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The Novice Nelly: 4 ways transitioning to plant-based diet lifestyle helped me

By Lauren Cardarelli on December 29, 2014

The Novice Nelly: 4 ways transitioning to plant-based diet lifestyle helped me

Growing up, I was a picky eater. Like, plain-pasta-with-butter (maybe topped with a smooth marinara, if my parents were lucky) kind of picky. But I was also raised in a household where being a foodie was not only a passion—it was a way of life. You see, my father worked for the renowned seafood/steakhouse Chart House for 17 years so while I may have gotten away with simple carbs at home, dinners at the restaurant in New Haven, Newport, Boston, Baltimore, etc., were extraordinary. Think a Caesar salad with a heavy dusting of parmesan, medium rare filet mignon and scoop of garlic mashed potatoes, all followed by creme brûlée (duh). Totally the normal kid palate.

But things changed as I aged. Little by little, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats began to consume my plate. Tofu, beans and nuts have completely replaced rare red meats and, well, my former fear of veggies outside of the approved broccoli-and-string-bean realm has fallen to the wayside. Brussels sprouts are now a refrigerator staple. Roasted parsnips add a remarkable sweetness (and crunch, if you bake ‘em long enough) to salads. And don’t even get me started on cauliflower. I sub it in for rice, use what I dub the “Cruciferous King”for pizza crust...I could gush for hours. So what changed besides an openness to “try new things?” I realized that a plant-based lifestyle was helping me in many ways:

1. Smooth stomach sailing.

My sensitivity to wheat, dairy, etc., prompted a roller coaster of gut issues over the years. But the second I made a plant-based lifestyle switch? Much more of a predictable, smooth ride. TMI? Whatever. Bye, bye bloat! Foods like papaya, sweet potato, asparagus, almonds and bananas keep my stomach happy. Mmm, now I’m hungry...

2. Energy va-va-voom.

Have you fallen victim to the 3 PM slump? That constant need for caffeine? Yeah, I can relate. But let me tell you, turning to whole food fuel makes a difference. In fact, it will help you thrive—both mentally and physically. I approach workouts and the workday with much more gusto, thanks to MVP energy boosters like coconut oil (amazing to roast veggies in) and nut butter smeared on fruit or sprouted bread.

3. Quick and easy—on-the-go, included!

In my transition, I realized that mealtime doesn’t have to be a production. That’s right; whipping up a colorful meal can be nearly effortless, if you plan accordingly. Every Sunday night I prep for the week, steaming extra broccoli and sugar snap peas to easily add to last-minute stir-fries, roasting kabocha squash to curb sweet tooth cravings, and cooking up a week’s worth of dried beans for easy salad topping. Being prepared is key but once you get into the swing of things, it’s easier than pie (or whatever heavily processed snack bag is at an arm’s length). Looking for a satisfying mid-morning snack? I love playing with homemade hummus—chickpeas, tahini and drizzle of Vega Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend—by adding in herbs and fun-flavored veggies like roasted eggplant, bell pepper or kale. Pop a few spoonfuls into a container with baby carrots and voila!

4. Easy on the wallet.

Believe it or not, produce-packed grocery lists can be budget-friendly. I mean, meat can be the priciest items after all, fit friends! Get the biggest bang for your buck (nutritionally, too!) by strolling down the frozen isle. Your tropical fruity faves are frozen at the peak of ripeness. Load up on cherries, if you’ve been hittin’the gym hard. They’re packed with antioxidants that help manage the inflammation you created pumping iron. Starting today, I’ll be sharing my favorite tips and tricks, culinary creations and anecdotes because at the end of the day, we’re all in this together. I’m by no means a pro but that’s what makes me, me. The Novice Nelly.

Lauren Cardarelli

Lauren is a freelance writer, cycling instructor and the studio director of exhale in Stamford, Conneticut. When she\'s not on the bike, treadmill or yoga mat, Lauren can be found with her 1-year-old pug, Henry. Favorite things: Chocolate Mint Vega Sport Protein Bar, almond butter, jogs along the Long Island Sound in her beachy hometown and Mizuno running kicks. Lauren is training for her 10th half-marathon...with hopes of tackling the full 26.2 in 2015.
Lauren Cardarelli