There’s something about a food and health challenge that draws me in and hooks me almost every time. I like the short-term focus on something new, the opportunity to try new foods, new combinations, to discover what works well for me and adopt new routines. This summer I’m doing the “Thrive in 30” diet and fitness challenge, a free program of twelve lessons created to inform, inspire and motivate participants for a month of improved health. Offered by the Vega company, and created by vegan Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier, the lessons offer short written and video tutorials which arrive in your inbox roughly every other day for thirty days. Topics covered include superfoods, probiotics, digestion, stress-relief, acid-alkaline balance, nutrient-dense foods, fitness, the benefits of a plant-based diet and much more. You can read the articles and watch the videos at your convenience, and incorporate the information into your new routine at reasonable pace. It’s easy, cost-free, flexible and effective.
Although the sponsoring company is a maker of plant-based nutritional supplements, there is no required diet, supplement or other product as part of the program. If you’re a carnivore, it provides an easy entry to more vegetarian and vegan meals. If you’re concerned about how to approach a new diet and whether you’ll be getting all the necessary nutrients, you can include Vega’s supplements as insurance against possible gaps.
For me, a diet full of fresh organic vegetables with a good dose of vegetarian protein several times a day works best. I already knew this, but this program has been a nice fresh boost in that direction. I’ve been having at least some of my fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and dairy raw, limited grains, and very little packaged foods, sweets or processed grains. I’ve included a daily dose of probiotic foods (such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, or kombucha) and a vegetarian source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids (ground flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds or purslane). With all the fresh vegetables, herbs, stone fruits and berries available this time of year, it seems a shame not to have them comprise most of my diet.
Combined with nuts, seeds, beans, tofu, tempeh, eggs, milk and dairy products and some fish, I arrive at the bulk of the nutrient-rich, satisfying and varied diet, that works well for me.
I tried the Vega plant-based sport supplement referred to in the program (but not required). I found the nutrient list is impressive, the chocolate flavor rich and strong, but the level of sweetness was too much for me. The package is sweetened with stevia, a natural sweetener I frequently recommend, however, it can quickly be overused. Since it is so much sweeter than sugar (as much as 200x!), a very small amount goes a long way. When more is used it can leave a licorice-like after taste, which does not combine very well with chocolate. I adjusted the recommended usage by adding the package to kefir (a naturally sour, yogurt-like beverage) instead of water, and using twice as much. It provided me with noticeably long-lasting good energy for hours, including a bike ride.
The “Thrive in 30” program is a rich source of information about the many health and fitness benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet. Having been a vegetarian since I was eleven, and a natural health coach since 2006, this program has not been particularly challenging for me. So far, it has served more as an important reminder of lessons previously learned and has resulted in some polishing up of my routine.
The lessons (both the written and video portions) are well-made, fact-filled, succinct and manageable in length and scope. The spacing allows time to understand and practice one lesson before beginning to incorporate the material of the next. For a financial commitment of nothing, it is a program I will enthusiastically recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about and experiment with a plant-based diet. To find out more and register, click here.