BLOG: Attaching the “V” label to diets

by Linda Byam

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. That is great news, but to be honest, it’s something I wouldn’t have celebrated a couple of years ago.

Attaching the “V” label to diets

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. That is great news, but to be honest, it’s something I wouldn’t have celebrated a couple of years ago. To me, the words “vegetarian” and “vegan” were words I vaguely understood and hadn’t considered the true consequences of their meanings. They conjured images of gruesome videos of animals being abused and zealots throwing objects at women wearing fur coats. As it turns out, there are many different types of vegetarians: vegan, ovo-vegetarian, lacto vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, and semi-vegetarian. Who knew? I wasn’t aware of the strong evidence based science showing a plant-based diet can prevent and reverse disease.

Sour Patch Kids and Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos are vegan. Dominos cheese pizza is vegetarian. Hardly the best food choices! Although I am much more familiar with the terms, I try to avoid using the “V” words. I focus less on the label of a style of eating, and more on the individual foods I choose to consume.

When we choose to eat unprocessed foods that are closet to their natural form (blueberry vs. blueberry coffee cake) and derived from plants, we are choosing foods that will provide our body with the maximum amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants. When we eliminate refined carbohydrates, processed sugar, artificial colors, chemicals and sweeteners from our diet, our bodies begin to function better, heal, and rid themselves of toxins. I am reminded of Michael Pollen’s sage advice that speaks volumes: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Did you know?

  • Plants produce 5-10 times more protein per acre of land than animals.
  • Plant-based diets are less calorie-dense, resulting in lower overall calorie intake for the same volume of food consumed by meat-eaters.
  • It takes 150 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat and over 4,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat.
  • The American Dietetic Association (ADA) states that a well-planned plant-based diet is healthful, nutritionally adequate for all age groups, and can prevent and treat chronic diseases.

  • Not consuming animal products is a very personal decision. Many choose to not eat meat to protect animals. Others chose to do so because they believe it is healthier. Perhaps the “V” labeled diets are not black and white. Is it an all-or-nothing proposal? If the idea of using plant-based food to prevent and treat disease intrigues you, there are some simple steps you can take to get started:

  • Revamp one of your most frequently home-cooked meals to a healthier, meat free version. For example, spaghetti with meat sauce can be easily substituted with whole-grain pasta and a marinara sauce. A can of cannelloni beans adds loads of fiber, antioxidants and protein. You can even throw the beans in a blender to hide them in the sauce; it will just make it creamier!
  • Skip the cold-cut sandwich for lunch and try a green salad. Add lots of colorful veggies and black beans. Avoid the creamy and oil based toppings, and opt for balsamic vinegar as a dressing.
  • For a perfect fall dinner, try a hearty and delicious minestrone soup served with a green salad, crusty bread and apple slices.
  • Sign up for Food For Life: Kickstart Your Health, a seven-week nutrition and cooking series to learn about a healthy plant-base diet, and put a detailed 21-day plan into practice. Recipe demos and food samples included each week. Classes begin Sunday, October 18 at 4:15-6:00 p.m. at BreatheMoreYoga in Tolland. To register email or call 860-375-0360.
  • Linda Byam

    Health Coach, Certified Food for Life Instructor


    Michael Pollen, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

    Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD, UC Davis Integrative Medicine Program

    Linda Byam
    Written by:

    Linda Byam

    Linda is a Health Coach working to help individuals improve their health and overall wellness in simple and attainable ways. By gradually introducing healthy eating habits and lifestyle practices, Linda helps her clients take control of their health. Through classes, workshops and individual sessions, she works to create a personalized action plan that supports each client’s short and long-term health goals.

    Linda is a certified instructor of Food for Life, an award-winning Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine program that offers classes that focus on the lifesaving effects of healthful eating. Linda is also certified facilitator of Live Well, a chronic disease self-management program developed by Stanford University.