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“New year, new me,” is a saying that inspires so many to make changes in their lives during the first of the year. No shame here, I’m guilty of using the New Year to motivate myself to try something new too. There are more than seven million vegetarians in the United States and I wanted to be one with the “veg” movement.

I’ve always been curious about the life of a vegetarian, so for my 2018 resolution I wanted to go meat-free and move toward a plant-based lifestyle. While some might think plant-based eating isn’t much of a challenge, it is for me—you’re talking to a girl who loves tacos and chicken wings! I quickly learned that vegetarians enjoy these same foods, just a little differently.

To give you a little background on myself, I’m a mid-twenties social butterfly. My weekdays are spent in the office, evenings in the gym and weekends filled with friends and family. I can’t lie, at first I was a bit nervous about tackling this new lifestyle, but I’m here to show you that it’s not as terrifying as it seems. Here’s how my first 30 days as a veggie lover went.

Plant-based Insight

I did a lot of research before beginning this journey, but I knew nothing would serve me better than to present my questions (and worries) to our Publix Corporate Dietitians to pick their brains about my new journey. Before I began, they clarified that the term “vegetarian” is just ONE of many plant-based lifestyles. Here’s the scoop:

  • Pescatarian: Eats fish, but does not eat steak, chicken, pork or any other kind of meat.
  • Flexitarian: Eats mostly a vegetarian diet, but occasionally eats meat.
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: Does not eat meat, poultry, seafood or products made from meat, poultry or seafood (such as gelatin, broths, gravy and lard). Does eat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese as well as eggs.
  • Lacto-vegetarian: Does not eat meat, poultry, seafood or products made from meat, poultry or seafood (such as gelatin, broths, gravy and lard). Does not consume dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, but does not eat eggs or products containing eggs (such as many baked goods).
  • Vegan: Does not eat meat, poultry, seafood or products made from meat, poultry or seafood (such as gelatin, broths, gravy and lard). Also, does not eat eggs or products containing eggs, milk or dairy foods (such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream), ingredients made from milk (such as whey and casein) or honey.

Whoa, right? Those are just a few of the plant-based diets. Two minutes into our discussion my mind was going a million miles an hour, plagued with irrational questions, “What if I get stranded on an island, what would I eat?”, “HOW WILL I SURVIVE WITHOUT TACOS?!”, “Meals without meat? Are they even real meals?!”

In all seriousness, these questions are a bit dramatic, but they’re all thoughts that crossed my mind. Jennifer Patzkowsky, MS, RDN, LDN provided me with a dietary guideline for a vegetarian eating pattern. Check it out:

02_SW_Vegetarian_Food Pyramid


Vegetarian Meal Plan

Vegetables: In general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 cup from the Vegetables Group.

Fruits: In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruits Group.

Grains:  In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from the Grains Group; try to make sure that half of your grains are whole grains (whole wheat breads, pasta, brown rice, quinoa, etc.)

Dairy: In general, 1 cup of milk, yogurt, or soymilk (soy beverage), 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese can be considered as 1 cup from the Dairy Group.

Protein Foods:  Based on a 2,000 calorie diet you should consume 3 ½ ounces of protein foods. A 1 ounce-equivalent is:

  • 1 egg
  • Nuts & seeds: 1 ounce of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves)
    1 ounce of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, or squash seeds, hulled, roasted)
    2 Tablespoon of peanut butter or almond butter
  • Beans & Peas: 1/2 cup of cooked beans (such as black, kidney, pinto, or white beans) 1/2 cup of cooked peas (such as chickpeas, cowpeas, lentils, or split peas) 1/2 cup of baked beans, refried beans
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) of tofu
  • 1 ounce tempeh, cooked
  • 1/2 cup roasted soybeans 1 falafel patty (2 ¼”, 4 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons hummus

Oils: Check out this chart on how to count teaspoons of oil and other foods. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/oils


What About Nutrients?

When you remove meat products from your diet you want to ensure you are still consuming the important nutrients your body needs like protein, calcium, B12 and iron.

Before this journey, I assumed it was hard for vegetarians to consume enough protein. This worried me since I do have a pretty strict workout routine. Toward the end of my first week as a vegetarian I found it was taking me longer to recover after a tough session in the gym. Luckily, our Publix Dietitians came to the rescue! These protein alternatives were just what I was looking for.

  • Beans and legumes
  • Tofu or tempeh
  • Plant-based crumbles (these became one of my favorites!)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Grains like brown rice and quinoa

As I added more protein to my meals, I felt great! Burpees, squats and pushups didn’t seem so hard! I even shaved a minute off my mile.

Our bodies need calcium to build and maintain strong bones. It was important for me to consume calcium-rich foods. Some of the calcium-rich foods I added to my diet were:

  • Kale
  • Almond Butter
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Edamame
  • Cereal or oatmeal

To save you from a science-y explanation, in short, iron is essential for creating healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Iron in food comes in two forms: heme iron and nonheme iron. What does this mean? Well, the heme iron predominantly found in meat or seafood, is more absorbable than the nonheme iron found in plant foods and iron-fortified food products. The takeaway from this information is that it’s important to consume iron with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus or strawberries because it increases absorption. As an alternative to supplements, I increased my iron intake by adding spinach to my meals. Did you know you can pack your smoothies full of spinach? Best part—it doesn’t even change the taste! 1 cup of strawberries + 1 sliced banana + 2 cups of spinach + ice or water. Blend for morning perfection.

In short, this vitamin is important for maintaining healthy nerve cells. Most adults need to consume 2 ½ micrograms of B12 per day. Eating fortified foods helps maintain your B12 intake. Vitamin B12 is mostly available only in animal foods: meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products. You can also get this important nutrient in some nutritional yeasts, as well as from fortified cereals and soy milk. If you are a vegan, a supplement may be recommended.

  • Eggs
  • Milk or milk products
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt



The first few days were a breeze. I thought, “This is easy, I’m not missing anything!”  However, come day eight I was struggling to fight off my cravings for things like hamburgers and chicken wings, but I refused to give in to my cravings. To tackle this I turned my favorite meals meatless.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili Bowl
Squash Pasta
Vegetable Lasagna
Edamame Salad
Garden Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Even though I had tons of vegetarian recipes at my fingertips, I was guilty of falling off the train, but what’s trying unless you fail at least once, right? Middle of week two I was tired, cranky and felt too lazy to make dinner. So when friends suggested my favorite beach restaurant, I couldn’t say no to Mahi tacos…  Remember, tacos are my weakness. While I felt guilty after indulging, I learned that I just needed to jump back on the veggie train and guess what? I did not cheat the rest of the month!


Tackling Restaurants

I do live a social life, and that includes brunch on Sundays and weekly gatherings with friends, all of which revolve around food. At first, my family and friends didn’t quite understand why I was choosing to remove meat from my diet. My best advice before eating out would be to take time to look over the menu online beforehand. This not only helped me find meatless options, but also make better choices.



So you’re probably asking yourself, what did I learn from this lifestyle shift? In a nutshell, while avoiding meat products I ended up paying closer attention to everything I consumed and moved toward a balanced diet. When I open my fridge I see brightly colored produce, and that makes me happy! I have found tons of new products and fresh items I never knew I would like. However, I will say, I’m still not a fan of Brussel sprouts. I guess some things never change…

I’m not quite ready to give up my dairy products yet, but maybe that will be my next adventure. Have you changed your lifestyle by moving toward a vegetarian or vegan diet? Share your experience with us.



*Check with your physician before changing your diet.


Sasha W.

Written by

Sasha W. began her career at Publix in 2007 as a cashier and has since gained experience in both Event Planning and Social Media – which is perfect, because the combination of those two interests are what drive the writing behind her favorite blog posts! A New England girl turned southern belle, Sasha loves taking her puppy on tropical adventures all throughout Florida. Describing herself as fifty percent manatee and fifty percent flamingo, Sasha hopes to bring fun and unique ideas to your future events!

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