I consider myself a plant-based eater (mostly), but I haven’t always been this way. When I was a child meals were primarily meat and potatoes. We also often had vegetables and fruit, but animal protein was prepared daily. At my core I believe I have always desired more of a plant-based diet. I’m a very visual person and I recall times, even as a child, eating chicken for example, and having a hard time chewing my food as I visualized the animal. Visualization is one of the factors that has led me to eating more plants. To this day, thinking about where the meat has come from, and what the animal may have endured is enough to make me desire a salad rather than a burger.
My road from being a meat-eater to a plant-based eater, however, has been a long one. In my 20’s and 30’s I ate as I did when I was a child, which was an animal product the highlight of the meal, along with fruits and veggies as side dishes. In my early to mid 40’s I began experimenting with incorporating more veggies and trying vegetarian recipes. I still ate meat, but had begun buying organic instead of traditional, and it wasn’t the star of the plate. I also began eating meat free meals at least once per week. It was after my stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis, at the age of 46, that I really began changing the foods I ate. After doing my own research and then studying with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN), I transitioned to primarily plant based eating. I had seen and heard too much to not reduce my animal product intake.
Did you know that animals are given hormones to grow, and those hormones show up in the meat that ends up on your plate? For people who have had hormone positive breast cancer, avoiding the intake of hormones is vital for long term cancer free days. In addition to my concern of hormone exposure, I have seen videos about animal slaughter practices and that visualization has stuck with me. You cannot un-see these kinds of things! Then there is the added benefits of eating plants with their nutrients, flavor and phytochemicals. Not only do fruits and vegetables offer their own nutrients and unique flavor, but they also contain phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are a compound found in plants that are believed to protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer. That’s right…plants can help prevent cancer, from onset to recurrence! Not only can these cancer fighting properties be found in fruits and veggies, but also in nuts and whole grains. Here’s a link to more information about these cancer fighting foods: https://www.aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk/diet/elements_phytochemicals.html
So why do I use the term plant-based, verses vegetarian or vegan? Let me break it down for you. Vegetarians do not eat meat, but will typically consume dairy products and eggs. Vegans avoid all animal products. This means they do not consume meat, diary or eggs, and also avoid animal products such as wool and leather. As a plant-based eater, my focus is to consume plant foods, and I do it for the nutritional and long-term health benefits. I also feel better when I do not eat animals.
Right at the beginning I did say that I was mostly a plant-based eater. I say that because the fact is, life happens. You may be at an event where there are not enough plant options to fill you up, and rather than go hungry you decide to consume meat. As a health coach, I will never tell my clients to eat one way or another. We are all individuals and have different needs. I may share the benefits of plants, but each person makes their choices, and my role is to educate and guide my clients through whatever choices they choose. I believe in doing the best you can, the majority of the time. If you think going to plant-based eating may be too hard, or over-whelming, take it slow. It took me decades! I encourage you to explore the benefits of plants, one delicious meal at a time!