What do you mean you’re a vegetarian?!

When I tell people that I am a vegetarian, I get a lot of questions: You don’t eat meat? Are you getting enough protein? Have you seen that funny video about questions vegetarians are tired of hearing? (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you click here to view). So many questions. So little time.

First of all, you should know what a vegetarian is…and that there are several types of vegetarians out there. Generically, a traditional vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy. There are also some varieties out there who will eat dairy products (lacto) or eggs (ovo). These people are often called lacto-ovo vegetarians. I used to be a pesco-pollo vegetarian (yeah, I know it’s not really a vegetarian in the most generalized form, but it helped me explain to people what I would and would not eat-for over 15 years!) and this just means, they will eat fish and poultry but no pork or beef. The list can go on and on but if you know someone who claims to be a vegetarian just ask them what they will not eat if you want more details.

People choose to be vegetarian for a number of reasons. I originally tried it as part of a bet. That bet that was placed almost 20 years ago (I won, by the way) turned in to something much more. Since that time, I went from eating poultry and fish to eating only fish mainly because our food supply is so messed up. Without having to pay a price, we are not guaranteed where our food comes from, how it is treated or how far it has traveled. I know too many people with cancer, autism, and other life-changing diagnoses that I’m not taking a chance and decided to cut out all the unnecessary foods and limit those that may or may not contain loads of hormones, pesticides and who knows what else.

So here is what I want to share with you today. You can be a vegetarian-as an adult OR as a child- and still get all the nutrients you need to grow and mature properly. Below will mainly cover what it means to be a lacto-ovo vegetarian (one that will eat dairy products and eggs). So remember, if you are willing to eat fish, you can add that to the protein section.

We will start by going into detail about the top 3.5 concerns: Proteins, Calcium/Vitamin D, and Iron.


What is Protein and why do I need it?
Protein builds, maintains, and replaces the tissues in your body and are made up of
Amino Acids.

How much do I need?
Protein needs must be met for growth and daily activities. If you shoot for 10-20 grams of protein at each meal or snack, you will meet your daily needs.

How do I get it?
Essential Amino Acids are not made by the body and must be obtained through the food we eat. Plant proteins contain some essential Amino Acids so we don’t have to eat meat to get them! Plant and non-meat foods that contain important Amino Acids are eggs, low-fat milk, tofu, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. You will know you are getting enough by reading the nutrition label or looking up the nutrition information online or in a number of books that are available with this information. Once you get a feel for how much nutrition is in what foods, you won’t need to keep consulting these resources, but it is a great place to start. This goes for protein but also for any nutrient you are interested in finding more information about!

Calcium/Vitamin D:

What is Calcium and why do I need it?
Calcium builds strong teeth and proper bone development. Vitamin D is needed to get that calcium into your bones and teeth.

How much do I need?
The amount of calcium and vitamin D needed daily changes throughout ones life and depends on your gender. If you have concerns if you or your child is or is not getting enough calcium, ask your doctor, dietitian or ask me! If you want to think about it in terms of servings, you are probably getting enough if for children, they are getting 2 servings/cups of dairy each day or 3 servings as a (non-pregnant) adult.

How do I get it?
Calcium and Vitamin D can be found in a number of foods, whether it is there naturally or the food has been fortified with it. Dairy or dairy-containing products are one of the most well-known was to get it: milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.  However, if you don’t eat a lot of dairy or have trouble with lactose intolerance, you can get these necessary nutrients from non-dairy foods too! Some of my favorites include green leafy vegetables (bok choy, turnip greens, kale, okra), soymilk, tofu, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, sesame seeds), dried beans (cooked and ready) and peas!

What is Iron and why do I need it?
Iron is an important part of your red blood cells. These are the cells that carry oxygen throughout your body. We all should all know that we need oxygen to live, so needless to say, iron is pretty important. Wouldn’t you agree?

How much do I need?
Depending on your age and gender, the amount that each person needs does vary. So, once again, if you have concerns about if you or your child is getting enough Iron, ask your doctor, dietitian or ask me. Getting too much iron can cause problems, so I wouldn’t just look on the internet for this one. Ask a professional.

How do I get it?
Iron is richest in meat products, but can still be obtained from plant sources. Nuts, lentils, beans, spinach, enriched breads and cereals, tempeh and soybeans (edamame) is your best bet. Keep in mind that to help with absorption of iron, eating plant sources along with a Vitamin C source will help the absorption into the body to be more efficient. So for example, squeeze some lemon on your broccoli or slice some strawberries on your spinach salad.

Besides all the above, in general to be a vegetarian you still need plenty of foods from all the food groups to cover all needed nutrients. Vegetables, fruits, grains, some fats and oils, along with protein and calcium make up a healthy eating lifestyle.

Believe it or not, you can be healthy and get all the nutrients you need from a vegetarian diet. You can even be an avid exerciser and be vegetarian! The cool thing about a lot of the food items above is that many of them all share these necessary nutrients. Beans, for instance, contain protein, calcium and iron!! Talk about convenient AND delicious!

I just want to re-state for the record, that CHILDREN CAN BE VEGETARIAN and be healthy. Trust me. The tuna sandwich or bag of steamed edamame beats those tortilla chips with nacho cheese 100% any day. There are studies that show (and to me this is common sense but…) what a child eats at home as a child will influence their health outcomes as adults. Think about it.

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How to eat well–Part 1

I’m here to give you some general tips on eating well. Some of you may need more guidance, or feel the need to tell me that I told you something you already know and looking for the next step and that is excellent. I see the next few posts being a series of posts that build upon each other. The first one here will be the foundation of what you should know to get started. Feel free to comment and I will continue to post ‘parts’ as I get more feed back! So let’s get started:

A good place to start if you are so inclined is ChooseMyPlate.gov You can make a profile for yourself under the SuperTracker, enter in some general information and it will tell you in general what to aim for depending on what your goal is. I like using it when I am analyzing food diary entries of clients I counsel. It tells you everything from how many servings of food groups you need to how much saturated fat/empty calories you consumed in a day. It even calculates the calories burned from exercises for each day, etc.

Grains: Make half your grains whole…or ALL of them. Whole grain bread instead of white or enriched or anything else that does not start with “whole___” (ideally bread with at least 3-4g fiber per slice is ideal); brown rice, whole grain cereals that contain more than 3g fiber per serving, whole grain pasta (adding multigrain first might help a transition into whole grain if you’re not used to it), popcorn (airpopped, add your own toppings), oatmeal…..

Veggies: Vary your veggies. Get lots of colors each day by choosing colorful veggies across the rainbow–red beets, orange peppers, yellow squash, green broccoli, blue carrots, purple eggplant, white cauliflower, etc. This wide variety contain agents that fight and prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, constipation, bone loss, etc. They are full of disease fighting agents, fiber, minerals and vitamins that you may not be able to get naturally in other foods-anything can be fortified but this is the best place to get the real stuff. Also, I would like to remind that you want more veggies than fruit daily.

Fruit: Focus on fruits-especially focusing on whole fruits over juice or pre-packaged in juice or heavy syrup. The whole fruit that contains a peel that you can eat will provide more nutrients across the board, as well as fiber (I’m fiber’s biggest fan–it is a miracle worker). Blueberries, strawberries, oranges and pears are some of my personal favorites. Eat less fruits than veggies each day, but be sure you get something. Fruits contain similar awesomeness as veggies, however, they contain natural sugars. Even though they are natural, they are still sugars and too much is not good for anyone.

Dairy: Get your calcium rich foods. Even if dairy is not a daily thing for you, the main thing to notice in this group is to get enough calcium. I don’t drink milk, so I get my calcium from my daily yogurt, beans, and greens. Some options for common foods that contain calcium are: milk (skim or 1% only if you’re trying to lose weight!), soymilk, low fat/fat free yogurt, low fat cheese, dried beans/peas/lentils (cooked, of course–kidney beans, black beans, chikpeas/garbonzo beans, black eyed peas, etc.), and green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, collard greens, kale, etc). This is absolutely necessary for men and women of all ages to keep bones and teeth healthy!

Protein-foods: Go lean with protein. Previously known as the ‘meat group’ this group goes far beyond meat. Choosing lean cuts of meat is fine as well as lean poultry and fish. Not only animal/fish options there are also beans, peas, nuts and seeds! I don’t personally eat meat anymore, so I rely on fish, edamame, and dry beans more than anything. Ideally if you can get your meat grass-fed/organic, that would be best. Knowing that it is an expensive option, eating wild fish (not farm raised), along with beans/seeds, you can find cheaper yet still healthy alternatives out there. This is a controversial group for me. I can provide more information on why I only eat fish and plants in greater detail seperately if you so desire.

Limiting fat, sugar and salt daily is also needed for weight loss and overall healthy eating. In the long run, if you are following the steps above, there should not be much added fat or sugar to your foods-especially if you are not eating out of the frozen section or pre-packaged, shelf-stable “foods”. Also, I next to never cook with salt. It’s almost never on the kitchen table. There are so many ways through herbs and spices to cook without salt and still have an absolutely delicious meal. I will definitely be posting more on this in the future.

Due to the abundance of information I could share with you–there is no way to get it all in this post. Working a full time job and trying not to go off on a tangent about one particular thing are the best reasons for you to look for the next blog post in the coming days to help with healthy eating and weight loss. Don’t forget to comment with your feedback or other suggestions for blog posts that you want more information about!

Til next time my healthy friends…

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It’s been some time…

So I’ll admit; it’s been a while since I’ve posted. My apologies, with valid excuses. I finished my internship, planned a wedding, moved across the country in my Prius, traveled back and forth for wedding activities and family emergencies, and to GET MARRIED, then drove across the country again to move the rest of my (and my new husband’s) belongings to the entertaining city of New Orleans. It’s been an exciting time, but truth be told, it’s time to get back to the blog. Does that mean the honeymoon is over??

I have a number of topics I think about sharing on a regular basis. The ideas typically come to me between clients at the clinic or while I am driving. It’s usually not a conducive time to sit and write. I suppose I could be better at writing my ideas down when I get them, but some how I feel like I am minimizing them or limiting my initial idea. Any way; I have had a few people ask me for advice recently and these small questions have turned into fairly large emails and tangents. I have since decided to take the common and familiar questions that people are asking and share them with all who come here to find nutrition information.

I invite you back in the very near future to take a look at my new topics. I also hope that you will comment on this post itself to tell me what you would like to know more about or hope that I blog on in the future!


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Food recall for those with soy allergy

Soy Allergy Alert

November 1, 2012

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. is voluntarily recalling all code dates of Wegmans Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix, 15.3 oz. (UPC 77890-2833 – Code dates from 30Oct2013 to 11Apr2014), Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Gluten Free Honey Cornbread Mix, 16 oz. (UPC 77890-30343 – Code dates from 28Mar2014 to 16Apr2014), and Wegmans Food You Feel Good About All Purpose Baking Mix, 16oz (UPC 77890-30341 – Code dates from 27Mar2014 to 18Dec2014) because the products may contain undeclared soy.

People who have an allergy to soy run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reactions if they consume this product.

Wegmans began offering the Chocolate Cake Mix for sale in May 2012 and the Cornbread Mix and All Purpose Baking Mix in September 2012 at its 80 retail stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

The recall was initiated by Wegmans following allergen testing for soy. No illnesses have been reported as a result of this recall.

Concerned customers should return the product to Wegmans service desk for a full refund. Wegmans customers with questions or concerns should contact the consumer affairs department at 1-800-WEGMANS (934-6267), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

Information from: http://www.foodallergy.org/

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Reading-not just looking- At Packages and Labels

I really want to share some information with everyone about label and food-package reading. I don’t want you to fall prey to the marketing tricks that are out there…like I did this week. I am a bit ashamed to admit that I fell victim to one of these tricks; however, I am using it as a prime example of how anyone can be misled. I’m even studying this stuff and I got misled. Here’s my story:

I decided to switch breads because my usual bread has recently gone up in price (what hasn’t these days?) so I decided to grab a new bread for a cheaper cost. After pouring over bread costs, brands, fiber content, etc for far too long, it finally came down to two brands. I decided to go with the brand I was more familiar with. I grabbed the bread and left. Mistake #1…I didn’t read the label. I think because I was so wrapped up in the fact that I was taking too long in the first place to just pick a bread, that I decided it would be best for my sanity to just grab one and go. Wrong. I should have read the label before I left the bread aisle.
Normally, in the classes I have taught on nutrition, I tend to teach that you should ‘make half your grains whole’ and ‘read the label to be sure the very first thing on the ingredient list says whole ___(wheat, etc)’.

I’m gonna tell you what happened. Besides the fact that I was looking at every single package under $4.00 for a little longer than necessary and was sick of looking at them, the bread that I did choose, had a nice USDA “Make half your grains whole” logo and explanation on the back of the package. Seeing that, I honestly just assumed that it contained whole grains—WRONG (again). Tricky, tricky Mr.Bread Company….

So this is what I suggest you do next time you need to purchase bread…at least, this is what I am going to do: Read the ingredient label. You want the very first ingredient to say “Whole Wheat (or whatever Whole Grain is your grain of choice). And I mean actually read the label instead of assuming that the USDA has your back with their little marketing trickery on the back side of the package. Just because they are reminding you to make half of your grains whole, doesn’t mean that there are already 3oz out of your daily-needed 6oz in the package.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t know if it was the USDA (though it was their slogan and icon on the package). It very well could have been the actual bread company making a fool out of me. Whichever the case, you can rest assured that it will not happen again and that I will be writing them a nice little letter about how they tricked even I, The Untrickable.

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Make Yourself

“When you define yourself by your job, it’s hard to find the courage to stop working—even though most of us, in my professional opinion, are working far too hard!” – Marcelle Pick

I recently read this quote online and thought that it really needed to be read by just about everyone I know. Not only may this quote be true about your job, it’s also relevant in so many other aspects of life. I took it upon myself to put it into a number of contexts that you may relate to:

‘When you define yourself by your BOYFRIEND, it’s hard to find the courage to break up.’ (We are in love)

Or even…

‘When you define yourself by your BOYFRIEND, it’s hard to find the courage to love yourself’ (It’s not going to get any better)

‘When you define yourself by your WEIGHT, it’s hard to find the courage to love yourself.’ (I need to be thin to be happy)

‘When you define yourself by your PARENT’S mistakes, it’s hard to accept your own.’ (It’s not my fault that I’m this way).

We all need to come to the understanding that we are what we make ourselves to be. We all have circumstances or experiences in life that have shaped us, but it is up to you to move past them and make the most of it. I recently joined a social media group for people who have eating disorders (ED), have recovered from an ED, or are professionals in the field. I have met so many strong, young women in this group. They have really made me look at the way people heal and how we all have the ability to change. For those of you who do not know how serious an eating disorder can be, Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. For these young women to come out of recovery and out of isolation and be some of the most supporting people I’ve encountered in months is, in itself, something to meditate on. Think about the quote above and how it relates to your own personal life. Fill in the blanks for yourself then meditate on it. You are in control of your life. You have the power to change. You were made to define yourself as you wish and even to not be defined at all!

“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance” -Oscar Wilde

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Get Wise! Wisdom Teeth Extraction

I recently had all four of my wisdom teeth extracted. It was not a fun experience. However, I am here to help my lovely blog-followers who happen to have them out next. These are just my personal words of wisdom. Of course with this and other things pertaining to medical advice, consult your physician, or in this case, your oral surgeon.

Gosh-where to start. Besides being uncomfortable for longer than normal (apparently you are NOT supposed to be uncomfortable for three weeks), my biggest issues are listed below and what I would suggest if you need to have your wisdom teeth removed:

1. Get enough protein
Protein is important in wound healing and it was so difficult for me to get enough after I had my teeth extracted. I didn’t want to eat anything in the first place, so eating a typical source of protein seemed out of the question. I would suggest Clinical Strength Ensure. I don’t know what I would have done with out this stuff. It has 13 grams of protein per bottle, 350 much needed calories (especially when you have no appetite) and contains Revigor- the amino acid metabolite HMB- which slows the breakdown of muscle and increases protein synthesis. I actually started drinking the Muscle Health Ensure first, but they both have the Revigor in them, so they both worked for me in the same regard. Keep in mind that Ensure also has a high protein shake option, but it doesn’t contain the Revigor. I would highly suggest getting one that contains Revigor.

2. Follow post-op directions to the T.
Around the end of the first week, there were so many people I talked to who thought it was crazy that I still was not using straws, or chewing regular, crunchy foods yet. The oral surgeon gave me a list of things that I was told to-do and what not to-do and I followed them religiously. I followed them religiously and still ended up having issues down the road…can you imagine if I had not followed those directions? I’m sure I would have surely regretted it. You are told not to use a straw, consume a soft food diet, rinse with 3 parts water and 1 part Listerine. These really are quite simple to do. Just do it-trust me; it’s worth it.

3. Consume something substantial if you’re taking narcotics.
I wasn’t thinking properly and didn’t eat anything but one pudding cup in 24 hours. Needless to say, since I was taking the prescribed narcotics (Vicoden), I needed something in my stomach at the same time. Eventually I got nauseous and ended up vomiting. Luckily, it only happened one day and I quickly learned from it. Eat something (even as small as a pudding cup) before you take your narcotics—each time. The 3 Vicoden that I took over 24 hours required more than only one pudding cup.

4. Take ibuprofen regularly and the antibiotics as prescribed.
Many people do not know the difference between ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and Acetaminophen (Tylenol). Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory. It actually decreases inflammation present in the body. Acetaminophen only blocks the pain receptors, tricking the brain into thinking that the pain is gone. In other words-Acetaminophen, in my book, is a big fat cheater while Ibuprofen is out there doing all the Mother Theresa healing that it can.
You will be told to take Ibuprofen on a regular basis (usually 400mg every 6-8 hours) and to take your prescribed antibiotics regularly. Do both of these like your life depends on it. Honestly, I took the ibuprofen for the first 2 weeks even if I didn’t feel any pain. Why? Because like I said above, it soothes inflammation and HELLO-you just had teeth ripped out of your mouth. You’re going to be inflamed for at least 2 weeks while those holes heal. The antibiotics need to be taken until they are completely gone-no matter what. The last thing you want is an infection in your mouth. Yuck and ouch.

5. If you are still in pain of any sort two full weeks after surgery, call your oral surgeon and get into see him. You should not be in pain. Don’t worry, just get in and have your surgeon look around to see what is going on. I went in 3 times over the first 3 weeks and got everything straightened out and my questions answered. I do hope you find an oral surgeon as awesome as mine!

Questions? Please feel free to comment or share your own experiences with us!

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