With the onset of COVID-19, words and phrases like “immune-boosting” and “eat for immunity” became hyper-prevalent as people around the world set out to do what they could to avoid a coronavirus diagnosis.
Collectively we saw on a grand scale that health is not something to take for granted. This is a lesson my husband, Jamie, and I both learned in our early 20s, albeit under different circumstances. We both have family histories fraught with heart disease. I was 21 years old when I received the news that my dad died from a massive heart attack. He was only 48 years old.
It was a startling wake-up call that he walked out of a grocery store alive, and, within seconds, wasn’t anymore. Struggling with the stress of his death and my own health issues, I decided to pursue the study of functional nutrition to learn how to support my body more dynamically and help others do the same.
Both of our fathers were self-proclaimed “meat-and-potatoes” men. In fact, Jamie’s dad, a physician here in Oklahoma, was staring down a similar, life-threatening story. But he lived to have the option to choose a different ending. He chose to follow a whole-foods, plant-based diet, avoided triple-bypass surgery and reversed his heart disease. His choice opened Jamie’s eyes to the fact that he wasn’t confined to his genetics, that his actions and choices hold power.
Thus began his pursuit of plant-based cooking and eating. Our stories merged in 2011 at a plant-based culinary academy located in OKC at the time. We shared a convicting passion for plant-based eating and bonded over the fact that we were both looking to steer our health stories in a different direction.
We started Nourished Food Co. in 2012 with the goal of helping other people feel better in their bodies through food and lifestyle habits. We opened our food spot, Nourished Food Bar, in 2014 to make plant-based/allergen-friendly eating more accessible to our community.
The past year has brought to light the importance of taking care of our bodies. Particularly, taking care to strengthen our immune systems and overall health as we navigate the complexities brought on by COVID-19.
You may not be ready to take the full leap to vegetarian or plant-based eating, and that’s OK. There are plenty of benefits to simply adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes to your current eating habits. Here are a few ways to incorporate and sustain more plant-based eating in your life:
- Build a plate that is more proportionately focused on plants. You don’t have to be full-on plant-based to benefit from eating more plant foods. Plants are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all of which support your body on a cellular level. They reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, support a strong digestive system and help you maintain a healthy weight. All these perks are key to long-term health. Load your plate with vegetables, whole grains, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds first. Then, treat any meat or other dish you’re serving as the side dish.
- Cook a plant-based meal once a week. Sometimes it’s the unknown that makes trying something new seem so overwhelming. So building plenty of practice into your cooking routine can soften any stress you have. Make a fun event for yourself and your family. Meatless Monday is a collective movement with plenty of inspiration for cooking and conversation around it. If three meals feel difficult, start with one meal and build from there!
- Add colorful, hearty salads to your lunches and dinners. It’s safe to say most people know eating vegetables is important. Yet, I want to put extra emphasis on the power of leafy green vegetables that make up a bountiful salad. They are rich in minerals that help keep our bodies strong and fortified. They’re packed with fiber, which helps keep our bodies detoxified. They are abundant in antioxidants, which help keep our immune systems resilient and dynamic. Salads do not have to be boring or bland. Our salad line-up at Nourished Food Bar is full of bright, flavorful salads that will inspire salad lovers and non-salad lovers alike. You can grab a few to stock your fridge for the week or use them as a source of inspiration for your own creations!
- Incorporate plenty of good fats Most plant-based foods are inherently low in calories but loaded with fiber and other nutrients. It’s important to add healthy fats to your meals, like avocado, nuts and seeds or coconut, to increase satiety.
- Find plant-based alternatives to use in place of
things like milk and cheese. There are plenty of dairy-free alternatives on the market and it’s important to find options you and your family enjoy. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor and texture in the name of health. Jamie has been perfecting our aged cashew cheese for nearly a decade, and we’re proud of the products he’s created. As one of our customers shared: “I’ve been eating vegan cashew cheeses for over 20 years, and yours is the best I’ve tried!”
- Assess your mindset. Think about what you’re gaining instead of what you’re not eating. When you start to really look at the nutritional profiles of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains, it’s hard not to marvel at all they have to offer! The more you know, the easier it is to get enthusiastic about bringing them to your table more often.
- Focus on the benefits. Finally, think about how those benefits will impact your life: More energy to be present with your family, improved total-body health, a greater ability to focus, easier weight management, less inflammation … these are only a tiny taste of what eating more plant foods can offer.
If you’d like more inspiration, ideas and encouragement for adding more plant foods to your lifestyle, connect with me on Instagram . If you’re interested in getting into the scientific about the power of plant-based eating, Jamie’s dad and his wife offer free educational seminars packed with research and tips. Find details about their upcoming events here or check out their Instagram, which is filled with accessible ways to eat more plant-based.
Lindsey is a certified functional nutrition coach, mama and co-owner of Nourished Food Bar. She shares food and health education, reflections and recipes on her blog lindsconway.com. She writes a seasonal cooking column for Edible OKC and provides daily inspiration and thoughts on health on Instagram.
photos by Ramsey Walcher Photography