Bigger Than Biceps: Thoughts on eating more vegetables

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Last week I was invited to learn about a local group called FoodFit Bennington, which focuses on teaching the public about a healthier lifestyle under nutrition, exercise and cooking. I sat at a table with about a dozen other ladies who came from different backgrounds. The stories they shared about their experience with food was not similar to mine. I shared insight on products they hadn't heard of and they talked about recipes that made my mouth water.

Most said the class caused them to eat more vegetables than they normally did. They were mostly "meat and potato" gals. As someone of Irish decent, I'm with them on the potato part.

One of the interesting things I took out of the 12 week class curriculum was that red meat was rarely incorporated into the recipes. There was black bean soup, bean burgers, fish and grain burgers, yogurt-based chicken, marinated tofu, grain bowls, and many others.

I didn't get down to the reasoning behind why they focused more on veggies, because I already knew from my learning of food sources and with the help of journalist Michael Pollan that they're incredibly beneficial to the diet.

There are a few reasons to invest in a plant-based diet: health issues, ethics, or simply because you don't like the taste or texture.

When I was younger, around 12 or 13, I got involved with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and tried to be vegetarian. From what I can remember, I did it for one month, fell off the wagon, got back on for three months, then stopped. I had a friend who did it with me, which helped. I also wasn't into eating meat at that age, and didn't know the difference between chicken, pork, beef or turkey. I lived in Maryland during the summers and my aunt couldn't deal with the fact that I had a different diet than everyone else. She cooked me eggs every morning and fish every night to ensure I still got my protein.

Needless to say I got sick of fish and fell off the boat. However, I'm old enough now to credit my values for more than liking or disliking food, but to stay true to beliefs.

Pollan's tagline for anything food is "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." He wants you to eat things you can grow and care for yourself or things you can meet the person who grew it. That's not to say farmers don't have animals to provide meat from, but, plants have more to offer the human body. They're rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and contain disease-fighting properties that can't be duplicated in a laboratory, according to his book "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" (2008).

Animal protein generally is higher in saturated fat and cholesterol, and sometimes added hormones, antibiotics, bacteria, parasites and carcinogens, according to One Green Planet. Not all animal protein is alike, but by reducing meat in my diet, I'd like to have a lesser chance of getting cardiovascular disease.

Yesterday I hadn't planned out my day's meals as accurately as I would have liked due to traveling, but it worked out that I didn't have meat all day. This is something I've been wanting to latch on to after seeing Women's Health Magazine use the hashtag #MeatlessMonday on Instagram. From now on, I'll make that effort and decrease my love for bacon wrapped things. As it is, I tend to lean toward turkey or chicken only, but I vow to branch out into the veggie world.

— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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