This a hard question to easily answer when people have approached me and asked about my healthy diet; it is a diet that has taken a lot of twists and turns, and constant evolving, to get where it is. It is a diet that works for my way of life, my beliefs, and my personal taste. I have spent the last year wrapped up in constant research, learning as much as I can about new ingredients and their nutritional benefits, different types of balanced diets, organic foods versus conventional foods (and the harms and benefits of each), and new recipes.
Becoming pescetarian (which means the only meat I eat is fish or seafood) did not come about as a way to lose weight (as you’ve read in How It Began: Part III), but I’ve noticed that some of my friends have mistaken this as “the trick” or “secret” to losing weight simply because this is how I’ve been eating for the past year. Will it help you lose weight? Probably (due to the very limited amount of lean animal protein consumed). Is it the only or best way? No. There are many other factors involved with my daily diet than focusing on eating fish and seafood, like a high consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, grains, and healthy fats. There is a lot of work involved to plan out my meals for the week, making sure I am keeping a well-rounded diet with lots of nutrient dense foods from various sources, and keeping it all interesting.
So what do I actually eat? Here’s a small example of how my daily meals might go:
– I usually start out in the morning with room temperature, or warm, lemon water.
– Then I proceed to drink one of many different green smoothies (usually with a couple of servings of fruit, plenty of greens, and always with water as a base).
– About an hour later, I’ll have a light breakfast/snack like oatmeal.
– Lunch usually includes a pre-meal glass of apple cider vinegar water, then either a sandwich or wrap (on either sprouted whole wheat bread, or a bibb lettuce wrap), usually consisting of lots of fresh veggies (sometimes homegrown sprouts too) and something like tuna salad, “Fakin'” (smokey tempeh strips), hummus, or grilled eggplant as the main ingredient. Sometimes I’ll have an orange or other piece of fruit with lunch.
– Snacks usually consist of something like chips and fresh salsa, toast with peanut butter and honey, or spring roll wraps loaded with veggies… just to name a few.
– Dinner is really something that changes daily. Since they vary, it’s hard for me to list a “cookie cutter” dinner, but some examples are: “Refried” bean bowl loaded with homemade slow cooker “refried” beans with lots of fresh veggies on top, eggplant Parmesan (a lightened version) with a fresh steamed vegetable on the side, vegetable stir-fry with peanut sauce and brown rice, vegetable curries, Vegetarian Split Pea Soup (one of my favorites!), and grilled shrimp tacos with cabbage slaw and various veggies.
– Dessert is a rare thing for us to have. As we don’t really crave it, sometimes I’ll cut up some fresh fruit, like oranges, or a banana (which I drizzle with honey and cinnamon). Occasionally, we’ll have a little treat and have a couple of chocolate chip cookies, but it’s very rare we do.
I definitely think the key to my diet has been focusing on organic, whole foods, and removing processed and fast foods from my diet. The majority of my diet is plant-based, and I have fish or seafood maybe four times per week. I cook at least twice a day at home, which not only helps me keep up on my culinary skills, but I get to experiment with new ingredients, recipes, and techniques, which helps keep this way of eating very exciting, interesting, and delicious.
When I eat vegetables, it’s preferable to eat them raw, when possible, to retain the highest amount of their valuable nutrients. I try to balance out healthy fats and oils like avocados, pure olive oil, and coconut oil, since I am not getting much fat from my protein sources. I try to eat nuts and seeds when I can (hemp and flax seeds, for example, in my smoothies… they’re also good sprinkled on salads). As I have tried to cut all dairy from my diet, I’ll occasionally get almond milk if I’m feeling like something creamy, and I buy vegan cheese (I like shredded Daiya) to sub out regular cheese in any recipes I make at home. I do also watch my grains intake, as I have been researching those as well (wheat in particular), and have found many conflicting things; so to be safe for now, I’m trying to keep them limited; if I have a sandwich at lunch with bread, I’ll make sure to make a dinner which doesn’t involve bread or a wheat wrap. As I have reduced processed foods greatly (other than the vegan cheese, tortilla chips, hot sauces, ketchup), I make my own salad dressings, usually simple homemade vinaigrettes, which I love because I can control the ingredients and flavors to tailor them to my taste.
A few months back, I was shocked to come across this food pyramid for “Eating The Nutrient Dense Way,” as it is exactly what my diet had evolved into. I believe I came across it while watching a food documentary, I believe it was Hungry for Change, but I’m not positive about that (which is a GREAT documentary to watch, especially if this blog post interests you; you can find it on Netflix).
Other than the small amounts of land animals at the top of the pyramid, this is my way of eating to a T. But what was interesting to me, is this pyramid was presented in the documentary as a guideline for individuals to lose weight, and it was proven in their research that the ones who followed it, also had greater success at keeping the weight off (than other diets).
I also make sure to really watch my portion sizes, and stop eating when I feel “satisfied,” not “full” or “stuffed.” This was hard to do at first as I was used to eating until I was completely stuffed, and not able to eat another bite, so re-training my stomach took about a week to do. I find with the amount and types of food I eat nowadays that I typically never get the “food coma,” and actually feel quite energized after eating. I also eat when I’m hungry; if it is between meals, I’ll make a small snack; I never let myself get to that “starving” or “hangry” point. And I don’t have any kind of rhyme or reason for what I put on my plate in regards to a balance of proteins and starches. I try to look at my meals overall throughout the day, and try to incorporate as much of the rainbow in my food as I can each day; vibrant colors equal different types of nutrients in fruits and vegetables (including white, like cauliflower).
So there you have it, my complex way of eating which has taken a year to evolve. I’m not, by any means, suggesting you adopt my specific way of eating, nor am I suggesting it is the key to losing weight and the only way to eat healthy; this is a diet plan I really enjoy following on a daily basis; it has worked for me to regain my health, and also lose weight.