Transitioning to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet

 

My husband and I used to subscribe to the Paleo approach to nutrition before we left Seattle and moved to the UK. For about 5yrs, our diet mainly consisted of lean meats, vegetables, eggs and nuts; we cooked with coconut and olive oil, and cut out processed foods, grains, pasta, sugar and bread. (Well… when it came to bread, we did our best. I mean, bread is so good, amIright?!)

Everything changed when we packed up our things and left London to go traveling throughout SE Asia. Not only were we exposed to delicious plant-based dishes, but we began to stumble upon more and more compelling research and documentaries that shifted the way we had previously thought about our food choices.

Studies have shown that a diet high in animal protein has been associated with an increase in the risk of death from heart disease and cancer. Yet a diet that features whole, minimally processed, plant-based foods has been found to control, reduce, and in some cases even reverse many chronic diseases.  

The research was too compelling for us to ignore so we decided to cut out meat as an experiment. How would shifting to a plant-based diet feel on a physiological level — especially factoring in the high intensity interval and strength training we were doing on the road?

Making the shift was a little difficult at first — and it didn’t happen overnight. The hardest part was forming a new habit. Consciously choosing not to select the foods that we would normally turn to without hesitation — foods we had been eating our entire life that we had always just assumed were ‘healthy’.

But with any new habit you’re trying to create, after some time, our new way of eating became second nature. It also helps massively when your partner is on the same page as you. Not only do you feel supported to stay honest and accountable with your new habit but it makes things like shopping at the supermarket and going out to eat way less complicated.

Instead of worrying about counting calories or macros, there’s a profound sense of freedom around knowing that the majority of your nutritional needs can be met by eating plants — and you can pretty much eat as much as you want.

When planning our meals, we start by selecting a protein like tempeh, tofu, beans, lentils or legumes as the focal point and then we build our plate from there. We love to add whole grains like quinoa, brown rice or a thick slice of dark rye bread to the plate. And when it comes to vegetables, there are so many delicious choices out there — and the more the merrier! We’re huge fans of sweet potato, pumpkin, mushrooms, leafy greens, red peppers, yellow peppers, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, squash, leeks, zucchini, red cabbage — we could go on and on.

And let’s not forget about dessert! Fruit as a sweet treat opens the door to have something healthy and natural as a snack or dessert option that also allows you to add extra nutrients, vitamins and minerals into your diet. Whatever is in season and the more colourful, the better!

No judgement to all of y’all who love your meats. Let’s be clear: we think meat is delicious. (I mean, chorizo? Come on….) But if you’ve been considering cutting out meat, there’s never been a better time. More restaurants than ever are offering meat-free alternatives and the vegan and vegetarian recipes we’ve come across have been super easy, creative, filling and insanely delicious.

Do we miss meat? Mmmm... not really. Have we lost weight? Hard to say given that 1) we don’t weigh ourselves regularly, and 2) our training has shifted to include more compound movements and heavy lifting over the last few months. What we can tell you is that we're sleeping better, our skin is clear, we’ve got a ton of energy, our digestive system is on track (score!), and our clothes fit great.

Try starting small and try to swap out meat for breakfast or consider going meat-free a couple of times a week and see how you feel. We’ve been treating this subtle, yet powerful shift in our diet as an experiment and we’re both curious to see what other benefits might spring up from making this change.

Making our health a priority has been the driving force for our decision to go meat-free. Do we think we’ll eventually eat meat again? Perhaps. But for now, there’s something that feels really good about choosing to eat more plants.🌱

 
MindfulnessKatie Carroll