5 Vegan Nutritionists Share What Made Them Change Their Diets
Have you been toying with the idea of going vegan? Dabbling in plant-based living for a while but hoping to make a wholehearted shift? Still eating fish three times a week but you’ve ditched meat and dairy for good? No matter where you fall on the vegan-ish spectrum, kudos. But if you’re looking to take things one step further, these stories from plant-forward nutritionists may very well convince you to step away from the pizza and make it a plant-based ‘za.
1. I didn’t want to suffer from the same diseases that impacted mt loved ones.
Sometimes, the health lessons we learn don't come from books or research papers but from first-hand experience with loved ones. “Growing up in the rural south I watched through my teen years many family members diagnosed with chronic illnesses in what should have been the prime of their lives. Heart disease was the primary disease I saw plague my relatives which led me to want to understand my own genetic risks,” says Trista K. Best, MPH, RD, LDN, of Balance One.
“This research is the basis of my interest in nutrition and how food impacts our health. I knew that to decrease my risks I needed to address the factors I was able to control. To build a solid foundation I removed all animal products from my diet for many years and would now call myself plant-forward. I know by removing much of the saturated fat from animal sources from my diet and introducing a significant amount of plant compounds I am setting myself up for better health long-term and greater quality of life.” If you're looking for a jumpstart to changing your diet, read this guide on how to start eating a plant-based diet, in just three hours.
2. Sleep-away camp made me do it, since I could choose a vegetarian option
Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian in the New York City area shares her personal journey to a plant-first lifestyle: “When I was 18, I went to work at a sleep-away summer camp before starting college. For years, I’d thought about going vegetarian but had no idea how to execute a vegetarian diet. I’d tried over the previous year, but being a teenager living at home with my mom cooking most of my meals and me not knowing what [to request] for plant-based protein, it didn’t go so well,” says Gorin.
“That summer, I had the option of choosing a vegetarian meal plan, so I figured with someone else cooking and planning my meals it was now or never! Coincidentally, the day I decided this was also the day I saw the movie Chicken Run. Now, after being a strict vegetarian for many years, I follow a plant-based pescatarian diet. I eat plants at every snack and meal occasion, create plant-based recipes, and many of my clients come to me to help them figure out how to eat a plant-based diet.”
3. She was inspired by her favorite celebrity, lead singer of Panic at the Disco
“I stopped eating meat when I was just shy of 12-years-old. When I first stopped eating meat, it was primarily due to ethical reasons. I found out the lead singer of my favorite band (Brendon Urie, from Panic at the Disco) was vegetarian, which led me down a rabbit hole on the internet to learn more about the harsh reality and cruelty of the meat industry.
It's a bit comical nowadays when I mention that I made this major lifestyle change due to being influenced by a boy band, but it definitely makes for a good story,” reveals Tiffany Ma, RDN, “I then went on to study dietetics [as an] undergrad and learned more about the positive impacts a plant-based lifestyle could provide for both the environment and personal health. With all this newfound knowledge, I knew to transition to becoming completely vegan was the right move for my health, and for the beautiful earth we live on.”
4. These twins were athletes and wanted to up their game
“As kids, we were never big fans of eating meat for many reasons and we never felt great after we ate it. As we became more serious athletes and very interested in nutrition, we noticed that while we could run after we ate any food, we felt heavy and like we’d get sick if we ran after we ate meat and that just didn’t feel right to us,” share Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT & Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, The Nutrition Twins, weight loss experts & co-founders of the 21-Day Body RebootTM. “By the time we got to high school, our mom would serve organic, grass-fed beef once a week as part of our family dinner and we were expected to eat it.
One evening, Lyssie’s boyfriend came over just as we were dumping our meat down the drain behind our mom’s back and he spilled the news to our mom, who was not having it. On that day, we declared ‘NO MORE MEAT’ and wrote it on big letters across the calendar and haven’t had it since—and never looked back.” These days, many extraordinary athletes are plant-based, from vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke to Olympic gymnast, Aly Raisman.
If you’re also a runner, review our article on how to lose weight and fuel your runs on a plant-based diet from the “The Running Doctor.”
5. First came rescuing animals, then came health.
“I have been a vegetarian since I was 13 years old, so for nearly 20 years. I grew up loving nutrient-dense foods that came from plants. I began rescuing animals at around this age, which fostered the ethical part of my decision to go plant-based,” says Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD, and vegan blogger at PeaceAndNutrition.com.
“I became vegan as an adult after reading T. Colin Campbell's The China Study, during my dietetic internship. Since I was already consuming mostly vegan foods, the transition seemed like an easy and rational one. Dr. Campbell demonstrated with evidence-based research the role of following a vegan diet in preventing chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. At this time I was also running a non-profit animal rescue group and knew some of the horrors bestowed among animals. The vegan fit seemed like the only logical one,” she explains. For seven ways you’ll feel better after going plant-based, from energy to mood, read our article here.