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Alishia’s challenge: Eat more plant proteins

October 2013

by Adelina Espat

Take this challenge in the Healthy Bites series. Alishia McAcfee did it. And so can you!

“I’m a new me,” says single mom Alishia McAcfee. “And I want to live healthier.”protein challenge

With a family history of obesity and borderline cholesterol levels, Alishia knew she needed to make her diet a bigger priority. So, she joined the Healthy Bites nutrition challenge.

“I want to see my two daughters — ages eight and 13 — grow up,” Alishia says. “My girls are very active, and I want to participate in all their life adventures.”

Alishia told Healthy Bites challenge coach and wellness dietitian, Mary Ellen Herndon, she wasn’t looking for a diet. “I want to adopt eating habits I can use for life,” Alishia says.

Make plant protein swaps

“After chatting with Alishia, I learned one of her diet goals was to eat less red meat,” says Mary Ellen. “I told Alishia she was definitely on the right track because eating too much red meat can increase your risks for colorectal cancer.”plant proteins

“But, Alishia wasn’t aware that chicken and fish aren’t the only healthy protein swaps for red meat – plant-based proteins are also healthy options,” Mary Ellen says.

Plus, swapping plant proteins for animal proteins can help prevent muscle loss and help you maintain a healthy weight to lower your cancer risks.

READ ALSO: Nutrition tips for plant protein foods

Alishia takes the challenge

“I was surprised how easy it was to eat plant proteins instead of animal proteins,” Alishia says. “I was able to swap at least two meals per week.” 

Mary Ellen suggested Alishia try some of these popular plant protein foods:

  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Hummus
  • Edamame
  • Soy yogurt

Use these foods in place of animal proteins, like chicken, beef, fish, cheese, milk and yogurt.

“I reminded Alishia that this challenge is not about going meatless or avoiding all animal proteins,” Mary Ellen says. “Your body gets essential nutrients from both plant and animal proteins. However, not every meal needs a ‘meat’ or animal protein dish.”

What worked for Alishia

“I really enjoyed this challenge,” Alishia says. “I didn’t feel overfull like I do when I eat meat. I was more active because I had more energy. Plus, I was eating healthier overall.” protein beans

Alishia offers this advice:

  • Make it convenient: “Lunch was the easiest meal for me to do swaps because I decide what’s on the menu. My mom cooks dinner at home so I don’t have as much control over meal planning.”
  • Try bean swaps: “I love beans. For lunch, I’d make a healthy salad with beans instead of meat. Making this midday swap kept me energized all afternoon.”
  • Go beyond tofu: “I couldn’t acquire a taste for tofu or soy yogurt during this challenge. I just didn’t like the texture. But that’s okay because I had a lot more plant protein options to choose from.”

READ ALSO: A healthy guide to plant protein

“Completing this challenge was very easy,” Alishia says. “I just focused on the foods I enjoyed most.”

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