Guest Blog Author: Haley Addis of www.plantbasedmamact.com
A question I’ve heard more times than I could count is, “Why do you eat a plant-based diet?” Well, this sweet baby girl right here is my number one reason. I want to give Lucy the best, healthiest life and I feel that a plant-based diet does just that.
In about August of 2015 my husband, Jordan, and I decided we wanted to start trying to have a baby. We had been settled in our house for a couple years, he had long been settled in his career, and I was continuing my education in a Ph.D. program. Many people suggested I wait until the completion of my Ph.D., however, it is a five-year program and I just didn’t want to wait that long to start growing our family. I have always dreamed of being a mama so I decided to make that my top priority. Little did I know, we had quite the long road ahead!
Month after month I was disappointed when my pregnancy tests came back negative. I was getting stressed out and just felt like it was never going to happen. Then I started to evaluate how I was living my life. Was I truly healthy? Maybe my body was telling me I wasn’t ready to carry a baby. After about 6 months of trying, I decided to start shifting my health. We switched to eating mostly vegetarian dinners at home, with the exception of fish once or twice a week. We still consumed dairy at this point but I wouldn’t say it was a staple in our diet. I cut out alcohol except for a glass of wine here and there and I started to get back into practicing yoga and mindfulness. I began to feel healthier, my dangerously high cholesterol was now significantly lower to the point where I could stop taking medication, and low and behold, two months later I got the best news I could ever ask for; I was pregnant!
I cannot even describe to you the amount of joy I felt when I saw that positive test. I was testing so early that my husband didn’t even believe I was pregnant because the lines were so faint, but I just knew I was and a few days later I finally convinced him once the lines started to darken!
I attribute my finally getting pregnant to living a healthier lifestyle but I continued to wonder if I was really at my optimal health. I started researching A LOT and kept coming to the same conclusion. A whole foods plant-based diet was the healthiest. I watched many documentaries to continue to learn and gained so much valuable information about how this diet was also the best for the planet and of course, the animals. I think as a society, we have been so desensitized to the horrors of animal agriculture because we never see behind the scenes. Well, seeing that behind the scenes up close and personal, made me realize how horrible it actually was. We consider ourselves animal lovers, and want to share that love of animals with Lucy, so it seemed hypocritical to love some animals but eat others. Since the research shows that we are able to get all of our nutrition from plant-based diets, it just made sense to me to entirely cut animal products out of our diet. Life is also much more colorful!
Since transitioning to a plant-based diet, I have lower cholesterol than I did on medication, more energy than I ever did (even with a baby!), and just feel more comfortable in my body. For us, the transition was pretty easy because we had already cut many animal products out of our diet so the only major change was to eliminate cheese and fish. Of course, this transition process is different for everyone so I have included a few tips to make it easier!
Start by making foods you already love that are just naturally plant-based. For example, whole grain pasta with tomato sauce, vegetable stir fry, and fresh salads.
Also, include some recipes that can be easily made plant-based with minimal changes. For example, make portabella mushroom fajitas instead of chicken fajitas or vegetable bean chili instead of beef chili.
Type “plant-based recipes” in Pinterest and you will literally find TONS of yummy recipes.
We don’t like to eat vegan meat/cheese substitutes too frequently because they are processed foods, but they can definitely make the transition easier when you start! Some brands with yummy products include Field Roast, Gardein, Miyoko’s Kitchen, Lightlife, Sweet Earth Foods (not all their products are vegan so be sure to check the ingredients).
Talk to your doctor about getting blood work to see if you have any vitamin deficiencies. Many adults, whether they eat animal products or not, are low in vitamins B12 and D. I highly recommend taking vitamin B12 and eating fortified foods because it is not naturally found in plant-based foods. Vitamin B12 is only naturally made by bacteria, and well, since we clean all of our food, we don’t reliably get it without supplementation.
Read ingredients carefully. As mentioned before, we don’t like to eat a lot of packaged/processed foods but we definitely enjoy some vegan junk food here and there. If you shop somewhere like Whole Foods, it is really easy to find vegan products because everything is labeled but if you are shopping at a regular grocery store then you need to read the ingredients carefully. There are some non-vegan ingredients that sneak up on you, like gelatin.
Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake! It happens. You might start eating something and then check the ingredients again and realize there was an ingredient you missed. You did not fail, just remember for next time that this is not a vegan food!
It may take a little time for you to finally transition to mostly whole foods but it is a journey. Once you get to that point, you will realize how much better you feel and how much better food tastes. I feel like the flavors of fruits and vegetables are so much better now, almost like my taste buds have adjusted to what I eat. These are the foods my body craves. Processed junk food just doesn’t taste as good to me anymore, which is part of the reason why we don’t eat a ton of packaged vegan food. I don’t enjoy the taste of vegan cheese, so on my pizza, I would rather load it up with a ton of sauce, veggies, and some nutritional yeast and really taste that combination of flavors. Everyone is different though so don’t be afraid to try products that look interesting to you!
I want to finish this post by sharing a few of my favorite recipes from my blog that are staples in my house. I try to make my blog recipes simple so that they are easy for anyone to make!
MY FAVORITE PLANT-BASED RECIPES
Finally here is an exclusive “nicecream” recipe I made specifically for this post to show you that you do not need to give up things you love when you eat plant-based! The best part about “nicecream” is that you can even eat it for breakfast!
DOUBLE CHOCOLATE COCONUT “NICECREAM”
4 frozen bananas (broken into chunks before freezing)
1/3 cup coconut cream (from can of full-fat coconut milk)*
1/4 cup cacao powder
1/4 cup cacao nibs
coconut flakes for topping
*If you put the can of coconut milk in the fridge for a bit before you make this, the creamy part will separate from the liquid. You only want to use the cream.
1. Start with just the bananas in a high powered blender or food processor and blend for about a minute.
2. Once the bananas are broken up add the coconut cream, cacao powder, and cacao nibs. Combine until your desired consistency is reached.
3. If you prefer soft serve (like we do), serve immediately and top with coconut flakes. If you prefer a harder consistency, you can put the mixture in a dish in the freezer for a few hours and scoop when you’re ready to eat!
This “nicecream” has a little bit of a crunch from the cacao nibs which brings it a little bit of a step up from our regular chocolate “nicecream”, with just the cacao powder!
Subscribe to my blog to stay up-to-date with new recipes and follow my Instagram for additional smoothie and “nicecream” recipes! I hope this post has inspired you to test the waters of a plant-based diet. I would love to hear your experiences with trying it or if you are already plant-based about your transition process!