Helllooooooo to all you wonderful people out there. Thanks for just being the best and reading these posts every week. OR maybe you’re just reading this because you saw the word “vegetarian,” and you were like “Oh, finally something interesting. I’ll actually read that chick’s blog today.” That’s cool too. Glad you’re here. 

I’m on Day 2 of actually counting my macros and TRACKING my food again. I took a week long break, which was necessary. HOWEVER, my week long break turned into an almost 6 week break now. I mean, I’ve still weighed and measured some stuff, and most of the stuff I eat is the same kind of stuff, so I can eyeball it and know what I should be eating. However, FOR ME, when I don’t track using an app like My Fitness Pal, I’m pretty lenient with things like, ya know…gummy bears and those little peanut butter filled pretzel things. I literally sat at the Sumner’s house last Wednesday and ate so many of those. I forgot how good they were. So, the time has come to start paying better attention again to what and how much I’m eating. More on all of that later!

You came here to read more about my friend, AP. I talked about AP last week here. That post got so much feedback. AP is one of the kindest, most hardworking people you’ll ever meet. I love it when I post something and everyone just chimes in and talks about how great that person is. Let’s just start posting about all our friends, and then everyone can chime in with how great everyone is. 

AP knows a lot about food. She’s originally from Italy, so I can only imagine what kind of great food experiences she has had over the years. AP is a vegetarian. Before talking to AP, truth be told, I didn’t know a whole lot about vegetarians – including how they are able to get all of their protein and nutrients in a balanced diet. I just knew that vegetarians don’t eat meat (for one reason, or multiple valid reasons). I know there are a lot of vegetarians out there, and so I figured this would be helpful! AP is all about eating a variety of foods – whole foods that is, so I loved reading about her personal journey with food. I appreciate the fact that she didn’t use over the top/over my head/intelligent words (although she’s pretty smart). 

Anyone can read this, no matter what you believe about food. It’s so helpful. AP is a great cook. Follow her on instagram for some recipes and pretty pictures of food. She also has her own garden where she grows a lot of her own food. 

AP wanted me to throw out there to everyone that she isn’t a nutritionist.

I hope you enjoy what she has to say!

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I have had an interesting journey when it comes to food. I was lucky enough to grow up in a country that views food not only as a way to nourish the body, but as a way to enjoy life. Dinners take an hour, and generally you eat with your family. And, in general, all our meals included simple and/or complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, fat, and a diversity of food items we would eat on weekly basis (no one meal was the same as the next, and there is no such thing as leftovers). 

 In the US, generally speaking of course, food is “nourishment”, but it is expected to be fast and casual. Between the crazy number of Fast Food restaurants that exist, and the frozen section of pre-made meals of all kinds, everything convenient for a “fast” and “casual” (eating while driving!?!) meal includes a disproportionate amount of simple + complex carbs, fat, salt, and sugar. Not to mention the preservatives and fillers that who knows how your body processes (or does it?).  

Regardless of me being a vegetarian (more on that in a little bit), throughout my years in the US, I have come to realize that nutrition (to me) means having/doing the following:

–          Eat whole foods (limited/no processed food)

–          Eat the rainbow (variety)

–          Balance (of macro + micro nutrients 

All three go hand in hand. 

 Whole foods: I will never get tired of preaching this one. Nature gives you everything you need, in general, starting from the sun with its Vitamin D, to your apple with sugars and fibers. Food is medicine and medicine is food. This is ONLY true though, if you eat a wide variety of whole foods, i.e. eat the rainbow. The more colorful your plate is, the better because of the larger variety of naturally occurring micronutrients you are ingesting. Generally, greens (kale, broccoli, spinach, avocado, etc.) are known for their calcium, potassium, folate, iron; Reds (beets, watermelon, tomatoes, berries, etc.) contain Vitamin C and A; the blues/purples (eggplant, blueberries, plums, etc.) are also known for their Vitamin C and potassium. Simply put, eating just salad will not give you the nutrition your body needs. For that you need balance. In other words, your plate has to be balanced for your body to process the macro and micro nutrients as needed and limit any insulin spikes. It needs complex carbs, natural fats (avocado, nuts), protein, and fiber, all from a wide variety of whole foods (i.e. balance, whole foods, eat the rainbow – see ? ). I believe that this is a sustainable way of living (because I live to eat!). 

 And balance brings me to the next main topic: balanced, healthy nutrition, as a vegetarian. The question I get asked all the time, as a vegetarian is “where do you get your protein from”? It is a valid question and I am much better at preaching than practicing what I preach J. It does take a bit more effort and planning for me to make sure I have enough of all the macro and micro nutrients recommended on a daily basis. My protein sources are eggs (mostly egg whites), cheese, beans, lentils, soy, vital wheat gluten. I eat a variety of nuts and other healthy fats such as avocado. Most of my calories come from healthy fats (generally 50-60%). The remaining calories come from ~equal percentages of protein and carbohydrates. As a vegetarian, a ketogenic diet, for example, would not be sustainable, as a lot of my protein comes hand in hand with carbs (beans, lentils, etc.). I am not the best at tracking my “net carbs” (i.e. taking into account my fiber), but my net carbs are generally <50 g a day, with about 70-85 g total carbs. My fiber intake (g) I think is higher than the average person since I do eat a lot of vegetables (all those micronutrients, yum!). In general, my daily food intake looks something along these lines:

–          Breakfast or 10 AM snack: eggs/ egg whites, with avocado, tomatoes, and spinach

–          Lunch: Salad, with tomatoes, cucumbers, some type of bean (garbanzo, white beans), avocado, nuts or seeds, maybe some cheese

–          Snacks: cheese, nuts, fruit

–          Dinner: This is by far the one meal that varies the most, but in general it consists of tofu or some sort of “protein”, with one to two side items (mostly vegetables) prepared in different forms 

All of this to say: I had pizza for lunch! Balance also means not obsessing over each gram, or each calorie.  

I will add one personal thought. I also get asked this question: “are you not protein deficient?” I have never heard of such a thing as “protein deficiency”. The US is one the top countries that consumes an incredibly high amount of protein on a daily basis – the “meat and potato” diet. I think if you average 3 ounces per meal, that is more than enough to fuel your body. The extra, unneeded protein, just gets turned into fat, just like everything that you introduce in excess. So my answers are as follows:

–          Yes, my total protein intake is less than the average meat eater

–          Yes, I do think I get an adequate amount of protein in

–          Yes, my protein is plant based, so I take supplements (iron, for example) to make sure my body has all the micronutrients necessary

Really, the biggest problem I face is consistency. As a vegetarian, any cheat meal consists of unhealthy fats and carbohydrates. Did I mention I ate pizza for lunch? 😉 

If anyone needs any help for “meatless Mondays” dinner ideas, I can share hundreds of yummy, easy recipes  I am incredibly passionate about being a vegetarian, for so many more reasons than just what I discussed here and love to talk about it. It is a perfect lifestyle for me and what I believe in. It has made me a humbler person, too and for that, I am thankful.