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Plant-Based Eating Defined & Why it's Flexible for Everyone (Student Guest Blog)

I'd like to introduce Christina, our dietetic intern and future dietitian who is helping us with a series on a plant-based eating style.

Better yet, I will let her introduce herself:

Hi Everyone, my name is Christina Casper and I am a Sodexo dietetic intern with a concentration in wellness. I graduated from San Diego State University with my bachelor's in nutrition and dietetics and have 4 years of clinical experience working in skilled nursing facilities and hospitals alongside registered dietitians. With my focus on wellness I seek to help individuals find their path to create a healthy lifestyle that suits their needs. 

Without further ado here's Christina's two cents on a plant-based eating style:

"Many of us struggle with incorporating a variety of plant based foods into our meals and may not understand what actually constitutes a plant based diet. Plant based eating is associated with the ideas that one will have to eliminate their favorite meat or dairy foods altogether, however, that is entirely untrue. Maintaining a plant based diet simply means that one frequently eats a variety of plant foods. The benefits of plant based eating are plentiful for people of all ages, with or without the inclusion of animal products.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, simply increasing plant consumption to ⅔, about 65% of our daily intake we can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, reach and maintain a healthy weight, and help normalize blood sugars.

Perhaps the most frequent question or concern regarding plant based eating is

“How do I get enough protein if I’m not eating meat or eating less meat”?

Well we are here to tell you that meeting your daily protein needs through plants can be achieved no matter where you fall on the spectrum of plant based eating! You may have heard of the terms “incomplete proteins” and “complete proteins”. These terms come from the building blocks of protein called amino acids. Incomplete proteins refer to a food that lacks one or more of the 9 essential amino acids our bodies need. Alone, many plant foods are considered incomplete proteins, however they can be combined with a complementary plant protein to create a complete protein.

Incomplete Proteins:

Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)

Nuts & Seeds

Whole grains


Examples of such combinations may be a whole grain (whole wheat pasta or brown rice) with a legume (beans, chickpeas, lentils). Plant foods that are considered to be complete proteins include quinoa, and soy products such as tofu and tempeh. As plant based eating becomes increasingly popular, so has the concern for incorporating meals that provide complete proteins. When following a plant based diet it is important to recognize our protein sources such as whole grains, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy. By incorporating a variety of these plant proteins into your meals and snacks throughout the day, you can fulfill your protein needs.

When selecting plant based foods we want to be sure we are getting them in their most natural state when possible. This means purchasing and preparing whole fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, etc. rather than opting for many of the prepared vegan meals. Increasingly popular brands like “Impossible Foods” or “Beyond Meat” serve as meat alternatives, however they are still considered a processed food and may be high in sodium, fat and saturated fat, and contain additives. These foods should be enjoyed in moderation alongside a diet high in fresh plant based foods. Although we don't always have time or the utilities to prepare meals from scratch, it is important that we take advantage of the days we do have time, and save the quick frozen dishes for a night we don’t.

Some tips to consider when preparing plant based dishes:

  • Using whole or chopped frozen vegetables

  • Rinsing and draining a can of beans or chickpeas to put in a salad (also great for protein!)

  • Making home-made plant based patties using your favorite vegetables, beans, or quinoa (the varieties are endless!)

  • Use foods like onion, mushrooms and low sodium soy sauce to re-create the umami flavor found in traditional meat dishes.

  • Making whole grains in bulk and using them throughout the week (brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta)

If you are looking to modify your diet, seeking the help of a Registered Dietitian is a great place to start. Our job is to make sure you are seeking a diet that is sustainable for your specific lifestyle and ensure that you are getting adequate nutrients from a variety of foods you enjoy. For those who are interested in implementing a vegan diet may require assistance maintaining sufficient amounts of nutrients such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Calcium.

So next time you are at the grocery store, try picking up a new fruit or vegetable to add to your cart!"

Written by: Christina Casper, Dietetic Intern

Great job Christina! Stay tuned for a cooking demo she has in store for us for a yummy plant-based meal! Perfect timing now that there's a meat shortage!

Until Next Time,


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