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New Year, New Beginnings!

“In order to bloom, you must grow.”

Aly Aubrey

New Beginnings:

I think it’s safe to say we are all happy and hopeful about moving into a new year. This new chapter is expected to bring more opportunity, safety, and a bit more normality to our daily life. It won’t happen all at once though….like most things, there is a gradual change. Many people are looking to make a change to their health as we start to set new intentions for ourselves...mentally, physically, and spiritually.

This is always a great time to pinpoint what behavior(s) you would like to improve upon, and especially this year, overall health has been paramount. In this new year, I would like to focus on the importance of plants in the diet. How learning more about them and incorporating more of them into your daily diet will not just improve your health but it will even provide you with a stronger connection to the earth and your place in it. As I mentioned above, this revelation may be gradual but I promise, if you are open to accepting new ideas, even in your diet, in the wise words of Sam Cooke “A change is gonna come.”

Why Should I Eat Plants?

I think we all know that eating vegetables is good for us. We are taught from a very early age that eating your veggies will help you grow up big and strong. Despite this message being drilled into us since childhood, most people (myself included at times) do not consume an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables each day. (Please refer to my March 2020 post regarding portion sizes).

Eating vegetables and fruits can help reduce the incidence of heart disease and stroke by lowering blood pressure, reduce the risk of digestive and eye issues, prevalence of cancer, and positively impact blood sugar and appetite.

Phytonutrients, Antioxidants, Polyphenols, Flavonoids, Anthocyanins….Etc.

I’m sure you have come across the words, phytonutrients, antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins and others on your journey to a healthier you. These terms can sometimes be confusing and hard to remember which one is which and what they all mean for your health. In short, they are all molded into the same phytonutrient category and work together to improve your well-being.

Phytonutrients covers a wide range of compounds found in vegetables, fruits, grains and beans. Each phytonutrient possesses health benefits and comes from a different plant source. There are thousands of these nutrients so don’t worry about knowing all of them, the main takeaway is that they all have positive effects on your body and mind.

Antioxidants are found in many foods, particularly in fruits and veggies with properties that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. You can also find them in supplemental form. They are also available as dietary supplements. A few examples are: Beta-carotene, Lutein, Lycopene, Selenium, Vitamins A, C and E. Take a look at the chart below to get a bit more familiar with some sources and their benefits.

What Are Phytonutrients? (n.d.).

Plant Based Proteins:

Eating legumes nuts, seeds, whole grains, and other plant-based sources of protein is a great start to promote a healthier you. Try to mix and match them so you don’t get bored with your meals and more importantly to ensure you are eating a wider range of “essential” proteins (meaning they only come from your diet) so you don’t become deficient in any vitamin or mineral. If you want to include more plants in your diet, don’t try to do too much at once. Substitute meat with some of the options below once or twice a week to start and ease into the change.

Below are a few examples for each category to help you get started:

  • Legumes: lentils, beans (adzuki, black, fava, chickpeas/garbanzo, kidney, lima, mung, pinto), peas (green, snow, snap, split), edamame/soybeans (and products made from soy: tofu, tempeh), and peanuts.

  • Nuts and Seeds: almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, hemp seeds, squash and pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and chia seeds.

  • Whole Grains: kamut, teff, wheat, quinoa, rice, wild rice, millet, oats, and buckwheat and many more. (Added Bonus: Except for wheat, all of these grains are also gluten free)

  • Other: while many vegetables and fruits contain some level of protein, it’s generally in smaller amounts than the other plant-based foods. Some examples with higher protein quantities include corn, broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts, and artichokes.

How Much Protein Should I Eat?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that the average individual should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (or ~0.35 grams per pound) of body weight per day for general health. So a person that weighs 75 kg (165 pounds) should consume an average of 60 grams of protein per day.

An Honorable Mention....Fat:

Fat is a necessary component in your diet, especially if you are leaning toward a plant based diet. It helps with cell growth and serves to cushion your organs and keep your body warm. Fat helps absorb some vitamins in your system and produces important hormones. It can also keep your skin and hair healthy.

You may have heard the term “healthy fats”. This is a true story but there are several different types of fats in food. Healthy fats (unsaturated fats) are Omega 3 fats and can be found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. Avocados, walnuts, flaxseed/chia seeds are a good vegetarian source for omega 3’s. Oils such as olive, flaxseed, avocado and canola oil also contain healthy fat. (Hint: A little of these sources goes a long way so be sure not to over indulge on the oil.)

You’ll see saturated and unsaturated fats the most. Choosing unsaturated fats (usually plant based fats) are the most beneficial to your overall health. Saturated fats should be limited in your diet. Some examples are: red meat, butter, lard, ice cream, and palm kernel oil).

In Summation:

Trying new things can be scary and small changes to our diets and food behaviors can seem overwhelming. Just start with one change at a time and see how it goes. These things can't be forced, you have to be ready to meet them (and it's ok if you are not there yet). Even if you are thinking about making a change to your diet for the better shows that you are already on your way. We each arrive in our own time, so don't pressure yourself, or let anyone else for that matter. Long term improvements start with one small adjustment at a time. And Remember….Health starts from the inside out….but also from the ground up!

To discuss more detailed information regarding the topics within this blog, or to inquire about customized nutrition plans, please reach out to Cathleen Winter at

A Little About Me:

My name is Mary DeBlasio, and I live in Silver Spring, MD. I am currently a student studying Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of the District of Columbia. I am set to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in May of 2021. I am very interested in mindful eating, and foods that correlate with the seasons. My goal after graduation is to pursue a dietetic internship with a focus on clinical dietetics. I would like to concentrate on patients suffering from gastrointestinal issues. All my information is backed by credible sources cited within the blog.


It's time to try meatless meals. (2020, August 20). Retrieved December 31, 2020, from

Pandey, K., & Rizvi, S. (2009). Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Retrieved December 31, 2020, from

Protein. (2020, October 19). Retrieved December 31, 2020, from

Phytonutrients. (n.d.). Retrieved December 31, 2020, from

What Are Phytonutrients? (n.d.). Retrieved December 31, 2020, from

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