When it was posted to the Healthy Living Summit website that Dawn Jackson Blatner was going to be the keynote speaker, I got really excited. Dawn’s book, The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life was one of the first books I read when I decided to change my eating habits and become a flexitarian almost 3 years ago.
At the same time, what was she going to talk about? I know what flexitarianism is; its been in my tagline since the very beginning of Relishments. For those of you not in attendance or who haven’t been listening to me rant about this particular style of eating, "flexitarianism" is term for people with plant-based diets who occasionally eat meat. A lot of people at HLS were thrilled that their way of eating finally had a name, but I was wondering if I was going to be exposed to anything new. Sure enough, Dawn made it really clear that I didn’t know everything about being a flexitarian (not that I ever claimed to).
For those wanting to become a flexitarian, Dawn offered the following steps:
- re-portion your plate: emphasize produce and minimize meat
- reinvent your old favorites: make vegetarian chili or stir fry
- refresh your recipe repertoire: try new meat-free recipes
I think these steps make flexitarianism, or even vegetarianism, a realistic and achievable goal (another phrase borrowed from Dawn). I certainly didn’t go about it that way and I suspect my drastic and immediate switch to meat-free foods left everyone around me feeling like they had whiplash.
I also learned a lot of really interesting new facts from Dawn’s presentation:
- 1 ounce meat = 1/4 cup of beans – this should make both recipe substitutions and counting servings easier.
- some mushrooms are now vitamin D fortified (more about that here).
- adding acids will brighten the taste of dishes without adding salt. Acids include vinegar, citrus and yogurt.
- pitas are perfect for vegetarian sandwiches-it’s so hard to put beans between bread!
Dawn also talked about another thing I’d never heard of: flavor-flavor learning.
Basically, you combine foods you don’t like (beans) with foods you do (steak) and, over time, you’ll start to like beans on their own. It sounds really interesting to me; I’m thinking that maybe I should attempt it with beets.
I also appreciated Dawn’s simple suggestions for making a diet more plant based. It seems like I’m always going back to the same recipes and I rarely experiment with switching out meat in recipes that call for it. Dawn’s talk inspired me to be even more creative in my flexitarian meal planning.