Inspired by a potential confrontation on Facebook, as well as a discussion with one of my clients this week, I decided that I needed to come from a more compassionate and empathetic place in my communications regarding diet and nutrition.

In the interest of full disclosure, I eat a plant-based, whole foods diet (a.k.a. a vegan diet). It wasn’t always this way, however. It began in my teens, when I became subtly aware that the roast beef on my plate was once part of a cow. As I was always quite squeamish, these thoughts ultimately led to my decision to omit red meat from my diet. Later, after majoring in Biology in college, it became more difficult to separate what I was seeing on the dissection tray from the chicken and turkey on my plate, and it was then that I decided that poultry had to go as well. I held on to seafood for another several years until I got pregnant in my 30’s and became aware of the dangers of mercury (well, the real story is that a colleague who knew I was squeamish came into work with a fish he had caught and stuck it under my nose while I was on the phone), and then I decided to become a lacto-ovo vegetarian. I enjoyed my Feta cheese and mozzarella cheese the most, along with yogurt and egg white omelets. Then, two years ago, when I was spending my days with my Mom in the cancer ward at Johns Hopkins, where she was in the final stages of her 26-year-long battle with breast cancer, something inside spoke to me and told me I needed to cut all animal protein out of my diet. And the following year, just before I enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I read T. Colin Campbell’s book “The China Study,” in which he detailed his experiments that demonstrated that casein, a protein found in milk and dairy, could turn on cancer genes. That reinforced my decision to eliminate dairy from my diet, and also to take it out of the diet I was feeding my kids.

I do not, for one minute, believe that eating a vegan diet is a cure-all, or that it is something that everyone can embrace easily…but here is where I tend to get into trouble. I do truly believe that eating a plant-based, whole foods diet is something that would help the majority of people to feel and to look better and to live longer, healthier lives. Most people who have been enjoying meat for the majority of their lives bristle at the notion of a vegan diet. “It’s too restrictive…meat tastes good…what else is there to eat…vegetables won’t fill me up…I need protein” …these are just some of the objections. So I’m not going to try to convince the world that this is the way everyone should eat.

However, one thing I don’t think that anyone can debate is that vegetables are good for you. They are low in calories, yet packed with nutrients and antioxidants, not to mention fiber, and believe it or not, they also are a source of protein and minimal amounts of fat (but they don’t contain cholesterol). The USDA recently revised the Food Pyramid and created the MyPlate icon ( They recommend filling over one quarter of your plate with vegetables for a healthy meal. Another quarter of the plate is dedicated to protein, not specifically meat….and of course, my choice would be legumes or beans or a protein-packed pseudo grain like quinoa, but that’s my choice, not necessarily yours.

As a Holistic Health Coach, I work with clients who are trying to lose weight, feel more energetic, manage their blood sugar, control binges and cravings, and prevent disease. One of the key ways to achieve all of these objectives, I truly believe, is to incorporate more vegetables into the diet. Some clients struggle initially with this concept, as they are so used to relying on animal protein as the mainstay of every meal. But I work with them to show them how easy and delicious it is to eat their veggies. One of my favorite ways to teach them how to do this is to rely on what I call “The 5 S’s”: Soups, Smoothies, Salads, Sandwiches, and Stir-fries. Including at least two of these options, packed with veggies, in your daily menu will ensure that you will boost your nutrient density, and it will also help to crowd out some of the unhealthier options you may be accustomed to eating. The high fiber in these foods makes them filling and satisfying, and by supplying your body with the nutrients it needs, you will find that your cravings for high calorie, low nutrient options begin to subside.

When attempting to achieve lifelong change to improve your health and well-being, it’s important to acknowledge your starting point and implement modifications gradually. In this way, you will not feel deprived or frustrated; rather, your tastes will begin to adapt and your body will begin to respond in a way that feels comfortable.

If you are interested in having some support around making these types of healthy modifications to your diet, please fill out the Health History form on my website to schedule a complimentary consultation with me, either in person or by phone/Skype.