Guest Blog by NutriFit Admin, Leah Freund

US Veg Pledge Week is April 20-26, 2015. Last year I took this same pledge to go meat-free for one week, and one year later, I (mostly) haven’t looked back (I’m currently part-time vegetarian, part-time pescetarian, because I love all things seafood. And fish has some great health benefits). Along the way I’ve tried new foods, expanded my cookbook collection, and learned a lot.

You might think that removing meat from your diet sounds restrictive, but I’ve actually expanded my tastes since going vegetarian. There are a number of things I never used to eat or cook with until now: flax seed, whole wheat flour, beans, kale, tofu, even simple vegetables like tomato and onion. When I was younger, I HATED onion for no particular reason. Now I cook with it all the time.

But my favorite addition in the last year? QUINOA! You name the recipe; I’ve either tried it or pinned it on Pinterest to attempt some day soon. Quinoa spinach patties, buffalo quinoa bites, Mexican quinoa, quinoa burgers, quinoa “mac and cheese”, all great dishes that I had never tried before, because I didn’t know much about quinoa, nor how to cook it.

To learn new recipes I’ve used resources provided in the NutriFit newsletter (and the recipes featured in those newsletters), the NutriFit blog, cookbooks, and Pinterest. I have Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian and The VB6 Cookbook, and Forks Over Knives, The Cookbook by Del Sroufe. All of those books have great recipes, and there are plenty of other resources out there. There are countless vegetarian and vegan blogs, websites, and of course, Pinterest. You can simply search “vegetarian recipes” and you’ll get thousands of options. Narrow down your search to “quinoa recipes” and you’ll see all the meals I listed above and more. You’ll never get bored with vegetarian meals if you have the internet!

I’ve also learned a lot about how a plant-based diet is great for your health. It may lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease (to name just a few). The biggest difference for me is having more energy and not feeling sluggish after meals.

The bottom line is, if you’re looking to switch it up and feel more energetic and alert, then give the Veg Pledge a try! Be open to trying new things. You might discover some new foods you like while making good choices for your health. And if I can do it, so can you!