30 Day Mediterranean Challenge
Andrea Moxley aka Deedee is ASHA's Associate Director, Multicultural Resources. She is passionate about health and wellness and from all outward appearances balances this well with being a busy mom and a long commute. She was enthusiastic when we announced our Mediterranean Challenge because she saw it as very doable to enjoy a vegetarian Mediterranean diet. I asked her to share her thoughts with all of you.
|Deedee with her parents after her first half-marathon|
In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to share a few things up front.
2) I first became a vegetarian when I was 16. At that time, I did not eat fish, nuts, seeds, tofu or eggs. I would eat beans or dairy, which was my only, limited, source of protein. I both taught and took martial arts every day but Sunday. I ended up in the hospital when I was 18 because I was not getting enough protein. The doctor advised me to either become a better vegetarian or eat meat. The precooked meals at college made it pretty difficult to get enough food, so I ate a burger that night and introduced protein back into my life.
3) I slowly stopped eating meat again around 2002. I do consider myself to be a vegetarian. I never eat anything that had legs and used to walk. Once or twice a month, I will eat fish or eggs, though they are not my preference. I rely on beans, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, Greek yogurt, tofu and an occasional soy product to balance out my protein needs.
4) I continue to exercise quite a bit. I enjoy any thing that gets me punching, running, lifting weights and Pilates. I will do yoga, Zumba and spinning for cross training purposes. I have some 5Ks and a 10 miler coming up this summer. I like a challenge, so I also plan on getting my feet wet by doing a triathlon, even though I do really hate to swim. (Now I really have to do it because I am telling everyone.)
5) I use the word “diet” to talk about the foods that I eat. Not to reflect that being a vegetarian is my version of being on a diet.
With those disclosures in mind, it might come as no surprise that I am always looking for new ways to balance what I eat and make certain that I get enough protein to support my workouts. I can’t participate in many of the fad diets. No carbs is no go. Atkins, South Beach and Paleo would be ridiculous for me to try and do. (Disclosure #6, I get really mean if I don’t eat protein.) I suppose that Sugar Busters is realistic, but I really do like to eat sweets. I would like to believe that a jellybean is a bean and, therefore, a reasonable source of protein. No interest in that one.
So, I have to admit that I was exited when I saw that ASHA was going to be doing the Mediterranean diet. I read the Sonoma Diet and realized that it mostly how I choose to eat after many years of doing the wrong things. It is a non-restrictive way that does not require measuring, but rather a focus on the quality of the food that you put in your body. The beauty of this particular diet is that there aren’t a lot of accommodations or modifications that are required for someone who is a vegetarian. There are a number of protein sources that are not animal based. This is true of any diet. The difference with this one is that you can eat carbs, just not the white-floured, really yummy, not good for you kind. The whole grain kind that gets you super full because they are really good for you and also really good for carb loading before races or extra grueling boxing class.
There are great lists of vegetarian protein sources readily available, so I don’t feel a need to rehash. Most often, I find that people want to know how I manage the day-to-day protein needs. So here goes. It isn’t the only or best way, but my way. These are just some of the basics. I often try to eat many times a day and have multiple sources of protein in lunch and/or dinner.
1) Breakfast—Either Greek yogurt or whole grain bagel with almond or peanut butter. I will eat eggs (about three times last year). I am not a big fan.
2) Salads—Like Elaine on Seinfeld, I like big salads. My big salads are not a side item, but my appetizer and primary meal. If I am going to add protein, I will typically add nuts, seeds or some cheese. I love to toast the seeds and nuts. It gives a richer flavor and adds texture to the salad.
3) Sandwiches---Love to add avocado and spinach to almost any sandwich that I have. That usually alone isn’t enough protein, so I make sure that I have some hummus or some nuts with that so that I don’t get extra cranky.
4) Hot meals—Probably the hardest for me to get my protein in. My protein often depends on what type of cuisine I am eating. With pasta, I add toasted pine nuts with some cheese. For stir-fry, I opt for tofu. For tacos, fajitas and chili, I typically substitute black beans. I struggle the most with the meat and potato types of meals. In a pinch/when pressed for time, I will do a soy product. However, recently, I have not been able to tolerate soy. Wegman’s and Trader Joe’s have some great prepared meals that are not soy that can help you out for those days that you are in a hurry. My recent favorite is the edamame and tofu nuggets from Trader Joe’s. They are highly addictive and TJ is sold out right now. I am stalking them out.
5) Snacks—I love to snack. Nuts, Kind bars for my days that I need a lot of protein. Hummus or Laughing Cow cheese for days with lower protein snacking needs. Dark chocolate for days that I just don’t care.
I am not the only staff member who is a vegetarian. A number of us on staff are. We have a discussion group in the community that I am pretty sure you could join. We eat what we love and we do love food. So, feel free to ask us for recipes.