A Beginner’s Guide to Pesco-Vegetarianism

Cottage CheeseWhen Shlynn Rhodes decided to be a vegetarian, she thought it was just a matter of giving up meat.

What she didn’t realize – not right away – is that replacing the protein she was getting from beef and chicken was important for her health. She relied on salads made with iceberg lettuce, an underachiever in the greens department. Potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and pasta were other staples of her diet. Basically, she ate what was fast and easy to prepare due to a demanding work schedule. Candy was her go-to snack.

“That combination wasn’t all that great,” she said. “It wasn’t well planned.”

After about a year of eating that way, Shlynn noticed that her energy was dragging. She resumed eating meat, but could never shake the desire to cut it out completely.

Joining Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Grand Rapids’ Weight Watchers group in 2013, was a turning point for her. She said the online tools and nutritional counseling she received helped her better understand how to get important nutrients from a vegetarian diet. She also learned which foods, in general, are better for health. She started making smart swaps like ditching iceberg lettuce in favor of more nutritious greens.

“I feel like my options are a lot greater because of Weight Watchers and the information I get around nutrition and eating right,” she said.

The Weight Watchers points system helps Shlynn stay on track. She’s lost 20 pounds since January 2014. The plan encourages fruits and vegetables, which contribute zero points to her daily tally, so choosing a piece of fruit instead of a five-point candy bar is an easy choice.

“Making better choices like that helped me to be a lot more balanced,” she said.

Getting healthy sources of protein is no longer an issue. Shlynn relies on low-fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and she makes her own black bean burgers. She also still incorporates fish into her diet, making her a pesco-vegetarian.

Weight Watchers has also helped her incorporate exercise into her day. Because she gets activity points, she started walking more and does yoga three times per week.

Shlynn Rhodes is a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Innovation and Emerging Markets Project Manager. She lives and works in Grand Rapids.

Having accountability partners at work has also helped with her transformation. The Weight Watchers group meets every Friday, and Shlynn said having people she works with go through the program, provides a built-in support system.

Although transitioning to a mostly vegetarian diet and adding exercise to her lifestyle wasn’t easy, Shlynn said she’s pleased with her results. She plans to get a tattoo on her arm to commemorate her upcoming 45th birthday and to serve as a reminder to keep up her healthy ways.

“I know I’m doing it the healthy way and I’m slowly losing inches and weight,” she said.

Here are ideas to help you add more veggie-based protein to your diet.

This blog post is part of #HealthyMe, a personalized web experience based on your health and wellness goals. To sign up today, visit https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/healthyme

Photo credit: dawn nakaya


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