Plant-based nutrition 101
When I first went vegan after moving to the US and then quit being vegan 4 years later, I was convinced plant-based nutrition was a bunch of mumbo jumbo created by some hippies. They seemed to have no scientific basis for anything, and though I enjoyed my vegan lifestyle, the cut of picanha my husband had weekly at our grill seemed tastier. But after another three years of meat eating, I had developed hypothyroidism and was feeling like crap. Something that was not the case when I was vegan. In fact, going back to pictures of myself back then I had a brightness in my eyes that you only get on a plant-based diet.
I started wondering if maybe I needed to make a change with my diet. I ate what most consider a very healthy, but still ate animal products. My breakfast consisted of a whey protein shake and a latte, my lunch and dinner of salads and animal protein. However, I was constipated, feeling lethargic and my thyroid was at a standstill. I prayed about my health and opened the bible randomly and it opened in Daniel 1:12-16:
12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
It seemed that God was reinforcing what my body was telling me. Maybe I needed to return to some sort of Vegan diet again. However, this would be a difficult transition for me because I love food. I call myself a foodie and I pride myself in going to amazing restaurants all around the world. Despite my hesitation to be vegan once more, I started to slowly cut down the amount of animal based products I ate. But, still I was hesitant in making a complete transition to a Vegan lifestyle. Right about this time, I started reading "The China study". If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend you do. If you don't like reading, then watch Fork over knives, which is a documentary created by the authors of the China study. This book was written by Dr Campbell, a researcher at Cornell who studied nutrition for over thirty years in many countries across the globe. His research has shown that animal based products (animal flesh and milk) are the main culprits behind diseases of affluence (cancer, heart disease, auto-immune diseases). In fact, he says that 90% of all disease can be prevented or reverted through nutrition alone. What kind of nutrition? Well, a plant-based one.
Now it is important to understand what a plant-based nutrition is. Eating plant-based is not necessarily eating Vegan. For example, eating soy nuggets will keep you within the boundaries of a Vegan diet, but it is not considered plant-based because it is processed. A plant-based diet is based on non-processed fruits, grains, and vegetables.
This doesn't mean you will never eat animal based products again. You can indulge once in a while, but your diet will mostly consist of what Daniel said in the bible: vegetables, grains, and fruits. Nowadays, I eat mostly a plant-based diet - no dairy, no animal flesh, no eggs. But, if I go to a really nice restaurant, I indulge and have whatever I want on the menu. Of course that does not happen everyday. That way, I feel like I am not giving up the little things in life that I love, but I am still consuming food that is feeding my body and keeping disease at far away.
This is how I transitioned to a plant-based diet... It worked for me, but each person is unique so please consult a dr before making any nutritional changes.
- My first step was subbing my usual breakfast for a green smoothie. Green smoothies are sweet, creamy and delicious. They are also super easy to make and flood your body with nutrients. On weekends you can pre-pack and freeze all of the ingredients, so that all you ahve to do every morning is blend it with water (or whatever other base you use). The picture gives you an outline of how to make a delicious green shake. Basically you can exercise your culinary creativity by choosing one ingredient from each of the six squares to create your green smoothie. If you want something simple, the beginner smoothie I use with everyone that comes to my house and wants to try a green drink is: one apple, one frozen banana, water, bunch of spinach, lots of mint leaves, and hemp seeds. It is delicious and super nutritious.
However, if you feel adventurous, then use the outline on the right side of this page!
2. My next step in my transition was choosing two days in the week where I ate completely plant based. If you can, do the two days in a row. You will notice some improvements right away (less bloating and less lethargy after meals, less constipation, better digestion) which will make you more excited about adopting a new plant-based lifestyle.
Now, this may seem like a Herculean task, but it is not. Eating plant based is pretty simple. This is what I eat on a daily basis
- Before Breakfast: Drink 64 oz of water
- Breakfast: Green shake, if cold I do a green oatmeal instead ( basically oatmeal plus a green shake!)
- Snack: Green tea, almond milk latte, fruit
- Lunch: I whip together Quinoa, stir fry veggies, basil, mint, balsamic vinaigrette to create a really tasty quinoa bowl.
- Snack: Brazil nut milk with matcha tea
- Dinner: Lentil soup with Dulse flakes, and hemp seeds.
- Before bed: Banana with chocolate almond butter and hot oolong tea with non dairy milk.
Some tips to get you through these days:
- Prepare a batch of quinoa, lentils, oatmeal or beans ahead of time. Then you can use these to make different dishes throughout the week.
- Buy herbs you love like mint, basil, and green onions. You can make any dish taste like a million dollars just by adding these fresh herbs.
I hope this helps adventure into a plant-based diet. Now, click here to go onto the yoga devotionals for the week!