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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Hendrickson

What is Plant Based Eating?

When I tell people that I am a plant based eater, I get the usual eye roll, or the "Oh, your that type of person". Not exactly sure what all that means, but I'm used to it by now. Although I also love the people that embrace it, even if they don't understand it, and go out of their way to provide food at get togethers that I can eat. Either way, I'm pretty comfortable with the food choices that I have made.

For me, as I mentioned before, I eat this way for my health. It all started when I was dealing with severe vertigo that was debilitating. I did not want to be on steroids for the rest of my life, so I turned to food to see if I could heal my body. I am happy to report that since I started this journey, I haven't had a major flare in almost a year. That is a victory for me considering I was getting flares once or twice a month.

And yet, while I may have started this journey for my health, I now also eat this way because all the research points me in this direction. The research shows that a plant based diet is the healthiest diet for any disease, condition, or ailment that a person might have. I have experienced that personally and have seen it transpire in my family as well. So these are my whys.

As a nutritional health coach, I have moved my coaching in the direction of leading people to a plant based diet. I know it works, and I have the scientific research to back everything up. But most of the time I am met with a lot of resistance. It can create some challenges, but once a person starts seeing results in their own body, they are usually on board.

The biggest hurdle to overcome is that most people think I am trying to convert everyone I meet into a vegan. This is the furthest thing from the truth. There is a difference between a vegan and a plant based eater. So what's the difference? I'm so glad you asked.

A vegan usually identifies what a person doesn't eat. This includes anything that comes from an animal. Usually people adopt the vegan lifestyle for animal humane reasons and environmental reasons, which are all wonderful. Yet, as I have mentioned before, vegans can be extremely unhealthy. Since a vegan just identifies what you can't eat, it doesn't really give you any directions on what you can eat. Vegans can drink soda, eat french fries, candy, packaged and processed foods, and anything else unhealthy that you can think of that doesn't come from an animal. I have seen lots of unhealthy vegans. So I don't necessarily only promote not eating animals.

A plant based eater identifies what they do eat instead of what they don't eat. As a plant based eater I predominately eat plants and whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and other whole foods. I try and stay away from packaged and processed foods as much as possible. Every day I have a list of foods I try to eat like the ones I mentioned above, as well as water, exercise, B12 supplement, herbs and spices, flaxseeds, and greens. I don't get all of this in every day but I do my best. Every meal I ask myself "how could I make this healthier?".

Does adopting a plant based diet mean you can NEVER eat animal products again? NO! That is one of the biggest reasons people reject a plant based diet. They think this means they can never have foods they love that come from animals. That is a choice I personally have made only for my own health so that I don't continue to get flares of vertigo. But if you begin to trend your diet to all of the foods I mentioned above, creating a plate filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole foods, is it ok to eat animals? Absolutely! Don't deprive yourself of what you love. But you will find that you will eat less animals, which will in turn make you feel better, and perhaps help to reverse any conditions or illnesses you may have.

I coach my clients towards the 90/10 diet. This means we are working to be 90% plant based whole food, and 10% not. Whether that's eating meat, or processed foods, or whatever it is you love.

Ask yourself where are you now on the spectrum of plant based eating? Would you say you are 40/60? Even if you tried next week to be 50/50 that would be a great improvement. Each week working your way up to 90/10 is progress.

This journey of plant based eating has taken me over a year. It was a slow process that went something like this: removed red meat, removed all meat, started eating more vegetarian meals and tried new fruits and vegetables. Dairy and eggs were the hardest things to give up (I still miss eggs all of the time, although I am so excited to find an awesome alternative. See my recipes below). Over time I removed the dairy and eggs, and have found that this is what triggers my vertigo more then anything else. I slowly tried new recipes, found out what I liked and what I didn't like, and continued to do more research to really understand what the healthiest diet is for me. I'm still on my journey and learn new things and even mess up everyday. But health really is just a journey and not necessarily a final destination.

It's hard to go against the grain. It's hard not to follow how everyone else eats. It's hard to be the only one at a party not eating the food. But I'm also at my ideal weight, I have lots of energy, I'm not in bed with vertigo flares, and I feel great. For me, that's worth it.

Now that you know that being a plant based eater doesn't mean removing all animal products for the rest of your life, would you be willing to try trending towards a 90/10 diet? Take some inventory of where you are now, and challenge yourself to add more plants on your plate next week then you did this week. Each week continue to try new things and add more plants. See how that makes you feel.

The best part about coaching people through this diet is that there is little restrictions. Not once did I say, stop eating this. Many times when we add good food in, we crowd bad food out. I challenge you to give it a try. Below are some recipes you can try. Let me know what you think!

The Best Tofu Scramble I was skeptical about this recipe. I've mentioned before I am not a huge fan of tofu, and I love eggs so much. But I gave it a try, and I could not believe how good this was. Even my husband couldn't stop eating. This is an awesome egg alternative. We made breakfast burritos the other night and my kids didn't even notice that it wasn't real eggs, and they loved it.

Cowboy Beans This is a great winter recipe. We made this for the first time up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it was a hit with everyone. We opted out of adding the tofu. It was hearty enough with just the beans.

Best Ever Black Bean Soup Another great recipe as the weather starts getting colder.

Interested in learning more about a plant based diet? Contact Lindsay, IIN Nutrition Health Coach, to schedule your complimentary health consultation.

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