Going vegan for lent

All Woman

DEAR DONOVAN,

I am interested in adopting a vegan or semi-vegan diet for the remainder of lent. Can you provide a week's meal plan that would help me make the transition? I will still eat seafood, but want to eliminate dairy. I am not overweight and have no health issues, I just want to eat cleaner for the next several weeks. I am 35 years old and 5ft 8, weighing in at 160lbs.

I would definitely support the idea of doing a semi-vegetarian, or in your case, a pescetarian diet for the remainder of lent. I have been a lacto-vegetarian for over 30 years and I must tell you the benefits have been tremendous! Vegetarian diets continue to increase in popularity and several reasons given for this include health benefits and religious beliefs.

In the strictest sense, a vegetarian diet is one which only makes use of foods from plant sources. However, modified vegetarian diets may be adopted depending on what foods are included or excluded from the diet. For example, a lacto-vegetarian diet will exclude meat, fish or eggs from the diet, but will include dairy products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter. An ovo-vegetarian diet will include eggs along with the basic vegetarian diet. The pescetarian diet allows fish and other seafood along with plant-based foods.

I must tell you that a vegetarian diet, properly planned, is a healthy way to satisfy all your nutritional needs. Several studies have been done which highlight the benefits of a vegetarian diet. These include reducing the chances of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and some cancers. However, it is very important to note that some vegetarians, while cutting out meat and other animal products, may still be relying too heavily on processed foods which may be high in sugar, calories and even sodium.

It is important to consume a vegetarian diet which includes a fair amount of fresh fruits, vegetables, vegetable juices, whole grains and calcium-rich foods. In your case, to get the most of your semi-vegetarian diet, you should consume a fair amount of healthy, plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains, as well as your seafood. At the same time you should try and cut back or eliminate less healthy food choices such as fried foods, sodas, refined starches and sweet pastries.

Below is a meal plan that you can use for a week.

Breakfast (take one option)

(1) Steamed vegetables, eg, callaloo, with boiled food

(2) Two to four fruits

(3) Fruit shake with almond milk

(4) Cornmeal or oats porridge with almond or soya milk.

(5) 12 to 24 ounces of green juice.

Mid-morning snack (take one option)

(1) 12 ounces coconut water

(2) One fruit

Lunch (take one option)

(1) Steamed fish with vegetables and boiled food, eg, yam, green bananas, Irish potatoes

(2) Red peas stew with brown rice

(3) Red peas/fish soup (16 to 20 ounces)

(4) Tofu sandwich using wholewheat bread

(5) Ackee and saltfish with quinoa and raw vegetables.

Mid-afternoon snack (take one option )

(1) 12 ounces beetroot and carrot juice

(2) 12 ounces coconut water

Dinner

Same choice as lunch

In addition, make sure you are drinking enough water. Also, if you find that you are losing weight too quickly, you could always increase the portions of your meals.

Good luck.

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we'll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years' experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG's Nutrition and Wellness Centre, 39 Lady Musgrave Road. Call him at 876-286-1363. E-mail questions to clarkep@jamaicaobserver.com.

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