by Heather Borders
My name is Heather and along with my husband Lee, we have been on a plant-based diet since August 2011. Our journey began as we tried to lower Lee’s ever-rising cholesterol. It had always been well into the 200’s during our twenties and we were frustrated when extreme exercise did not help in a significant way. By our mid-thirties, Lee’s total cholesterol was 311 and his triglycerides were 305. He wasn’t overweight and was very physically active, so needless to say we were stumped. Adamantly opposed to medicine, we searched for other ways to lower Lee’s cholesterol.
After a few internet searches, I learned that our liver makes all the cholesterol we need and dietary cholesterol, found in food, can increase total blood cholesterol levels. It turns out that plant food contains no cholesterol and all animal foods have some amount of cholesterol. I stumbled upon the community of researchers and clinicians that provided the data to support the benefit a whole foods, plant- based diet can have on our health. I never thought that veganism would be necessary, or a reason to switch would be for one other than animal ethics. However, my husband and I were on board for what we thought would be a 6 week experiment.
After six weeks, my 5’10” husband went from 170 pounds to 155 pounds, and his total cholesterol went from 311 to 232, and triglycerides from 305 to 103. A year later he was down closer to 200 and has maintained the same weight. After 1.5 years, my total cholesterol also improved from 233 to 179! We are obviously a work in progress, however forever changed by what we have learned in such a short amount of time. We are also so grateful to have found out about the significance of a plant-based diet before we became a statistic. No more waiting for the other shoe to drop or worrying if our genetics have any say in our health!
One of the more difficult aspects of transitioning to a plant-based diet is finding places to eat! In a partnership with The Girls Gone Green
, VegHealthyJax is a community initiative that was created to make it possible and convenient to eat healthy while dining out in Northeast Florida. We were awarded a $1,000 grant from the Pollination Project
towards promotional efforts to help market the local restaurants that agree to offer healthy, plant-based meals. If you are interested in being an active member of this initiative, please join VegHealthyJax on www.meetup.com
As you may have seen in previous No Meat March emails, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
(PCRM) is a Washington D.C.-based non-profit that promotes preventative medicine, especially through good nutrition. Food for Life is a PCRM program that offers cancer, diabetes, weight management, and kids classes that focus on the lifesaving effects of healthful eating. Each class includes information about how certain foods and nutrients work to promote health, along with cooking demonstrations of simple and nutritious recipes that can be recreated easily at home. There are over 100 Food For Life instructors across the U.S. and I’m very excited to have been chosen as the instructor for the Jacksonville, FL area. You can keep up with future classes on Facebook by liking ‘Food for Life Jax’ and can check out my bio here
by Heather Olsen, Healthy Eating Specialist
Being an advocate for all things green and leafy is a new thing for me! I was born and raised in Wisconsin, land of all things cheese, and grew up eating the Standard American Diet (or S.A.D.) as did all of my friends. I subsisted on diet soda, candy, processed snack foods and desserts, fast food, dairy in all its forms, and meat at least twice a day. Not surprisingly, I was overweight/obese my entire life. I haven’t eaten land animals in over 12 years but I continued to eat cheese and small amounts of dairy. In fact, when I removed the meat from my plate I replaced it with cheese! I learned firsthand that vegetarian fare isn’t necessarily healthy.
I have been with Whole Foods Market for 6 years now, and I am amazed at all I have learned about healthy eating. When I started I was working as the cake decorator, my sweet tooth took over as I rode the roller coaster of sugar addiction tasting my way through the pastry case. I rationalized: “how can I sell these cakes, cookies, pastries and breads to customers if I haven’t tried them?” You may not be surprised to hear that I gained 30 pounds in 6 short months of eating this way. When I moved to Jacksonville in 2008 to help open the store and joined the marketing team, I swapped cheesecake for fresh strawberries and I haven’t looked back since.
I have been maintaining a 65+ pound weight loss for four years and counting, and I am happy at a “normal” weight without counting calories or stressing over every bite. I went from a bona-fide couch potato that dreaded having to run laps in gym class to completing a couch-to-5K program in 2009. I have so much more energy eating healthy that I have continued running – I finished 3 marathons and 6 half marathons to date – and I love how I feel.
What worked for me was the concept of baby steps: I would take a healthy eating nugget that I learned at work and incorporate it into my life. After a few days I felt a difference in my energy level, my quality of sleep, and my mood. My skin became clearer, and my hair and nails became stronger. These changes motivated me to keep it up and to try more and more positive habits. The number one most important change I made to my way of eating was to enjoy fresh fruit instead of processed sweets, and learning how to make ice cream at home using bananas changed my life – really! Here is a decadent, vegan, super easy recipe for Banana Nice Cream: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/banana-nice-cream
, and a creamy-tart Raspberry Nice Cream: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/raspberry-nice-cream
. Get your blender motors revving!
As the Healthy Eating Specialist for Whole Foods Market – Jacksonville, I am honored to play a role in changing the way my fellow Team Members and customers eat. I truly believe that the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach (sharing tasty and satisfying food), and healthy plant-strong meals are the most direct path to a longer and more joyful life. We have the power to increase our quality of life and our health through what we choose to put on our plate. The more colorful the food, the better! Remember that old saying, “eat the colors of the rainbow every day”? Plants are where all the good stuff is – the micronutrients – vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. In fact, Plant-Strong is one of the four pillars of healthy eating in Whole Foods Market’s healthy eating education program: Whole Foods, Plant-Strong, Healthy Fats, and Nutrient Dense.
You can learn more about Health Starts Here, and of course enjoy healthy vegan recipes, by signing up for events at the store: cooking classes, supper clubs, store tours, 28-day challenges, individual consultations, and more! Visit our online calendar of events at: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/events?store=6583
You have a lot to be proud of! Take a moment to reflect on the positive changes you are experiencing as you choose to eat plant-strong, and pat yourself on the back for making healthier choices. My hope is that this experience is the beginning of a new way of life for you. Good nutrition is the foundation of your health, and it’s truly amazing what your body can do when you choose to enjoy whole, nutrient dense foods. Keep up the great work, and I hope to see you at healthy eating events at Whole Foods Market!
About Heather Olsen
Heather Olsen is the Healthy Eating & Green Mission Specialist for Whole Foods Market – Jacksonville, and is a Certified Holistic Health Coach.
Heather facilitates cooking classes, store tours, recipe demonstrations, 28-day challenges, and presentations for groups of all ages, and in addition provides healthy eating consultations to individuals.
Heather has worked for Whole Foods Market for 6 years and she enjoys educating others about the company’s Core Values, in particular healthy eating education and caring about our communities and environment.
Those who know me well know that I have a sweet tooth. After consuming a meal with any type of sugar, or carbohydrates, I am known to sneeze approximately three times - in a row. My father also does this, and his father did as well. My mother used to say it was a pleasure response, but after years of doing it and paying attention to what I ate when I sneezed, I surmised the cause was carbohydrates. Carbs, how I love you.
In a quest to reduce calories and hopefully lose weight, I developed a sordid love affair with an evil substance known as aspartame, and her name is Equal. (queue scary noises) Equal was my best friend. When I needed a blonde and sweet coffee, she was there for me. Three of her to be exact. Her little blue packages fit so nicely in my purse for those silly restaurants not willing to put it on their tables. When I wanted to have a sweet glass of mango iced tea, Equal was right along there with me. Her delicate crystals cascading into the amber colored fluid, commingling with the ice cubes. I used so much Equal there were times I would need to extract some from the workplace until I had a chance to get to the store.
There are so many reasons not to use artificial sweeteners like Equal and her twisted sister, Splenda. The first reason is the word: artificial. Don't even get me started on their distant cousin - Sweet n Low. These are simply chemical concoctions that have no nutritional value and fool you into thinking you need something sweeter than sugar actually is. Not to mention these chemicals undergo a great deal of animal testing before released to the market. That reason alone should be enough to stop using these products.
I am currently in Equal detox and have replaced my three-a-day addiction of the little blue packets with a delicious, natural and organic syrup known as agave nectar. Agave can be used in so many ways, in coffee, tea, on pancakes, in granola and even to glaze roasted carrots. If you want to give a dish or dessert a caramel (which contains milk) or butterscotch type taste, try using brown rice syrup.
Some of you may be on the stevia band-wagon, and there's nothing wrong with that, so long as you are actually using stevia. There are some products out there that purport themselves as stevia, but they aren't really pure stevia. One in particular comes in a green and white packet and is manufactured by Coca-Cola and Cargill. If you dig stevia, use her straight, raw or organic. Stevia in The Raw tastes pretty darn fine in my mango iced tea.
Not long ago, I learned that regular old sugar was not vegan! The type of sugar you probably have in your pantry is actually processed using animal bones. This is part of the refining process for cane sugars. Once I learned this, I never bought those dixie crystals again. Whole Foods sells a vegan sugar that comes in a plastic zip lock bag. When I started using it, I noticed I did not require so much of it in a recipe. It also smells fabulous when you open the bag. I never noticed that sugar had a 'smell' but it does. If you cannot obtain a product that specifically states it's vegan, you are always better off choosing an organic option over the standard bag of sugar.
by Jolie Levene
I love spring, it might be my favorite season. Spring means open windows, gardening, blossoming flowers and trees, and open-toed sandals. Spring is a time of renewal. What better way to renew yourself than to make a change in your eating habits that will literally change your life and the lives of so many animals. Take the No Meat March challenge!
Make the commitment to eliminate meat from your diet for one month, which is only four weeks, a mere 31 days. You can do it! You will be amazed at how much better you will feel removing meat from your diet. Check your cholesterol before and after the challenge and check the numbers for yourself. Not only will you be doing something good for your health, you will be doing good for the environment. Bringing meat to your dinner table takes an enormous amount of resources and has a huge carbon footprint.
While you're doing the challenge, you'll notice that you will be spending less money at the grocery store, and the garbage can in the kitchen won't smell! If you need meal ideas check this website for easy, satisfying meals that will make you wonder why you didn't do this sooner. You might even decide to become a vegetarian full-time.
If you're already vegetarian, try going vegan. I used to think I could never give up cheese, and then I did. It's been months since I've had cheese and I don't miss it. I'm having so much fun learning how to cook all sorts of vegan dishes, that I've never given a second thought to cheese. I've even had a rockin' pizza at home and also in an area restaurant that is 100% vegan and is AWESOME.
You can enjoy unbelievably good vegan desserts that are just as good as any other dessert you've had. I know because I have baked them. For example, I've made chocolate frosted brownies, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies and a 'cream cheese' frosted carrot cake. I have always had a sweet tooth and I would not be able to be vegan if this weren't true. Keep checking our website for the recipes on these scrumptious slices of deliciousness.
I've lived in Jacksonville my whole life, and I only recently started going to the Farmers Market on Beaver Street. It's now one of my favorite places to go. You can get massive amounts of fresh produce for cheap! I just picked up a bag the size of a pillow case full of spinach for only $4. Perfect for making green smoothies, and also cooking. You'd end up spending $40 for the same amount of spinach at the neighborhood grocery store.
We are here to support you through this challenge and we applaud you for taking the first step!