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How to Enjoy a Healthy Plant-Based Diet

Lifestyle, wellnessMaría Elena RodríguezComment
how to have a healthy plant based diet

If you've ever decided to stop eating animals or even minimize your animal products consumption, you know the struggle is real. From going out to eat at restaurants, having dinner with the family and learning how to properly get all your nutrients, not because it's especially hard, but because we have to change our mindset completely. Seriously! It's like learning how to cook all over again! But the hardest part, at least for me, is explaining why I don't eat animals. And let me be clear on this: Contrary to what most people think about vegans and vegetarians, 99.9% of the time I don't start this conversation. People want to know why/how and for some weird reason, they feel entitled to give me all types of unsolicited nutritional advice *alternative facts* on why I should eat meat. And if I debunk their theory, they give me their favorite comeback: But plants also suffer when they're killed! (Insert the annoyed gif of your preference here)

I decided to stop eating all types of meats back in September 2017 (yes, right when Hurricane Irma and María hit us) and I promised myself I was going to go easy on myself, just so I didn't fail as I did a few years back. I made a deal with myself that if I wanted to eat chicken one day, I would, if I wanted to drink a latte with cow's milk, I would and if I wanted to eat a cupcake with cream cheese frosting, I would enjoy it without regret. But little by little I stopped craving animal products and started craving real whole foods, mostly because of how great I felt from the inside out every time I ate this way. Nevertheless, I still eat the ocasional egg or cheese, but I gradually crave it less. 

In a nutshell, I enjoy a plant-based diet because of health and ethical reasons. I feel amazing and my gut health is on point, if you know what I mean 💁🏻and just as I only endorse exclusively cruelty-free beauty products, I don't want to contribute to the suffering of innocent animals just for my pleasure. 

So after receiving so many questions about my new lifestyle, which had me actually questioning if I was doing the right thing, even though I have probably done the equivalent of research on the topic as a straight A student, I decided to interview the nutritionist Carla de La Torre from carlaminutricionista.com to know if the plant-based lifestyle is in fact, a healthy alternative. Here's the result:

Can you explain the main difference between a vegetarian and vegan?

Vegetarians exclude all meats, such as beef, pigs, fish and poultry, while vegans don't eat any of these, plus don't eat eggs nor dairy. You can be as strict or as flexible as you want, but obviously, the more strict you are, the more discipline and knowledge you need in terms of nutrition. You need to know how to complement your food so you don't have any nutritional deficiencies.

Instead of labeling ourselves as vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, etc, I like to use the approach of eating "more vegetables and fewer animals". That way we can little by little diminish our animal product consumption.

Is the vegetarian/ vegan diet healthy?

Without a doubt you can be healthy while eating an strict vegan diet. My master's degree tesis is about the Nutritional Habits for Resistance Athletes in Recovery, where I researched how you can recover your muscles without depending on whey protein, steaks, eggs but instead achieving this with quinoa, soy, hemp seeds, peanut butter and other grains. My research concluded that you can be an strict vegan, be a resistance athlete and not have any nutritional deficiencies nor performance problems. 

The only concern with the strictly vegan lifestyle would a B12 deficiency, since you can't find this vitamin in plants, but you can easily supplement it. Plus, even though you can get iron from plants, there is a risk of having an iron deficiency. That's why nutritionists give you the tools and strategies so you can have a healthy, delicious and cost effective plant based diet. I don't want you to only depend on super expensive and processed vegan foods! 

What are the main reasons someone should consider a Plant based diet?

I have three main reasons:

  1. Health - There are many studies that prove that eating meats, processed foods and eating a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol could cause obesity and can have a damaging effect in cardiovascular health and/or cause colon cancer.

  2. Ecology - Consuming animal products can significantly affect our carbon footprint. The amount of water and soil that is needed to satisfy our omnivorous diet is not sustainable.

  3. Animal Cruelty - A diet with more vegetables and fewer animals is obviously friendlier towards animals.

Instead of labeling ourselves as vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, etc, I like to use the approach of eating “more vegetables and fewer animals”.
— Carla de la Torre

What is the best way to start a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle?

The best way to start a plant based diet is to take it little by little. It is already difficult to eliminate animal products in terms of shopping, changing your recipes, eating out and taking care of our nutrition at the same time. This is why I recommend to start by eliminating the animal products that are worst to our health and go from there. Here's an example:

  1. Processed Meats (hams, sausages, etc) - In nutritional terms, these foods are horrible and they are tightly linked to colon cancer.

  2. Beef and Pork - These meats are also associated with colon cancer as well as other types of cancer.

  3. Poultry - You want to avoid all the hormones induced into these birds.

  4. Fish - I always recommend that you eat fish only two to three times a week and eat a mainly plant based diet every other day. If you stay here, you are considered a pescatarian. 

  5. Eggs and Dairy - If you eliminate these and all of the above, you are considered a vegan. If you only decide to eliminate these, you are a lacto vegetarian. 

You can also become a flexitarian. Most people like to stay here because it is easier in social terms, especially when going out to dinner with friends and make it easier on their family members who still eat meats. 

What If this elimination process doesn't work for someone?

Some people like more extreme or direct approaches towards a healthy lifestyle. In my website I have a section in which I divide a healthy and easy approach to each day of the week: Meatless Monday, No Sugar Tuesday, Colorful Wednesday, Fish Friday, Active Saturday and Delightful Sunday.

The great thing about this approach, specially Meatless Monday, is that it introduces veganism or vegetaniarism without intimidating people. Plus, by grocery shopping for each lifestyle, you will be little by little changing the way you cook and eat for yourself and your family. 

There's also the term "Vegan 'til 5" in  which your breakfast, lunch and snacks are vegan. But in the evening you let yourself eat animal products in order to be more flexible with your social life. 

It's so hard to explain the plant-based diet to older generations. Why do you think this happens?

A lot of people associate this lifestyle with nutritional deficiencies or food shortage, so eating meat is sort of a symbol of wealth. Eliminating meats from our diet is like going back in time in some societies. 

I see this a lot with mothers of teenagers that come to me because they don't approve of their son or daughter's decision of going vegetarian. I have to work with them and  sort of re-program their excess of repeated wrong information from generations before. That's why I love to educate people. 

Is it true that you don't need multivitamins if you have a balanced vegan lifestyle?

This is not a yes or no question, because we have to make some blood tests in order to really know. But in essence, in a well balanced plant based diet you shouldn't need anything more than a B12 supplement.

If someone has celiac disease, is it a good idea to go vegan?

healthy vegan lifestyle

Yes, if the condition is controlled in terms of vitamin absorption.  

A lot of people think that being plant based means not eating gluten also. Why do you think this happens?

Gluten has nothing to do with the vegan or vegetarian diet. Most of the hype around gluten is due to a lot of miss-information from people who want a low carb diet. 

Is it true that you should be careful with the oil intake in a vegan diet?

As long as they are healthy fats, such as avocado, coconut or olive oil, you should have no problem. You should also make sure the amount of fats your eating fit your daily macronutrients. 

What do you think about fitness apps such as my fitness pal and macronutrients?

I would highly suggest you leave this task to your nutritionist, since a lot of times these apps overestimate or underestimate your portions. You want this process to be enjoyable! It is difficult enough to eliminate meats while eating out or going to the supermarket. It is just too much information to process. 

When you go to a nutritionist, we will give you the right portions you should eat to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. 

What do you think about all the food industry documentaries on Netflix?

I think that it is a great way to create awareness among people who don't have studies in nutrition and who have no clue about the pharmaceutical industry. But I do believe that sometimes they create hysteria around these topics, even though they are speaking a lot of the truth. This is why some people may develop orthorexia which is the obsession with eating healthy. 

I think that they usually have a message of judging other people for eating the way they do and you have to be careful with this. I don't want people to feel excluded or rejected by the vegan community. I want them to feel welcomed and not intimidated by the movement. 


If you would like to know more about Carla de la Torre, you can visit her website carlaminutricionista.com. She has several plans to choose from, starting from $80 and they can be completely online! 

ambinity's Vegan Must Haves:

2017 in Review | The Best and the Worst

Beauty, Lifestyle, HealthMaría Elena RodríguezComment
best buys of 2017

This year was far from normal to say the least. From traveling to Europe for the first time, posting consistently once a week and surviving a devastating natural disaster. 2017 was intense, but it was all that I needed to check my priorities. 

I made some big lifestyle changes and some huge decisions along the way. It was transformative to say the least, but I couldn't be happier for the outcome. So here are the highs and lows that helped me get there:

Beauty

Bite Beauty Everyday Agave Lip Collection

As many of the products I discover, I discovered this one out of a whim. I always like using a nourishing lip balm after my nighttime skincare routine and before I fall asleep and this one has been perfect. It's a little expensive, but it's worth the splurge since a little bit goes a long way. 

You can read my initial review here.

Grab Bite Beauty Everyday Agave Lip collection here

 

OLEHENRIKSEN Transforming Walnut Scrub

ole henriksen walnut scrub

You all know my love for Ole Henriksen, but first thing first: This scrub STINKS! But boy does it work. If you can pass through the smell and are diligent about using this product at least once a week you will see the amazing results. 

You can read my initial review here.

Grab the Ole Henriksen Transforming Walnut Scrub here

 

tarte Tarteist™ Lash Paint Mascara

I have the most stubborn eyelashes. They are the hardest to curl and give some volume. But this mascara is doing her part on my lashes. Plus, it's buildable and perfect for those days when you want to give your makeup look that extra sultriness. 

You can read my initial review here.

Grab the Tarte Tarteist Lash Paint Mascara here. 

 

Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask

herbivore blue tansy

This is an effective but expensive mask. It smells great and it feels really luxurious. Plus, you will see the results right away. I've been using this mask before special occasions or if my skin is looking a little dull.

I talk more about this product here

You can buy the Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask here

 

Tarte Shape Tape Concealer

Just as I suspected, this concealer quickly gained holy grail status. The hype is real guys! If you suffer of dark circles like I do, this concealer will change your life. Just keep in mind that it's super full coverage, which is why I only use it for special occasions. For my every day I've been using the Wet N' Wild Photo Focus Concealer

You can read my initial review here.

Grab the Tarte Shape Tape Concealer here. 

 

Glossier Serums

glossier serums

I started using these serums after my sister raved about them so much. You all know my love for the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum, but since I've been leaning more towards more natural and less ingredients skincare I thought it was time to give these a try. 

These are definetely lighter than I thought and from my experience, you will start to see results after a week or so. The only downside is that it's 0.5 oz and for the price and for the price and daily usage, I don't think it's appropriate. Wishing they come out with a full 1oz and more cost effective packaging! 

Grab Glossier's The Supper Pack Serums here

 

Hello, World!

glossier perfume

If you follow me on Instagram you know I went to the Glossier Showroom in Chelsey, NYC this past November. I had no idea I would love this perfume, but once I smelled it, I knew it had to be mine. Some of you know that I've been really into warm and spicy scents this year and that is exactly what this smells like. But it's not basic at all. Am I explaining myself? Describing scents is so hard!

Anyways... you can grab the Glossier You Perfume here

 

All of the Nirvana Perfumes

Speaking about warm and spicy perfumes, Nirvana by Elizabeth and James stole my heart this year. From their deliciously sexy Nirvana Bourbon perfume to their new Nirvana Amethyst perfect for the holidays. If you want to captivate someone, try one of these perfumes. 

Grab a trio of Nirvana by Elizabeth and James Perfumes here

 

Rose Water Sprays

Notice that I wrote "sprays" not "spray"? That's because I don't care about the brand. I just love spraying rose water spray in my face. Does it make my skin any different? No. Does it make me feel like a queen? Absolutely! It feels like an added luxury to my skincare regimen.

Grab Mario Badescu's Rose Water Spray here

 

Too Faced Sweet Peach Eyeshadow Palette

too faced sweet peach palette

This is the only palette I've been using. I am not big on using eyeshadow, but when I do, I like some high quality, super blendable and long wearing shadows. The shades I love the most from this palette are Summer Yum and Luscious. Peaches 'N Cream is perfect for blending out at the end. 

Grab a Too Faced Peach Palette here

Lifestyle

Filofax

I come and go with planners and I have used dozens of them over the years. Even two at once. But I've come to realize that the best system for me is one where I can keep all my to-do's, calendar and notes in one place. Hence, the Filofax system. Again, I don't mind paying a little extra for effectiveness and this system lets me customize my pages and add or edit whatever I want throughout the year. This helped me stay on track with this extra crazy year! 

Running

It all started with a 5K race and it ended up being the biggest lifestyle change I've done in my life. I was never a runner, in fact, I hated running. But something inside me shifted once I raced that 5K. I even credit running for my mental health after surviving Hurricane Maria, but you can read more about that in my article at Merodea

Yoga

Where do I even begin with this? I believe I got hooked on yoga by accident. It was just a way of stretching after running, but once I noticed that I had no sore legs after doing yoga and that boost in endorphins, I knew I wouldn't go back! 

Going Plant-Based

I have been going back and forth with this topic for a while. But just in time when I began running and doing yoga I decided to give this a try one more time. It has been a challenge, specially after María, but I have never felt better in my life. Let me know if you would like to read more about my transition to veganism! 

Traveling

These past two years have been huge in traveling for me. But now, I'm in the middle of a huge life transition which is why I will probably be putting some of my vacation time on hold. But all these experiences were amazing and necessary for me. You can read more about this here

Fails

Louis Vuitton Neverfull 

This was in my bucket list since forever. After I purchased my pre-loved Speedy 30, I wanted the Nerverfull to complete my collection. Then Europe happened and I was able to purchase it for a much better price. But after I got it for a few months it didn't feel right. I didn't feel like I deserved it and after Hurricane María almost washed us off the map, I knew I had to give her up. 

It's not that I'm against luxury products now. I'm just more consciously aware of everything and I just wish to have things in my life that add value to my life and I definetely didn't feel that way with the Neverfull. 


We have been posting our favorite posts of the year on Facebook and Twitter so make sure you check that out.

Until next time, 

María Elena