Realistic Achievable Wellness

All vegetarian lunch at HLS this year

Missed the Healthy Living Summit? Fret not. While I’m sure you’re dying to hear about my night at the gay bar, 2am pizza run, that guy that got busted for coke right in front of our dinner table, our epic road trip through a tornado warning and how the cats are faring after three days alone, I insist on making you learn first. You’re welcome.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dawn Jackson Blatner, registered dietitian and author of The Flexitarian Diet. Her presentation was about R.A.W. (Realistic. Achievable. Wellness.), which she says can be accomplished on a flexitarian diet. These are my notes:

  • On the health spectrum of slow progress/no results to frustrating/not sustainable, you want to fall somewhere in the middle. You don’t want to be doing absolutely nothing but you also don’t want to have so many rules and restrictions that your lifestyle is impossible to maintain.
  • Trends in food right now: meatless, simple ingredients, natural, detox, local food, gluten-free, real food, farm fresh, back to basics
  • 8/10 chefs say that vegetarian entrees are “hot” right now
  • 23% more meatless meals are being consumed in restaurants
  • 40% of non-vegetarian eaters say they order vegetarian entrees in restaurants
  • Part of food is being social; if you can be a social drinker can you be a social carnivore?
  • Blatner explained that she was a vegetarian for a while but secretly ate “special” meat on the side: her grandma’s roast, a hot dog with the Chicago Cubs, BBQ at her brother’s house, etc. She felt like a fraud counseling people on being vegetarian and pushing that as the best diet while still eating meat herself. This is when she embraced a flexitarian lifestyle instead.
  • Flexitarian: pro-plants not anti-meat
  • How are flexitarians different from omnivores? Intention. Every day a flexitarian wakes up with the intention to be more vegetarian, but they still eat meat on occasion. Omnivores wake up every day with the intention to eat anything.
  • How to transition to a flexitarian diet: 1) Reportion your plate 2) Reinvent old favorites 3) Refresh your recipe repertoire
  • 25-25-50 – Your plate should include 25% lean protein, 25% whole grain and 50% produce (fruit and veg). You can continue eating the same things you always have but just change the portions around so you’re eating more vegetables and smaller meat servings. (Also, change some of your meat servings to plant proteins)
  • To reinvent old favorites, the some of these swaps: instead of chicken, tofu; instead of meat sauce, white beans in tomato sauce; instead of chicken stir fry, edamame stir fry, instead of steak burrito, black bean burrito, instead of meatloaf, lentil loaf
  • Enjoy exploring new foods. Transitioning to a plant-based diet should be about all the new things you can eat, not about all the old things you can’t. Share recipes. Read blogs. Visit new restaurants.
  • Think you’re craving meat? Lots of people who try to transition to plant-based eating say they crave meat. Blatner says you’re actually craving a meaty or savory taste known as umami. You can find this taste in cooked tomatoes, parmesan cheese, carrots, potatoes, soybeans, seaweed, green tea and mushrooms.
  • Don’t like plants? Try pairing an unliked flavor with a liked one (example: add some unliked black beans to a steak burrito). Over time, you will start to associate the unliked food with the liked food and will begin enjoying it on its own. This type of pairing increases the likelihood of acceptance of an unliked food.
  • De-bittering: Raw vegetables are bitter and some people hate this. You can de-bitter them by adding sweetness or fat. She calls this the “coffee principle.” Coffee is bitter but people drink it. Why? Because they add sugar (sweetness) and fat (cream). Roast vegetables to bring out sweetness or add fat (olive oil, cheese, yogurt, etc.)
  • Brighten: You can brighten the flavor of vegetables without adding salt by adding an acid like vinegar, citrus or yogurt. For Italian food, add balsamic vinaigrette. For Mexican, add a squeeze of lime. For Middle Eastern food, add yogurt.
I loved this presentation and thought Blatner did a great job laying out a healthy eating plan without scaring away or alienating people who still want to eat meat but still promoting a plant-based diet. Hope these notes are useful!

11 thoughts on “Realistic Achievable Wellness

  1. These suggestions would be really helpful for some of my friends who are interested in cutting back on meat – I just might share! and the part about umami and vegetarian foods which are “meatier” was really interesting for me as a vegetarian.

  2. This is awesome. I’m a vegetarian, but I’ve always felt that it was an unachievable goal to try and get the world to stop eating meat. However, I think convincing people to eat *less* meat is much more possible. Better for your body, better for the planet. Also, factory farms exist because they are the most practical way to produce such massive quantities of meat. If there was a much lower demand (and higher demand for ethically/healthfully raised meat), it would be much more feasible for factory farms to be replaced by “real” farms. So… better for the animals, too. Good post :)

  3. this was great! thanks for sharing this informative post for those of us who couldn’t go to HLS.

    p.s. i just adopted a cat a couple weeks ago. as a lifelong “dog-person,” i have to say that this was not only a great decision, but that i’m in love.

  4. Absolutely awesome write-up. I’m flexitarian (verging on vegetarian) and am working on getting my husband to eat more vegetables and less meat. The strategies and tactics detailed in this post are very helpful to my efforts. Thank you!

    • Heheh, I hear you on that one! My boyfriend has been pretty supportive, but I’m the only cook in the household and he’s played the poor-deprived-and-hungry-boy card a few times. My (loving) advice to him has been to learn how to cook!

  5. Awesome summary/notes Katie! I loved Dawn’s presentation on Flexitarians too. I definitely think this accurately describes what I am and haven’t been able to define. Love it :)

  6. Wahoo! I became a flexitarian about two months ago – after realizing I hadn’t had any meat in over a week because I actually just really love veggies. :) So far, I’ve been a vegetarian-flexitarian … haven’t wanted any meat. Honestly, the longer I’ve been doing this, the grosser meat sounds – but I also like not being boxed in. Juuuuuust in case I want some Christmas ham, ya know?!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>