Obesity is rampant in America, as most of us are well aware, as well as diabetes, cancer, and a slew of other illnesses. Without a doubt, you have someone in your family, a friend, a coworker, a neighbor, or possibly it’s even you yourself, that is struggling with weight and a desire to feel vibrant and healthy. Everyone would love to feel truly alive and capable day in and day out, right? While working out helps burn calories and boost metabolism, what is the underlying issue in nearly every circumstance? Diet. Here I am going to give a few tips on healthy fats to include in your diet – no matter what your goals are. I’ll include a dinner recipe and also offer my newest smoothie concoction that will cater to your sweet tooth, yet contains just a few basic, plant-based, nutrient dense ingredients.
When I was in college chemistry classes (amongst countless meat eaters), the attention would inevitably turn to me whenever talk of protein consumption or balanced, healthy meals came up. At the end of the year, the class was divided up into groups, with each group assigned to prepare and bring a food dish for the end-of-the-year potluck. The catch was that each group’s food item had to fit into an assigned category of one of the following: lipid, carbohydrate, or protein. My group was assigned lipids, and despite knowing that every fat is a lipid, yet not all lipids are fats, we chose to use avocados as our source of lipid. We opted for guacamole with onion, tomatoes, cilantro, lime, and pepper. It was basic, but it was the first dish gone in the class—and the only one I ate! Our instructor raved about some chocolate chip cookies that were made, but was sure to point out that of all the foods brought to class, the guacamole was the healthiest. So, why did I tell that story? Because, even in a class full of budding scientists/chemists, dietitians and nurses, there remained much confusion on what was truly healthy and why.
We know avocados are a great source of fat, and to consume them in moderation, but what are some other really great sources of healthy fats? Flax seeds, chia seeds, and raw, unsalted nuts are my top choices. Raw nuts are better than roasted because the fats change in the roasting process (due to the heat/temperature), causing them to be higher in trans fats, which we should avoid. Flax and chia seeds are high in Omega-3s—the fats the FDA swears by, encouraging everyone to consume chicken eggs to obtain a balance in their diet. I really want to cover this thoroughly because I know a lot of vegetarians or people phasing out their consumption of animal products are torn on why eggs aren’t good for their health and why they aren’t included in a vegan diet. The argument often comes up that eggs can be purchased from a local, organic, grain-fed, free-range farm and the animals aren’t harmed during the process.
I also want to talk about the “local, organic, free-range” spiel: I respect and admire those who can buy all local, organic ingredients, as it truly is better for the environment than accruing food miles by buying food from other countries and so forth. Unfortunately, buying any kind of animal product, or byproduct, directly adds to the methane problem at hand. Furthermore, a quick debriefing on “free-range” chickens—they are still in confinement, unless the farm is a very small, local farm, the chickens are trapped in 2 sq. ft. cages. Now then, the act of buying any life form, it is hierarchy to put a dollar value on a life, and who truly has that power? Lastly, did you know? Eggs contain 187mg of cholesterol and 8% of saturated fat? But, the food guidelines say not to consume more than 300mg of cholesterol in a day! If someone eats two eggs a day, they’re already over their daily intake limit. My suggestion? Nix the eggs and go for the seeds and nuts.
My favorite way to eat chia and flax seeds is in smoothies because they blend up well, and create a gelatin-type consistency when they hit liquid—which is why they are perfect for baking and replacing eggs! Raw nuts are delicious by themselves, but if you’re like me and you enjoy nut butter on a rice cake or in your oatmeal, raw cashew or almond butter is a perfect solution.
While there are of course other categories to cover, I feel like fats are the most misconstrued and confused food group, and I hope I was able to shed some light on them for you to use and apply to your next grocery shopping trip!
I love Thai food, but eating out is costly and high in fats and salt, and can be tricky to be sure they get your order just right if it’s not a vegan restaurant. “Can I have the pineapple fried rice with no egg, no shrimp paste or fish sauce, with tofu and veggies, please?” It’s just a gamble we can avoid by recreating our favorite dishes at home.
Here is my version of pineapple fried rice sans concern for possible animal consumption:
Brown jasmine rice-prepared as package states, with 1-3 star anise
Green lentils- same as rice cooking instructions. I seasoned with cumin, ginger, & turmeric
While these are on the stovetop, dice up your veggies. I used bell pepper, onion, garlic cloves, cherry tomatoes, fresh pineapple, and, if you’re carb loading or not on a strict meal plan, sweet potatoes (these will also need to be on the stove top to soften while boiling for a bit)
Blanch the onion and garlic with water and seasoning, then add rice and lentils and other veggies to the pan, add water as it “fries” up! Squeeze fresh lime on top and eat up!
Carob or raw dark cacao nibs
Vanilla powder and cinnamon
1-2 scoops of Vega Mango Smoothie powder
Deliciously healthy, and not nearly as much of a guilty pleasure as say a non-dairy ice cream or vegan cupcake!