Going Primarily Pescatarian & Plant Based!
Happy July, Loving Lately readers! I honestly don't know where the month of June went! I've had many different ideas for posts floating around in my head but the majority of them require a little extra research and insight so I'm going to save them for a later date. For this month's post, I decided to copy Allison (because twinning….duh) and focus on something that I have been Loving Lately: my transition to a primarily pescatarian and plant-based lifestyle!
I definitely wrestled a little bit with posting this – was this going to look like a cliché health and wellness post? And, more importantly, the very last thing I ever want to do is come across as pushy, preachy or implying that my lifestyle is right for everyone. While I have fully embraced this way of living and eating and have seen massive benefits, this is no way means that this is necessarily right for you. I recognize, and respect, that there are tons and tons of different mindsets, viewpoints, and health considerations surrounding the ways in which people fuel their bodies. You all do YOU!
I want to point out that I am currently identifying as primarily pescatarian and plant-based. I eat this way 95+% of the time, but I still do eat chicken or turkey on occasion. I feel it is extremely important (in whatever you do) to not box yourself in 100% or to feel like you can't change it up, deviate, or indulge. Life is too freakin' short to live by a set of rigid rules. You better believe that I am still having my chic-fil-a nugget nights with my best friends and enjoying every last bite. Additionally, none of this is about appearance or weight…everyone is beautiful just the way they are! So with all that said, let me go into a little more detail about how I came across this lifestyle and the massive benefits I have reaped from it.
My biggest initial draw to the plant-based lifestyle was the profound effect it has shown to have on heart health. A team of Harvard researchers found the more people eat fruits and vegetables, the lower their chances of developing cardiovascular disease. It was found that those having 8+ servings of fruits and veggies a day were 30 PERCENT LESS LIKELY to have a heart attack or stroke. Additionally, the Harvard School of Public Health found that a diet full of fruits and veggies can significantly lower blood pressure – another condition putting people at elevated risk of stroke and heart disease. Plant-based living can also combat type 2 diabetes, which is an entirely preventable condition in and of itself. To top it all off I started researching the best fruits and vegetables to consume and came across another very apparent pattern: regular consumption of so many fruits and vegetables are linked to reduced risk of cancer. I could go on and on about the health benefits of being plant-based…and I'll mention a few more as I delve further.
I originally approached my cardiologist last year – I was thinking of becoming a vegetarian. I knew there were a ton of health benefits, but my desire to make the switch also stemmed from my own viewpoints on animal rights, something I feel passionately about. Plus, being plant-based is extremely beneficial for the environment: it massively reduces your carbon footprint and contributes to significant water conservation. I was quickly told by my cardiologist that being solely vegetarian wasn't an option. My heart condition and the way my body is set up leaves me at a distinct disadvantage for absorbing protein, so she suggested I continue to eat seafood. Seeing as how I absolutely love seafood, I quickly acquiesced. Plus, I quickly learned that seafood is one of the healthiest proteins you can eat. It is full of omega-3 fatty acids, regulates blood pressure, reduces inflammation and has been linked to lowering the risk of conditions such as IBS, asthma, and even some cancers. I strive to eat only wild caught seafood whenever possible. However, I want to reiterate again, that for me this isn't about constant rigidity. It is so important to listen to your body and give it what it needs. A majority of my lunches at work are catered and there are usually decent vegetarian and pescatarian options. But sometimes there aren't and so I'll reach for something that might have chicken or turkey in it. Not getting enough protein is dangerous for me health wise and the last thing I'm going to do is compromise my health. I made this switch to improve my health and am completely content with the fact that there is always going to be that 5% of the time where I have to listen to what my body needs, or, on the contrary, WANTS like on chic-fil-a night!
This week, almost all of us celebrated Independence Day. We all live in a country where we are blessed to have access to food and our choices surrounding it. Again, for the millionth time, I am by no means suggesting that this switch is necessarily appropriate for you. But how great is it that we have the freedom to explore our options, along with the ability and access to take control of our health from a holistic standpoint?!
So – what does this lifestyle look like for me? I am ALL about the veggies! Salad greens, spinach, kale, carrots, peppers, radishes, asparagus, brussel sprouts, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, avocados, mushrooms, sweet potatoes...these are all staples in my meals. Of course you can't forget the quinoa, chickpeas, black beans, nuts and extra virgin olive oil. My mouth is watering just writing this. The power of whole foods (not the grocery store...but that too :)) never ceases to amaze me. I have also eliminated a lot of dairy products. My milk days are long gone...dairy milk that is. I started with almond or coconut milk but have recently been into plant-based milk....which contains 8 grams of protein per 8 oz and 50% more calcium! While I still have cheese or dairy desserts from time to time I have eliminated a lot of that from my lifestyle as well and my body definitely thanks me! I eat a lot of salads - usually topped with hummus (in place of dressing) or avocado and sometimes with chickpeas as well for extra protein. In the winter, steel cut oats (with honey or almond butter and nuts) is a staple for breakfast. I've never been a huge breakfast person, especially during the work week, so a banana and coffee also cuts it for me a lot of the time. Oh and smoothies, smoothies, smoothies galore! Veggie quinoa or veggie and seafood quinoa are big in the DiMaggio household come dinner time, as are one pan seafood dishes with salmon, a side veggie, and a baked sweet potato. Buddha bowls are another go to, as are homemade black bean burgers. I have also found some great brands that produce a ton of meatless products: meatless Italian sausages, meatless chicken patties, meatless meatballs, etc. Many tend to think that plant-based/vegetarian/pescatarian meals are boring...but I've actually found it to be quite the opposite! I’d gladly welcome the opportunity to share some recipes or ideas with anyone who might be interested, and may share some in the coming days on our Instagram account (@lovinglately_) so be sure to go follow us if you aren’t already! Nutrition has become a passion of mine and something that I am looking to explore professionally in some capacity down the line!
I made my transition very slowly…I started toying with the idea this time last year and was still eating meat in January, although much less of it. For me, slow and steady always wins the race. If you are the type of person that can commit to something and go 0-100 right away, more power to you! But for me, I am met with way more success when I approach things gradually and consistently. Most of you know that Mike and I first overhauled our dietary habits close to 3 years ago now with the help of the simple book “On Target Living: The Power of Feeling Your Best” by Chris Johnson. If you are looking to just move towards healthier choices in general (not necessarily plant based or pescatarian) I strongly recommend you order yourself a copy on Amazon! The message isn't about massively cutting caloric intake or depriving yourself of certain indulgences, but rather educates you on the best types of foods to eat from each of the various food groups. The book comes with an insert to take out and hang on your refrigerator, depicting a target that breaks out Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins into best, better, good, fair and poor categories. The concept is simple, do your grocery shopping based on the foods in the innermost circles of the target and you'll be set.
So what other benefits have I seen from making this change? (As if knowing that I was reducing my risk of hypertension, diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease wasn’t enough?!) I have way more energy than I ever used to. I sleep much better at night. My skin has completely cleared up and my hair stopped massively shedding. My nails are stronger. My mental status has improved. I have more stamina for exercise and I am seeing way more results, especially in regards to toning. My digestive system is much more regulated. I’m rarely bloated. My stomach is almost never irritated. AND..my resting heart rate has gone down by about 20 beats a minute. I used to always be in the low to mid 80’s and recently I am sitting in the low to mid 60’s. This honestly blows my mind…I have half of a freaking heart. It is doing double the work all the time and yet my resting heart rate is fantastic.
If nothing else, fill up your plate with more fruits and vegetables - I promise you that you and your body won't regret it! If you are looking to gradually make the shift, start slowly, perhaps by doing Meatless Monday once a week. Most importantly, take a few minutes to truly assess your health and your habits. What small changes can you incorporate to live a healthier lifestyle? I’d love to hear what experiences you have and would love to talk further if you want more info!