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Downingtown Nutrition & Weight Management Center

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vegan for a month

I've been following a vegan diet for the month, mostly from a challenge by a client and a past health concern. A vegan diet, in case you did not know, is free of animal products and by products. Vegetables, starches, fruits and vegetables are pretty much the same as in any other diet, however the meats and dairy are often replaced with soy, nuts, and other meat alternative products. It was difficult the first week, especially since the rest of my household wasn't 100% participating. The difficulty arose from the protein source and having to make an alternative to what everyone else was having. After getting over the this and careful planning, it was really easy. I've had some awesome dinners and lunches this month! Even the little ones enjoyed many of the dishes! My favorite dish which can be the main course or a side dish was Kale with White bean sauce (recipe below at bottom of post).

My past health concern was high cholesterol. When I was a dietetic intern, I worked part time for Christiana Care Health System's Cancer Outreach team. I spent my weekends doing glucose and cholesterol screenings in the community (which was amazing and I am so blessed to have been able to have had that experience..thank you to one of my best mentors in my life Nora Katurakes!). As a joke, my mentor asked well let's see the future dietitian's cholesterol, as she checked me. I was shocked and cried at the number....347! A normal cholesterol is under 200. Granted exercise was a bit hard to fit in, especially during the internship, but I did walk 5 days a week to and from 2nd to 18th Street in Philly. I also had free food and ate a salad at the Sodexho kitchen. How is this possible?

The first 3 months, I made sure to eat at least 2 fruits and 3-4 vegetable servings a day. On my walk home, I always passed Jim's Steaks, and I'm not going to lie, I ate one at least once a week (and a soft pretzel 3 times a week at 350 calories a pretzel!). The cheese steaks and pretzels were cut out. I also cut out all meat and dairy products (replacing them with tofu, soy and almond milk. When I got tested my cholesterol went down under 300.

The doctor said I had another 3 months or he was going to prescribe cholesterol lowering medicine. I maintained the same diet as before but started to go to Curves. My Curves buddy was my mom, which made it more fun. We went 4-5 times a week and rewarded ourselves with clothes every Friday for going! When I got my cholesterol tested it was 218! The doctor said to keep it up and he would check again in year.

Cutting out animal products and aerobic exercise for at least 1 hour really made a difference, however my family history of cholesterol made it very difficult to keep down. The interesting thing about the vegan diet is that I lost weight while doing it and it brought down my LDL (the Lousy or bad cholesterol).

I had a Tuna Salad Lettuce Wrap today and broke the vegan run, mostly out of tuna craving. Each Tuna Wrap was only 100 calories and loaded with healthy Omega 3 and veggies. To make combine 7 oz light tuna in water, 2 tablespoons of low fat mayo, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 1 cup chopped celery, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1 shredded carrot and pepper.Scoop in center of Romaine leaf and roll into sandwich. Makes 4 Tuna Lettuce Wraps.

Kale with White Bean Sauce
2 bunches of kale
1 can of white beans
3 cloves smashed garlic
1/2 cup vegetable low sodium broth
dash of pepper

Brown 1 clove of garlic in (PAM sprayed) pan. Add broth, pepper and destemed Kale bunches. Add lid and simmer for 15 minutes. In a separate small (Pam sprayed) pot, add rest of garlic and beans with liquid in can. Bring to simmer and take off oven. Add beans and garlic mixture to a food processor and blend until a puree. Add to kale and serve. Garnish with Parmesan if desired. I tripled the recipe and froze in small 1 cup containers for lunch and dinner.

1/2 cup cooked kale with 1/8 cup bean garlic sauce is 50-75 calories and very filling! Plus it is high in calcium and protein and low in fat.

My challenge to you is to try one vegetarian dish this week! You may find you really enjoy it!


The Dieting Dietitian