JennyLee Molina is a vegan influencer, entrepreneur, and mom. For years, she fell prey to the Standard American Diet (SAD) where she chose convenience over health like many other Americans –– until she found out she was at risk of contracting a chronic illness. In an effort to save her health, she implemented a vegan lifestyle immediately after her prediabetes diagnosis, a condition that impacts 1 in 3 individuals in the United States. Not only did she successfully reverse her prediabetes, but also brought her cholesterol and triglycerides to healthy levels while losing over 80 lbs. Now, she uses her platform @jennyleeisme to inspire others to incorporate lifestyle changes and regain their health with a plant-based diet.

The Beet chatted with JennyLee, where she talks about her health journey, the steps she took to cultivate a plant-based diet, and what inspired her the most along the way. Let her words inspire you to optimize your health and nourish your body by filling your meals with delicious plants!

The Beet: What made you decide to go vegan?

JennyLee Molina: My vegan lifestyle began during my pregnancy in 2010. I was first exposed to vegetarianism when I picked up “vegetarian prenatal multivitamins” at the grocery store. I had no idea multivitamin gummies contain gelatin, which is made from animal bones. I started paying more attention to what I ate and attempted to educate myself with nutrition while I was expecting. One day, right when I was about to eat eggs with meat for breakfast, I realized it totally disgusted me out. This incident first sparked my aversion to meat products but it took a long journey to become a vegan.

TB: Can you tell us the story — we are so grateful you are sharing your health journey.

JM: Throughout my pregnancy, I attempted to avoid meat as I figured it just did not fit right with my body. However, it was super difficult as I come from a culture where the majority of meals have meat and dairy. I was not equipped with the knowledge and support to go vegan so for a while – even after my pregnancy – I just stuck to my old ways of eating meat and processed foods. I started gaining a lot of weight and treating exercise as a luxury instead of making it a part of my daily routine.

All of this was taking a huge toll on my health and my physician soon recommended I get labs done. When I got my results, I found myself facing a sobering reality. At only 35, I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. I was suffering from sleep apnea and I had high triglycerides and high cholesterol. I was obese and I had also grown complacent. I soon realized that this was not a surprise looking at my existing diet and sedentary lifestyle but I had the power to change the course of my health for the better. All of these health problems were my wake-up call to optimize my own health and wellbeing.

TB: How did you change your lifestyle?

JM: In the span of 7 months, I completely reversed my prediabetes, lowered my triglycerides and cholesterol, and improved my sleep apnea. I started with small changes, such as opting for a fresh green smoothie instead of a glass of sugary juice. I cut processed foods out of my diet and started eating more whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Additionally, I gave up my sedentary lifestyle and became a “gym rat” where I now workout daily to stay fit. Somedays I felt like going back to my old days, but my self-love and motivation to get better propelled me to keep going. I have lost over 80 lbs and still keep slaying my goals!

TB: What did your doc say? Some can be skeptical that a plant-based diet can be powerful medicine.

JM: Prior to my transition, my doctor suggested I have weight loss surgery to lose weight. However, I disapproved of his recommendation and focused on improving my weight with lifestyle changes instead. Seven months later, my doctor was super shocked when I visited him after my transition. I got re-tested and found out all of my levels (blood sugar, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol) were normal. He was glad to see I completely changed my habits and continues to encourage me to maintain this healthy lifestyle!

TB: What steps did you take to transition to a plant-based diet?

JM: I was a busy, entrepreneur mom when I initiated my plant-based lifestyle. I was not available to cook dinner every night so I ended up ordering a local plant-based meal delivery service on the weekdays. I always tell people that if they are busy, they should find someone to cook healthy meals for them instead of compromising what they eat. It is easy to turn to convenience food when you’re busy, but prioritizing what you put in your body will be beneficial for good health in the long-run.

I also started cooking a lot of my favorite meals “plant-style” by swapping out the meat for beans or removing the meat altogether. For instance, in my Cuban culture, Frijoles Colorados (red beans) is generally prepared with meat, but I prepare it with tons of veggies instead. With these small adjustments, I am able to enjoy my favorite comfort foods without incorporating traditional animal products. Moreover, I found that becoming vegan wasn’t super expensive as I would buy beans, lentils, and frozen vegetables in bulk. These ingredients are still the base of the majority of my meals, combined with tons of herbs and seasonings.

TB: How did your family react to this?

JM: I definitely received a lot of support from my family because they saw how much a vegan diet improved my health. Whenever I visit family, they always make sure that they have prepared some type of vegan food for me to eat. My mom is not even plant-based, but she makes the best veggie sandwiches. I also inspired a lot of family and friends to adopt healthy lifestyle changes based on my actions alone. For instance, my husband was inspired to start working out more. I continue to use my voice and platform for change to empower others in adopting lifestyle changes and regaining their health.

TB: How do you eat now?

JM: I think I have surely expanded my palate and opened my eyes to a diverse variety of new foods since I became vegan. I don’t eat a lot of white rice, but I eat a lot of legumes and whole grains such as quinoa and lentils. Every day, I will aim to eat at least one huge green salad with tons of veggies and protein. My favorite dressing for that salad generally consists of liquid aminos, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and fresh hummus. I also try a lot of new plant-based restaurants and cafes in the area to taste different plant-powered meals.

TB: What is your typical breakfast, lunch and dinner, and snack?

Breakfast: I usually have an almond milk cafe con leche and avocado toast with sprouts.

Lunch: I usually have my big green salad with some chickpeas or other beans.

Dinner: I usually have a veggie stir-fry with brown rice or quinoa.

TB: What advice would you give someone who is considering going plant-based?

JM: I would say to do research to learn more about a plant-based diet. I think there’s a lot of great movies and documentaries that helped me go vegan, like Game Changers. There’s also a lot of great social media accounts out there that inspired me, such as @plantbasedgutdoc and @plantbasedrd. You may not have any friends and family that are vegan, but you can cultivate an empowering community online.

TB: What words do you live by? Do you have a mantra?

JM: I am all about loving your food and loving your life. I understand food is fuel but I am a foodie first. You don't have to eat what you don’t like to be healthy. By incorporating healthy foods into your life, you are going to love your life more.

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