Now I totally understand that the thought of making dietary changes can be daunting. I get it. You’re talking to the girl who went from a high sugar, highly processed, carb-heavy, meat and dairy based diet, to an organic, soy-free, gluten-free, processed-free, plant-based diet. Yes, I know, quite a mouthful and quite a switch but the way these changes have affected my body have been nothing short of a miracle. Previously chronic migraines ruled my life, however, I am now pleased to say that I am completely chronic migraine free, largely down to simply changing the food I consume on a daily basis. Who knew that food was so powerful and that food alone could actually heal chronic conditions, improve your energy, reduce your cholesterol, affect your sleep, lower your cancer risk, increase mental clarity, reverse diabetes and cardiovascular disease, just to name a few. Pretty amazing stuff huh?
If this is the case then surely our top priority should be providing our bodies with the correct fuel it needs in order for us to thrive? How do we expect our bodies to perform at their best if we don’t provide the tools in which to do so and yes, you guessed it, this all comes back to food!
As a Health Coach, a common question I face is how is it possible to ensure I fuel my body correctly when eating either a vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free or soy-free based diet or all of the above? And my answer? Simple – and I truly mean that! After personally adopting a plant-based ‘free from’ pretty much everything diet, I have to say it has been extremely easy to do and I honestly feel better than ever. I have more energy, I sleep soundly, I can think clearer and I never feel heavy and bloated after a meal anymore. So don’t panic friends, I promise that you will get all the nutrients your body requires even when removing soy, gluten, meat and dairy from your diet. In actual fact, you’ll be doing your body a huge favour in removing these nasties from your diet and allowing your body to function at it’s best.
So firstly I just want to explain that we don’t actually need soy, dairy, gluten or even meat in our diets in order for us to thrive. Soy nowadays is highly processed and full of the bad omega 6 fats, dairy is full of yucky growth hormones, gluten contains absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever and meat, well don’t get me started on what’s in meat. Now I know your next question will be – “well where will I get my calcium from if I’m not drinking milk and where will I get my protein from if I’m not eating meat”? Well, in actual fact it is proven that by adopting a plant-based diet you will sufficiently consume more protein than you would if you were eating a conventional western diet and having to think “I must make sure I eat enough protein today”.
In basic terms, protein is essential for building and repairing muscles, bones and tissue in our bodies. So yes, we need protein as every function of our cells and organs are controlled by protein, but there are so many cleaner sources of it out there to choose from including spinach, kale, bok choy, collard greens, lentils, beans, chia seeds, hemp seeds and quinoa just to name a few. So my advice is to start your day with a green smoothie made with spinach, almond milk, a handful of fruit, some chia seeds and a couple of nuts thrown in and bam, you are all set to start your day with a punch of protein. Post workout you could grab a handful of mixed nuts and seeds, or a spoonful of almond or peanut butter and spread it over a sliced apple to help your muscles grow and repair after your workout. This is so much better than consuming a processed protein powder made with artificial soy that can be damaging to your health. This way you have naturally removed soy, dairy, gluten and animal protein and instead replaced it with clean nutritious protein. See how easy it is.
Ok so now let’s address gluten. Now I know there are so many gluten-free products on the market nowadays which is great, don’t get me wrong but just because you’re eating gluten free cookies doesn’t mean that they are healthy for you. Let’s be honest they are still cookies! So the best way to fuel our bodies by going gluten free is to find natural gluten free alternatives and my god there are so many out there. Gluten free grains include quinoa, amaranth, teff, millet, buckwheat, sorghum, rice, certain oats and other sources such as legumes, lentils, beans, fruit and vegetables. Through making this swap you will get plenty of fibre from the fruit and vegetables that will help to keep your blood sugar stable throughout your day so that you don’t have that sugar low mid afternoon and the urge to take a nap at your desk. By eating this way you are consuming lots of complex carbohydrates that your body can use steadily throughout the day as fuel for energy, not to mention that these natural options come with an abundance of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that help your body fight disease and allow you to thrive. Why not try some gluten free oats for breakie, made with almond milk or hemp milk, topped with some berries and a handful of nuts and seeds. This way you have provided your body with plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates which will give you a gradual, slow release of energy throughout your morning rather than perhaps a high sugar gluten-free cereal that is most likely processed and refined. Another tip would be pre work out, approximately two hours before, try eating a meal high in healthy carbohydrates which are in foods such as sweet potato, winter squash, root vegetables whole grains, mixed with some beans or lentils so that your body can convert these carbohydrates into energy so you are able to get the most out of your workout.
Of course, the big one I hear all the time is that surely as a vegan, I must be limited in what I can eat and won’t this affect how my body functions? God no! Once again you are able to fuel your body better on a vegan/plant-based diet than you are on a traditional diet. There are so many professional vegan athletes such as the tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and even Mike Tyson that consume vegan diets and I don’t think it affected them too badly! In fact quite the opposite, that is as long as you don’t become a “junk food’ vegan and only consume processed options such as vegan pizzas, vegan cheese and anything else that comes in a packet. Yuck! So instead, try alternatives to meat but not the processed kind. From beautiful salads, spicy chillis to delicious stews, the choices are endless.
As our needs as consumers change, the food companies out there are really beginning to listen to what we want and as a result, there are now such great healthy “free from” options out there on the market to choose from which is really exciting, even gluten-free, vegan, organic, soy-free, dairy-free options combined. Yipee! Take GoMacro for example, a leader in providing nutritious, healthy snacks which are great for when you are on the go. Check them out and order their bars online by clicking here. Pack a couple of these into your bag for the day ahead and then you won’t be tempted to stray to that naughty afternoon jam doughnut or that Snickers bar for a quick energy fix. The key is to sustain your body throughout the day by making consistent, nutritious choices that will enable you to fuel your body so you can always function at your best.
Remember friends that whole, natural foods have everything in them we need in order to flourish as individuals. Nature has designed it this way. We just need to choose these options over the processed industrial “food” we have come to know today as normal. What foods do you find help fuel your body and maintain your energy throughout the day? I would love to know.
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