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.
As a mom, I can relate to the challenges of feeding kids. They can be so particular and finicky! As a vegan mom, I can share some tips for getting healthy foods into your child. First and foremost - smoothies! Oh smoothies are a mom's best friend. Kids love 'em. I start with bananas as the base, adding strawberry and blueberry usually. Here is where you get creative -- I throw in avocados, frozen broccoli, almond butter, kale, chia seeds, and filtered water or almond milk -- depending on what concoction I'm going for. Boom, there you have a few servings of fruits and veggies in one glass.
"Smoothies are a mom's best friend. Kids love 'em."
My son is a huge fan of oatmeal. He pretty much requests it every day. Cooking old fashioned rolled oats is so much easier than you might imagine. I put a cup of oats in a pot with three cups of water -- the good ole 1 to 3 ratio. It boils for about 3-5 minutes, while stirring so it doesn't stick. Then I turn down the temperature to low and let the oats absorb the water. I toss in a cut up banana, a small handful of dried cranberries, sliced almonds/ walnut pieces, and a couple splashes of pure maple syrup. Voila: a warm filling start to the day.
Lunch is usually very simple. My son loves peanut butter and jelly or almond butter and jelly on whole wheat bread, kale chips, apple slices, hummus and chips. We often eat leftovers for lunch, and sometimes we get creative. The other day, we hadn't made our trip to the grocery store, so I perused the pantry to see what I could throw together. I made some organic alphabet pasta, and whipped up a cashew/nutritional yeast cream sauce (something similar to this: Vegan Mac and No Cheese
) - from the heart, with no recipe. I added some edamame and basil, and we had a delicious lunch.
Another favorite around our house is "quesadillas" minus the cheese. We make black bean and sweet potato quesadillas on the regular. Serve with guacamole, and you've got a pretty balanced nutritious meal. Smoky white bean quesadillas (vegweb.com
) are a hit as well, and another way to sneak in some spinach and tomatoes. We eat butternut squash ravioli a lot, too. You can find these in the frozen section at Native Sun and Whole Foods. We almost always make a big delicious salad with green lettuce, carrots, cucumber, cranberries, and nuts. As long as my son gets a bite with cranberries, he loves salad! Ok, love might be a strong word there. Black bean burgers, lentil soup, falafel, and pesto pasta all make weekly appearances on our dinner table, as well.
Juicing your own fruits and veggies and making kale chips are fabulous ways to add greens and nutrients to your child's diet, too. Many children instinctively do not like meat. If you offer them delicious alternatives and not fried convenience foods, they will quickly come to love and request these healthy options. Check out vegfamily.com
and lunchboxbunch.com for more information and recipes. Enjoy!
Eating on-the-go and being vegan/vegetarian is getting easier every day, especially if you think outside of the box. Chain restaurants such as Chipotle, Moe's, Mellow Mushroom, and Panera have multiple options. At Chipotle you can get the veggie bowl, taco or burrito filled with black beans, brown rice, salsa, lettuce, corn and guacamole. Mellow Mushroom is super veg-friendly, offering vegan pizza, hummus, tempeh/tofu hoagies, and more. At Panera, they offer the Mediterranean veggie sandwich (hold the feta if you're vegan) and a cup of veggie or black bean soup.
Native Sun is a great option for prepared organic foods. Check out their deli case, salad bar (San Jose locale), hot bar (Baymeadows locale) and sandwich boards for the veg goods such as portabella sandwiches, red lentil cakes, vegan Bahn mi, and so much more!
Ethnic food is always a great option. Hala Cafe (several locations) and Mandaloun on Baymeadows offer hummus, tabouli, veg grape leaves, lentil soup, and spinach pie. Masala Indian Restaurant on San Jose Blvd. has Aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes), Chana masala (spicy chickpeas), samosas (peas and potatoes in a fried pastry shell), and pakora (battered and fried veggies) which are all spicy and delish!
Jason's Deli on Southside is becoming more organic and veg-friendly. Create your own hummus and veggie sandwich or choose from the loaded salad bar. California Pizza Kitchen is a nice spot at St. John's Town Center for a little slower lunch or dinner date. They have smashed pea soup, white corn guacamole, tuscan hummus, and an eggplant pizza and broccoli pasta dish that can be made vegan.
Extra tip: For the times you're out and about and hunger strikes, keep a bag of trail mix, a banana, or granola bars to munch on. The more people become veg and request alternative food choices, the more effortless it will become for all of us to eat well. Keep asking for what you want- healthy, happy food!
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!