This isn't a post about what you should and shouldn't eat, nor will I lecture anyone about what a vegetarian is or why it is or isn't better than vegan, meat-eaters, paleo, etc.
I have dabbled in many diets - some I will definitely label "fad diets" - but one thing I can say with certainty is that there is nothing "fad" about eating whole foods. Nothing can replace real, fresh, wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, and meat and whole grains if you are not vegetarian or paleo. But the one thing I truly believe is that "diet" is a word we should throw out the window. "Diets" have a negative connotation and are commonly thought of as temporary and usually harmful. Food is fuel and is as an integral and necessary part to feeling our best. So I prefer to talk about food as what it is: food.
There are many reasons why people choose to not eat meat, or not eat grains - some have allergy reasons while others have ethical concerns. Choosing what you should and shouldn't eat should be based on how you feel when you eat those foods. Many people will tell you that they stopped eating meat because it literally hurt their stomach to eat it. Other people find that chicken and beef are difficult for their bodies to handle, but fish is more easily digested. Grains are the same way.
Personally, I believe the genetic experimentation and chemicals put in our food have affected our bodies for the worse. There are times I can't afford to buy organic or non-GMO foods, but when my budget allows it, I try to buy the freshest, least-processed food possible.
After struggling for years with digestive issues, I tried different diets to see if one would help ease the bloating, weight gain, breakouts and headaches. The first to go was sugar. The next to go was all heavily processed foods. Then I had to eliminate dairy and that was the biggest help for my body at that point in time.
Then I tried gluten-free and meatless. I can now say with certainty that my body can digest meat and gluten with no issues. Its the processed food that my body hates. However, I enjoy putting more emphasis on plant-based foods and focusing on colorful meals. I still indulge in a bowl of pasta and a grilled steak, but with less frequency.
Getting enough protein is my biggest concern when going meatless - particularly because I cannot digest dairy or soy very well. Relying only on vegan protein powder and legumes isn't enough for my strength goals, so I am currently what many call a "reducetarian". I don't label myself that, but it is what I practice with my eating habits. Instead of eating meat three times a day, like I was doing a few years ago, I eat it only once a day. Without getting too deep into macros and splits and such, here is what my current meal plan typically looks like:
- Breakfast: 2-3 eggs (2 egg whites + 1 whole, or some variation of that); 1/2 cup oats with almond milk, 1/2 scoop vegan protein powder, pb fit and chia seeds
- Snack: vegan protein shake with almond milk, 1/2 frozen banana, ice, cocoa power and pb fit.
- Lunch: veggies and carbs, usually in the form of a burrito bowl or Asian stirfry
- Dinner: veggies and carbs and meat, usually something similar to lunch with 4oz of meat added (chicken, fish or turkey)
- If I'm still hungry I'll have a "nice-cream" which is just frozen bananas and a splash of almond milk with various toppings (peanut butter, fudge, chocolate chips, etc).
With this plan, I still get more carbs than protein and fat, however, I have been feeling pretty good and I can maintain my current weight. The important thing is to eat what makes you feel good and gives you enough energy to smash your goals! There are days I'll eat half an avocado, or a bowl of cereal, or more chocolate than I care to admit, but it's all about finding a balance for your mind and body. But remember, no matter what you eat, make sure you drink allllll the WATER! I strive for a gallon a day (yes, I also live in the bathroom) - I have a large jug that I fill up twice a day to get in a gallon. I can definitely tell a difference when I get in a full gallon and when I don't (hint, I feel better when I drink it all!).
The biggest, and hardest, lesson I learned is that it is all about trial and error. I kept a food log for two years before I figured out what I could and couldn't eat. I was also stubborn and didn't want to give up certain foods, but luckily, there's a food replacement for almost anything (coconut ice cream FTW!) - and, very few things can beat feeling your best thanks to the right food fuel :)