Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Journey as a Vegetarian

When I first decided to give the vegetarian diet a try back in October 2013, I had no intention of making this a lifetime commitment. I did, however, fully believe in the incredible health benefits of a plant-based diet but I didn't realistically think I could go too long without eating meat. Diving into the meat-free diet was actually pretty easy (aside from the constant social pressure)! However, after the first few months or so I noticed a couple of key things about my new lifestyle. First of all, I didn't miss eating meat...not even a little bit! I had no desire to eat chicken every night like I had in the past or to chow down on a juicy burger (I contribute this mostly to all of the documentaries I watched and books I read which have imprinted some pretty awful images in my head). The other thing I noticed though is that, not only was I not eating meat, but I was NOT eating healthy.

Wait. Didn't I become a vegetarian to become a healthier person? Isn't a meat-free diet good for you?

Allow me to clear things up here. What I had never considered but was just learning was that a vegetarian diet is actually much different than a plant-based diet or a plant-strong diet. How? As the unhealthy vegetarian that I was, my daily meals consisted of pasta, cheese or veggie pizza, baked goods, more pasta, chips, some fruits and veggies, etc. Talk about carb overload! I was a vegetarian, but not too many veggies were making their way to my plate! By comparison, a plant-strong diet focuses on eliminating processed foods as well as most dairy. It compares more to a vegan style diet without the highly refined foods. I certainly have not entirely embraced the plant-based diet as I often eat cheese and occasionally an egg or two. My point here is that the vegetarians that are reaping the benefits of improved health through their diets are the ones who are cutting out processed foods, focusing mostly on veggies, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. The "unhealthy vegetarians" are often missing key nutrients in their diets and are quite likely creating more health risks for themselves than they are preventing (oops, live and learn)! If you are planning to embark on a vegetarian journey yourself, make sure to do some research before you get started on how to create balanced and healthy meals for yourself so that you ensure you are getting your proper nutrition!

It has been a fun learning process over the past year for me as I have explored how to eat a balanced, healthy, nutrient-rich, vegetarian diet. I have discovered and tried so many new foods that were completely foreign to me last year and I have developed a true passion for cooking in the process. Regardless of whether or not you have any intention on embracing a healthy vegetarian lifestyle for yourself, I hope to inspire you in this blog with my personal journey, delicious plant-based recipes, fitness tips and encouragement, and a whole lot of love!

XOXO,
Aleena

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