It’s been about 9 months since my boyfriend and I committed to no longer eating meat. It’s something that we have gone back and forth with throughout our relationship. In 2014, I experimented with a vegetarian diet for health reasons for about 4 months, and didn’t notice many changes, so went back to consuming meat. Even before I labelled myself as ‘vegetarian,’ I never consumed many animal products. A chicken breast for dinner here and there, turkey during holiday dinners with my family, and of course the traditional Polish kielbasa. My boyfriend, Rob, on the other hand, could have NEVER imagined himself becoming a vegetarian. He had the typical athlete mindset…where will my protein come from? Not to mention, there was nothing better to him than a freshly grilled steak, or a delicious fried chicken sandwich (which I would also indulge in).
I’m not here to push a plant-based diet on you, to tell you the pros of switching, or to preach about everything that is wrong with the meat industry. I simply want to share a little glimpse into our journey and maybe inspire you to make a change or two!
During the past few years, more and more research is coming out, not only regarding the health benefits, but the environmental impact of consuming animal products. So in July, I decided to switch my diet again, and low and behold, Rob decided to join me.
He is constantly asking me questions about how his nutrition can change the way he plays volleyball, how he can get his knees to stop aching, and how he can have more energy…the solution…a plant-focused diet.
I have noticed amazing changes in my health since changing my diet. My energy levels are higher, I am sleeping better, and my athletic performance has improved. I am running faster, farther, and am feeling much stronger in the gym! Something that has also changed in me is the attention I pay to how what I am eating is affecting the environment. Originally I wanted to stop eating animal products simply because, based on my research, it was a healthier way to live. But lately, I have been truly invested in the positive impact it has on animals and the environment. I find myself learning something new about the industry everyday, and am so grateful that making the switch has lit this fire in me to change the way I live. Eating plant based forces you to eat real food with real ingredients, and I find it really makes you to pay attention to what you are putting in your body.
This season of volleyball has been his best yet, physically. He finished second in the Belgian League A in scoring (shameless proud girlfriend plug), and has helped his team seriously compete this season, currently in the middle of playoffs. We talk every day how his body feels better than it ever has. He used to come home from practice every single day and complain about his achy knees…this season…not once! His inflammation has gone down immensely, his mind is clearer, he has more energy, and he is actually consuming more protein that he was before…I know, imagine that! Because it’s on the top of his mind all the time (protein=gainzzz am I right?!), he’s always finding new ways to incorporate plant based protein sources into his diet. I’m so proud of him for truly embracing this new way of eating, and could not be more excited for the way he is feeling and playing.
Although we both still consume very limited dairy products (living this close to France it’s hard to stay away from a wine and cheese board once in a while), we are so happy, feel so much better, and are so proud to have switched to a plant focused diet. I am currently on a two month trial of not consuming dairy, and will report back!
I’d love to share with you some tips for switching to a more plant based diet:
1. You don’t need to go cold turkey (haha)! If you’re an avid meat or cheese eater, or milk drinker, start slow! Start by changing one thing about your diet at a time! Change doesn’t happen overnight…but if it does, props to you!
2. Have fun with it. There are SO many fun things to experiment with. With more and more people switching to a plant based diet (woo!), there are so many great recipes, products, and blogs out there to help you make the switch! Experimenting in the kitchen is so much fun, and it doesn’t have to be time consuming or fancy! Check out some of my favourite bloggers for some inspiration. Minimalist Baker has quick and easy recipes for everyone, and everything Oh She Glows makes is absolutely amazing!
3. Bring a friend along with you on the journey. Having Rob join me has been so fun, and actually a really great thing for our relationship! We are able to talk about the impact it’s having on us and the environment, we send each other articles to read, watch documentaries together, and cook together. We have both always loved cooking, but it’s been awesome discovering and creating new amazing ways to eat!
4. Keep a journal! Writing down what you eat and how you feel is the best way to track how your dietary changes are going. They will help you notice what changes you are feeling!
5. Educate yourself! Just because something works for one person, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. Be mindful of how you are feeling, do your own research, and make a decision that’s best for you!
Some of our favourite plant based meals:
1. Smoothies smoothies smoothies!!!! A day doesn’t go by without us having a smoothie. Unless we are travelling, in which case we are counting down the days till we are reunited with our blender, or searching out the closest smoothie bar in the city we are visiting. Our smoothies are so filling, are a great way to get so many phytonutrients, and an amazing way to add a bunch of protein all at once. The base of our smoothies change often, between steamed and frozen veggies, frozen greens, ginger, tumeric and fruit, but we generally add the same ‘extras’ if you will. Protein powder (Genuine Health fermented vegan protein is my go-to, but we are also enjoying the MyProtein vegan blend right now), ‘superfood’ powders-spirulina, maca, chlorella, wheatgrass etc, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax, chia, hemp, and whatever else we may have in our cupboard! Smoothies are by far my go-to when I am feeling hungry, tired, or just want to whip up a quick meal.
2. We love eating anything Mexican related. I find it so easy to turn Mexican food plant based. Black beans and a high quality grain for protein, some avocado, homemade salsa, sautéed veggies, a homemade bean dip (coming soon), and bam, you have yourself a delicious burrito bowl or wrap!
3. Chili! We LOVE making chili. It’s so budget friendly, super easy to make, and a great way to use up any vegetables you have in the fridge at the end of the week. Ours usually has; peppers, celery, carrots, sweet potato, zucchini, a can or two of whole tomatoes, red and white beans, a whole lot of spices, and served on a bed of quinoa or rice! So simple, delicious, and satisfying!
4. Bowls! I guess you would call them macro bowls. We basically roast a bunch of veggies, cook some quiona or buckwheat, add some sort of nut, legume or seed, and throw a delicious dressing on it. So versatile, quick and delicious!
5. Soup, salad, and sandwiches. We make a MEAN veggie sandwich now, and it is our go to lunch these days. The bread in Europe is all SO fresh and delicious, and with a bakery just around the corner from our house, how can we resist? We also love making soup. Tip: just before blending a thick, creamy soup, add a can of white beans to it…it adds so much nutritional value, and also adds a delicious creamy factor. You won’t even notice!
6. Veggie burgers! Veggie burgers are so much more fun than regular burgers! You can experiment with the base of the burger…beans, sweet potato, seeds, AND experiment with the toppings! Does it get any better?
Like I said, I’m here to share our journey, and encourage you to try new things! Since making the switch, I haven’t looked back, and I urge you to do your own research into a plant-based diet, and try something new!
Anyone else going through this journey? Let me know in the comments, I would love to connect and hear your story!