The New Normal

Transition to mainly plant-based diet pays dividends

By Pauline DiGiorgio

veggie bowlsI’m approaching my fifth year working in the fitness and health industry.

I can confidently say that I have had my fair share of diet exploration. With the abundance of online resources out there, it’s a lot of noise when it comes to determining which way of eating is most effective when it comes to an active lifestyle.

Coming from a body building prep introduction in my earlier days, meat consumption was the norm.

I can confidently say that as I fast forward to the “now,” my new normal has cut meat, dairy and many animal products from my diet.

But why?

Since I lift three to four times a week and stress the importance of building and sustaining lean muscle, why would I turn to a diet that has no protein?

I’m here to bust that myth. Disclaimer, I am not a vegan; I simply have created a new normal for myself to consume mostly plants, thereby erasing the fear that I would lack the protein needed to fuel and recover from my workouts.

I’ve kept lean meats and yogurt, for now, at a minimum. Here are some facts that may benefit you on your journey to a cleaner, plant-based diet:

— First off, what I really enjoy about this new normal is pretty simple. Before, when I was planning out a meal, the first thought was always the choice of protein, typically like steak, chicken or fish. Now, this new normal has inevitably led me to rely on filling my plate heavily with other foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, beans, nuts and fruit.

So, because these foods make up the larger percentage of my diet, I’m consuming way more beneficial nutrients.

I know this because I’ve been tracking it on the app My Fitness Pal, which has indicated an increase in fiber, antioxidants, potassium, and lots of vitamins.

Not-so-obvious protein sources

— Another really surprising point to me is the amount of protein I’ve found in plant-based foods.

My favorite is my new obsession — chickpea pasta. It’s a super easy way to deliver some high-quality amino acids to your body and it packs 24 grams of protein in one 4-ounce serving. Plus, it’s so tasty with some red sauce and sauteed veggies.

I also really enjoy some whole grains like oats and quinoa, and there are some really great cereals on the market. Be sure to get a cereal that has no fillers or extra sugar add-ins and get a nice dose of your childhood favorite.

— Lastly, my digestive health has improved with a more focused vegetarian diet. It’s important to strive for balance and variety while avoiding foods that are high in trans and saturated fats and sodium.

What has filled my plate are mostly fiber-rich foods, and that has my stomach calm and happy. Most effective are leafy greens, asparagus, celery, green beans and Brussels sprouts. Be sure to cook all your veggies to make it easier for your body to break them down.

Also, the healthy fats really facilitate nutrients to be absorbed and metabolized. Avocado, coconut oil and raw nut butters are on rotation in my pantry.

These are anti-viral and are highly beneficial food for your gut. Blend up avocado, coconut cream, maple syrup, a pinch of sea salt, organic cacao and a few spoonfuls of non-dairy milk to create a vegan mousse.

Always feel free to send me an email at Ptlifts@gmail with any questions on plant-based eating.

• Pauline DiGiorgio is a local health and fitness enthusiast and creator of SPINN ‘N’ SCULPT. For question or comments, email her at