bulkier base part. The neck will be halved and then sliced for equal size. The base will be quartered and then sliced to form pieces of equal size and volume.

chopping up carrots

Peel your carrots and cut the ends off the tip and base. The carrots need to be cut for equal volume. To do this, start cutting at a 30⁰ angle at the tip and make the angle of the cut greater and the cuts thinner as you near the top.  

The real key to success here is to make sure that all pieces of each veggie is of equal volume.  This helps to assure that they all cook evenly so you don’t end up with undercooked and overcooked veggies in your dish.  

When combining these veggies, say, in a stir fry or as a steamed vegetable medley, you’ll want to have all of the veggies near each other’s volume to yield a dish that has roughly the same size bites of food.    

So with a better idea on how to prepare these popular and widely available vegetables, there should be one less thing standing in your way of getting more of those veggies inside of you and your family!


If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me or Patrick to ask!


~Mark Reinke

They’ve given me the title Personal Training Director, but I really just love to help acac members and give my team the tools they need to do the same.  I graduated with a B.S. in Human Physiology and Biology from the University of Oregon and M.A. in teaching from Willamette University. I have over 15 years experience personal training and have also taught anatomy, physiology and biology. I love spending time outdoors with my family and growing, cooking, serving and eating great food.  Learn more about me and read more of my blogs on our website

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About Mark

I am a busy guy; husband, father, coach, mentor, gardener, outdoors man and cook are the primary hats I wear. To be the best of these I can be, I stay physically prepared for all those pursuits, and feed myself in a way that allows me to keep up the pace. I can help you to take the next manageable step in fitness and wellness to get you closer to your ideal self.