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Power in Plants 

Hi! I’m Karina, a pre-med student at Brandeis University and Dr. LaBonte’s office assistant. I’m also a full-time athlete, and with outdoor activities coming into full swing, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about how I fuel my body with a plant-based diet, on and off the field. Even if you don’t participate in strenuous physical activity, it can be hard to avoid drowsiness and feelings of weakness throughout the day as a vegetarian. In my experience, there are three main things to keep in mind to ensure that you can still bring your A-game with plant power.

Protein

The number one question I get asked as a vegetarian is: “How do you get your protein in?” And without chicken or beef, it is definitely more difficult to reach the recommended intake of protein, which is around 0.36 grams per pound of body weight for a healthy adult. Because of this, it is important to try to incorporate protein into almost every meal as a vegetarian, which can be as simple as including a tablespoon of peanut butter in your morning oatmeal, or a handful of nuts in your salad. Even your desserts can be enriched with protein by adding nuts to your banana bread or black beans to your brownies! Every little bit counts, and along with high protein meals and the occasional protein smoothie, getting your protein in is not an issue. Foods like beans, quinoa, and lentils are high in protein and easy to incorporate into salads, grain bowls, or any dish of your choosing, and with a little extra attention to protein intake, your body will have all the protein it needs to function at its highest capacity. 

 

Variety

Aside from pushing protein, it is important to explore your options and diversify your diet. Drinking the same protein shake every morning and having the same salad for lunch can get monotonous, and there are so many exciting options and meals to make without the use of meat. So much more variety exists for vegetarians outside of tofu and beans, and experimenting with new and exciting options is a good way to keep your body fueled and avoid reaching for filler foods and snacks, which can leave you feeling tired and more hungry in the long run. A good way to get variety in your diet is to make nourish bowls (sometimes called grain bowls) with new ingredients and with whatever you have on hand. With nourish bowls, you can incorporate greens, veggies, protein, fats, and carbs into a single meal, all while experimenting with different options and flavors. See this one-page handout for some ideas to build your next nourish bowl:  ACLM-Nourish-Bowls

 

Supplements

Lastly, it is important to not shy away from supplementing your diet with oral vitamins. This can be a game-changer in your energy levels and your overall feelings of wellness and are super easy to get into your routine. Multivitamins specific to vegetarians, such as the SmartyPants Vegetarian supplements, can help to cover all the bases, but individual supplements of iron, B12, and omegas are great to include as well. Having a supplement routine in the morning that works for you can help to provide that little boost of energy throughout the day and ensures that your body is functioning at its peak. Here is a list of the supplements I take in the morning, as well as the ones that are recommended by dieticians: 

  • B12
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Selenium
  • Iodine
  • Omega-3

Including these into your routine can help to reduce feelings of fatigue, and ensures that your body is getting all the nutrients it needs while fueling your body with plants.