Stacia’s Transition from Vegetarian to Whole Food Plant Based (video chat) + Toasted Garlicky Pumpkin Seeds
By Molly Patrick
Nov 23, 2019,
I recently sat down with meal plan subscriber, Stacia Van Linden to chat about her experience transitioning from a vegetarian diet to a whole food plant based diet. I loved our talk. I could really relate because before I switched to a whole food plant based diet, I was a life-long vegetarian. It wasn’t until I started basing my meals around whole plant foods, did I become super healthy and full of energy.
Here’s a note from Stacia before you watch our video chat.
I was a vegetarian for decades, subsisting mainly on convenience/processed foods (pizza, crackers, sandwiches, eggs) and/or restaurant meals. Though my cholesterol had been high for years, it reached 336 (!) by September 2018.
I was also classified as pre-diabetic, was overweight, and had angina symptoms. The cholesterol number terrified me. Immediate changes were needed, so I started a statin (which had been recommended for years but I refused because I didn’t want to take medication) and researched how to improve my cholesterol through diet. Eating and living a whole-foods plant based (WFPB) lifestyle is what I found.
I changed my diet, replacing many of the processed/convenience vegetarian choices with WFPB foods. I tried to quickly transition in stages, working to replace animal based foods and processed foods with more whole plant foods each week. In just three months (with a statin and dietary changes), my cholesterol dropped over 200 points. The statin helped, but I know I achieved a huge drop in numbers because of eating a WFPB diet.
It is now a year later and my numbers have continued to improve (cholesterol was 111 in September 2019). I have dropped some weight, and I am no longer considered pre-diabetic. My statin dosage has been cut in half; my goal is to get off the medication altogether, and I know I can reach that goal. I have now joined a gym and I am working with a personal trainer to lose body fat while increasing muscle mass. I feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I loved convenience foods because they gave me the freedom of time to do other things. I don’t enjoy spending time figuring out what to make, what groceries to buy and in what quantities, or how to cook or assemble things. Each of those steps felt overwhelming and time-consuming. That’s why the meal plans are such a relief. Ultimately, the brilliant bit is that the meal plans eliminate decision fatigue.
I read, print a grocery list, buy groceries, and follow the clear, easy instructions. It still takes me awhile to prep (I’m slow in the kitchen) but once I’ve invested my meal prep time, I then have a fridge full of WFPB “convenience” foods for the rest of the week! The food is not only beautiful, it is delicious.
I may vary the order in which I eat things each week (depending on my whim or how much time I have on a particular day), but all that is required of me is to look at my list and choose from among five meals, knowing I have everything right there in my fridge.
The meal plans give me a well-curated menu that makes it a joy to eat. And then I still have the freedom of time to do other things.
Stacia, thank you so much for chatting with me. I had a fabulous time talking with you. Keep kicking ass and fueling with plants!
Did you follow a vegetarian diet before switching to a whole food plant based diet? We would love to hear about your transition in the comments below.
- 1 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas / 120 g)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
- 1 1/2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
- Heat a skillet over low heat for 2 minutes (I like to use cast iron for this recipe). Add the pumpkin seeds in a single layer and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently so they toast evenly and don’t get too brown. The seeds should get a little dark but not super brown.
- Turn off the heat, add the garlic granules and stir.
- Add the soy sauce and stir with a flat spatula until all the seeds are coated in soy sauce and garlic granules. Your skillet might get a little sticky from the mixture – this is normal. Just stir everything up the best you can.
- Transfer the pumpkin seeds to a plate and let them cool. Store in a jar in your fridge and add them to salads, baked potatoes and bowls.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with adjusting as you go.
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I know about that time thing it drives me crazy
This is amazing and I’m so thrilled for you, Stacia! I have a similar story. I come from a long family history of heart disease. Every male in my family (both sides) has either had a heart attack, bypasses, transplants and/or is on some type of statin or blood thinner.
I went veggie in 1993 and never looked back. For many years, I assumed my blood was fine and yes, I admit to some feelings of superiority over my meat-eating relatives because I was so sure I was protected from their fates. I went vegan in 2001 and my sense of heart health superiority rose like LDL levels at an Outback Steakhouse. I’ve always been active, doing some kind of walking, running, hiking, Tae Bo and yoga. I took a home cholesterol test in 2006 and it didn’t register at all. After that (likely very wrong) test I blindly went around assuming that my cholesterol was totally cool and don’t even ask how my sense of vegan health superiority increased. I’ve never been judgmental of others for their food choices, I was just way over-the-top secure in my feelings of being 100% VEGANvincible.
Last year, I read the story on Facebook of a vegan man who had a heart attack and was totally taken by surprise. He had assumed the same things I had about heart health. It made me rethink what I thunk before, so I decided to get my first checkup in over 20 years, at 48.
I was shocked to find out that my blood pressure was borderline high and my overall cholesterol was a little over 200. My LDL was a little high and my HDL was on the low side. My doctor suggested meds and like Stacia, I was very hesitant. I declined.
Instead, I went home and thought about all the things I was doing that could possibly be affecting my heart health. I figured out a few humbling things:
1. I wasn’t exercising nearly as much I had been 12 years ago. Oops.
2. I was drinking more than I ever had in my life. Beer, wine, bourbon. Every day.
3. I was eating a lot of processed foods. My wife is an amazing vegan chef, but we still liked our Veggie Grill and processed vegan meats and cheeses.
4. I was consuming way more oil than necessary, mostly hidden in the processed foods.
Over the past year I’ve been working on all of these things. I stopped assuming my heart is magically healthy because… vegan. I think that was a harder pill to swallow than statins. I’ve started exercising again, doing at least some kind of movement very day (mostly walking and yoga). I’m eating less oil and way fewer processed foods. Let’s just say I’m still working on the alcohol part. I do feel better. I’ve lost a lot of puffiness in my face that I didn’t realize was there until it disappeared. My body is also thinning out and becoming less doughy again.
I learned some big lessons this year. I’ll always be an advocate for a vegan diet, but now I’m an even bigger advocate for WFPB and I’ll never assume anything about my health again.
After the first of the year, I’m going to get another checkup and see what my blood levels are.
D.J., I think we could be twins. It was definitely an eye-opener & a learning curve for me to figure out that vegetarian doesn’t necessarily = healthy. Glad you shared your lessons learned too. I’m still figuring things out but feel like I finally have the correct direction & knowledge. Wishing you much health & happiness!