Dawn Jackson Blatner tells us how to become a vegetarian the 21st century way.
Host: Gloria Tsang, RD
Guest: Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN
We know the many health benefits of eating a plant-based vegetarian diet. In fact, vegetarians live 3.6 years longer than meat eaters. So you want to become one, but don’t want to eat cardboard soy products everyday? You are not alone. Nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of the Flexitarian Diet, is here to tell us how to become a vegetarian the 21st century way.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Welcome to the Nutrition Tidbits Podcast. This is Gloria Tsang, Editor-in-Chief for HealthCastle.com. We know the many health benefits of eating a plant-based vegetarian diet. In fact, vegetarians live 3.6 years longer than meat eaters. So you want to become one, but don’t want to eat cardboard soy products every day? You are not alone. Joining me today is nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of the Flexitarian Diet. She is here today to tell us how to become a vegetarian the 21st century way. Thank you for joining me Dawn.
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN: Thank you for having me.
Gloria Tsang, RD:Now, I am always confused with all the vegetarian terms, such as vegans, lacto-ovo, etc… Now we have a new term called flexitarian? Tell us what it really means.
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN: This is basically two words put together – flexible plus vegetarian so you get the word flexitarian. This is a new way to eat that minimizes meat without excluding it all together. Why I live it is that you get the health benefits of being a vegetarian without having to give up meat.
Gloria Tsang, RD: So are you a vegetarian or a flexitarian?
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN: I’m a flexitarian and proud of it.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Now my grandma was a vegetarian, a strict vegan vegetarian. I grew up with tofu so I simply love soy products but I know that not everyone shares the same passion. Being a vegetarian is not about just eating soy products, isn’t it?
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN: Well you know what’s great about this book is really for people who have the tendency to want to eat more vegetarian foods but don’t know where to get started. In the first chapter where it talks about different food groups, I go through not only soy beans, but I go through all different kinds of beans, nuts and seeds you can put in your diet to replace meat but not necessarily exclude it all together.
Gloria Tsang, RD: What are some of the protein foods that you suggest to replace meat?
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN: To be a flexitarian, you can either be a beginner, advanced or an expert. If you are a beginner, you would have two meatless days per week. If you were advanced, you would have three or four meatless days per week. And if you were the expert, you would have five or more meatless days per week. Depending on how aggressive you are going to get, this would determine the types of protein you would have to start using. If you were to do it a couple of times a week, you might try garbanzo beans, black beans and maybe some almonds. If you are going full monty, you are going to have a lot more variety so you could try white beans, large lima beans, all sorts of different tofu’s and tempeh that are fun to try and experiment with.
Gloria Tsang, RD: We actually talked about the benefits of beans a few months ago. Many of our readers wrote to us telling us that beans are difficult to prepare. What are some of the easy steps that one should go about in preparing beans and legumes?
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN: The first very exciting thing about this book is that it’s 60% recipes because I know that people really want to learn how to prepare these foods. And the recipes only have five main ingredients so they are super easy. One of things that I think are overlooked and so convenient is using canned beans. Most are already to go. You just rinse and drain them and 40% of the sodium washes away. You can start putting them into stir-fry, pastas and pita pockets for lunch. It really is an amazing time saver that can easily get people eating beansand loving them in a convenient way.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Now please walk us through. For someone who has never been a vegetarian but has heard this interview and they want to become beginners like what you were talking about in your book, what are the steps that you can show us to become a flexitarian
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN: What is so great is you just open it up to a recipe, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, or even snacks, you can just start trying recipes. Or if you are looking for more structure, there is actually a five week official meal plan that you can follow. In five weeks, it will guide you in how to try all these different foods. Like a sample day that I enjoy is when I wake up, I will have a piece of whole-grain toast with sun nut butter, which is like sunflower seeds ground up with a green apple. A quick veggie burger for lunch with some guacamole. Then for dinner, I will have a cilantro, peanut stir-fry that has garbanzo beans instead of chicken or shrimp. For snacks, I like these salt and pepper pita chips that I make along with a chocolate mousse with tofu and raspberries, which is easy to make. It’s like a really fun choose-your-own-adventure and you can really go in there and try any of the recipes and start your journey.
Gloria Tsang, RD: I am interested to know if there is any evidence that a vegetarian or an occasional vegetarian actually weigh less?
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN: Yes. Many of the research studies done have shown that even people who call themselves vegetarians are really flexitarians in disguise. Only about one in three people who call themselves a vegetarian really is a vegetarian. Most people who follow this flexitarian lifestyle. When you look at flexitarians, or people who eat a plant based diet, they weigh 15% less than their meat eating counterparts. How I put that into perspective is the average woman in America weighs 165 pounds, so if she was a flexitarian, she would naturally weigh 25 pounds less.
Gloria Tsang, RD: That’s amazing. Thank you for joining me Dawn.
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN : Thanks so much for having me.
Gloria Tsang, RD:We have been talking to nutritionist, Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of The Flexitarian Diet. For more healthy tidbits and information about this show, go to HealthCastle.com.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.