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Transition to Better Health with Better Nutrition

August is National Wellness month, so what better time to talk about eating healthy than now? Keep reading below, to learn more about different plant-based diets and to find out why I became a Flexitarian.

These days more and more is discussed about eating more plant based foods, including vegetables and fruits. There are so many terms about plant-based diets so let's define a handful of the more common ones.

Vegetarian - someone who eats no meat, but consumes dairy and eggs.

Flexitarian - a.k.a. Semi-Vegetarian - someone who eats mostly plants but adds a small amount of meat in their diet.

Pescatarian - a Vegetarian who also eats seafood and sometimes eggs and dairy, but no other types of meat (no beef, poultry, pork, etc.)

Vegan - someone who eats no food that comes from animals. This includes not eating foods like honey, gelatin, some Worcestershire sauces (because anchovies are present), and miso (because of it's fish-based broth), to name a few. Vegans sometimes will avoid textiles made from animals, too, like wool.

There are a lot of reasons why people decide to opt for more of a plant-based diet but some of the most popular reasons are animal liberation, religion, and health.

So why did I decide to move to a more plant-based diet? A few years ago, one of my family members suddenly died at a very young age, a few months later another family member had a heart attack that required double bypass surgery, and a work required wellness exam and blood work yielded extremely high cholesterol results. After yearly consecutively high cholesterol results and family history, my doctor recommended I limit meat, especially beef and pork, and any overly processed foods to help reduce my overall cholesterol. She also noted that I should continue to eat foods that help increase my good cholesterol, including foods like chickpeas, avocado, and fatty fish. The omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids from fatty fish, help increase good cholesterol.

At first, I couldn't fathom the thought of not eating meat. Now being 2+ years into a Flexitarian diet, it's pretty easy to follow.

How do plant-based eaters get enough protein? Foods like tofu, seitan, tempeh are great ways for plant-based folks to get protein. Other good sources include nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, mushrooms, spinach, edamame, and nutritional yeast, just to name a few. There are many!

What about Vitamin D? I get my Vitamin D from the fish I consume, but others get this vitamin from mushrooms, fortified foods like orange juice, cereals, and soy-based foods like tofu, tempeh, etc.

What about Vitamin B12? Nutritional yeast! Nutritional yeast, or "nooch" is an inactive yeast for seasoning. What's great about nooch for vegans, is it has a cheesy flavor without having to use dairy. Nooch contains protein, large amounts of B vitamins, and other minerals like zinc and manganese.

Aren't plant-based eaters always hungry? Coming from personal experience, when I don't consume fish, yes and no. Let me explain. Am I starving? No. Matter-of-fact, according to my BMI, I'm overweight/obese, even after 2+ years into the diet. What I have discovered though, is that I eat a lot more often than when I did before I was more plant-based. Protein helps you feel full and fiber keeps you feeling full longer. So eating protein and fiber rich meals and snacks helps.

Aren't vegetarian and vegan diets just salads? Not at all. This was my misconception at first, too. Although I do eat quite a bit of salad, there are many other options.

Okay then, what are some easy switches?

Instead of dipping veggies in ranch dressing, try dipping in hummus or guacamole.

Instead of potato chips and sour cream dip, try tortilla chips and veggie or fruit salsa.

Instead of chicken wings, try air fried cauliflower with your favourite wing sauce.

Instead of traditional pizza crust, use portabella mushroom caps or bell pepper wedges, then filled with your desired toppings.

Instead of buffalo chicken casserole, try buffalo cauliflower and tempeh casserole.

Instead of shredded chicken, try shredded jackfruit.

Instead of ice cream, try sorbet or frozen fruit chunks.

For any salad, add a serving of kidney, black, or garbanzo beans and chia seeds or hemp hearts.

For salad dressings and marinades, opt for vinaigrette dressings.

For any soup, add a bag of coleslaw mix.

Try mashed avocado toast with Everything Bagel seasoning and hot sauce for breakfast.

We hope you join us celebrating being healthier this month by eating more fruits and vegetables, adding exercise, and/or finding things you enjoy to destress.

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