Lesson 1, Topic 1
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Lesson & Week 6 Goal

Week 6: Strategies for Success Part 2

Goal: Remove meat, eggs, dairy and all animal products from your diet

This is the week we go all in! We have been slowly building your abilities and habits to be able to eat completely animal products free! Try it for one week and see how your body feels, paying attention to digestive function, sleep quality, and overall energy. You should feel vibrant and energized.

If you feel like you have brain fog or are having hunger pangs, you may need to eat more! Oftentimes people don’t realize just how many calories they were getting from animal sources so you may need to increase your serving sizes of fruits, vegetables, grains, and plant protein (nuts, seeds, legumes) to help you get to a good energy level.

In order to further assist you in your goal this week, here are some numbers and tips to make sure you are getting a balanced nutrient profile and feeding your body all of the nutrients it needs.

Beginning with protein, here is a chart to make sure you are adequately replacing animal products with the right amounts of plant products and some tips about how to maximize your protein intake and utilization

  1. Eat a varied diet. Don’t just eat peanut butter all day and expect to be getting all of the amino acids necessary to help rebuild and repair muscles. Diversify what you eat each day by switching up your meals, trying different recipes, and using different foods to meet your protein needs.
  2. Protein is best utilized if you spread it out throughout the day. Waiting until dinner time to pack in a bunch of protein in one meal makes it harder on your body to use all of those amino acids. It’s also better for your appetite to be having a little protein with each meal anyway so you feel full for longer. This is especially important at breakfast. If you want to stay satisfied until lunchtime and keep those mid-morning cravings at bay it’s crucial that you include a good source of protein in your first meal of the day.
  3. Don’t eat protein by itself. More rounded meals will increase your body’s ability to uptake and use amino acids. Carbohydrates are necessary to stimulate insulin, an anabolic hormone (anabolism means BUILD, think anabolic steroids). Insulin sends a signal to your muscle tissues to uptake amino acids and go into a building phase. Without carbohydrates, your body won’t uptake nearly as much protein from your food.

There are a few nutrients other than protein which may be of concern for someone following a completely plant-based diet. Iron, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, Calcium, and Vitamin D are all found in animal products (1,2). If you are eating large amounts of green leafy vegetables, healthy fats from flax, chia, and hemp, and are including a large variety of beans, nuts, and seeds, most of these nutrients aren’t hard to get.

However, if you are replacing animal products with processed foods and refined grains, there is a chance you could be deficient. Here is some more information about each nutrient and how to make sure you are meeting your needs.

Iron: there are many plants that contain iron; kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, spinach, raisins, cashews, and oatmeal. The form of iron is less bioavailable in plants than in animal products.

The best thing you can do is increase bioavailability is to eat these foods with a source of vitamin C (think peppers, citrus, or tomatoes) and avoid eating them with things that contain tannins (like tea and coffee).

B12: is necessary for healthy cell division blood cell formation. A deficiency can lead to anemia and nerve damage so it is important to get enough. B12 is produced by bacteria and is found in all animal products, but can also be supplemented by taking a good quality multivitamin and eating B12 fortified foods (such as breakfast cereals or nutritional yeast, check the package to make sure they are fortified) if you want to eat completely plant-based.

Calcium and Vitamin D: Calcium can be found in tofu, mustard and turnip greens, bok choy, and kale. Vitamin D is a commonly deficient vitamin in our population because so many people avoid sun exposure to protect their skin. Small amounts of sunlight on the skin of your arms, legs, and face in the summer can help your body synthesize its own Vitamin D.

There are also many vitamin D fortified foods such as soy milk, almond milks, and some cereal grains. Again check the package to make sure you are getting a few vitamin D rich foods in your diet, or take a vitamin supplement.

Omega Three Fatty Acids: These special fats are crucial for good health and can be found in many foods. The most bioavailable omega threes are found in cold water fatty fish, but can also be found in the fish’s food supply in the form of algae.

If you aren’t keen on taking algae, there are also less bioavailable, but still helpful omega three fats found in ground flax seeds, flax oil, walnuts, chia seeds, and canola oil. 

If you are still concerned, there are many people who follow a plant-based diet 90% of the time and allow for some animal products 10% of the time to avoid deficiencies. They include high-quality products such as wild caught salmon, grass-fed beef, or pasture raised eggs every once in a while but still focus on eating whole, plant-based meals as much as possible.

The degree of following the diet after this week is up to you, but remember that the more plants you can pack into your day, the more benefits you will gain.