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{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my good friend, Lauren, author of Lauren Fowler. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and yoga teacher who promotes a non-diet approach to nutrition and health. She wants everyone to connect to their bodies intuitive wisdom rather than following diets. She encourages the tools of intuitive eating and health at every size. Stop by LaurenFlower.co to read more about nutrition, intuitive eating, heart-based health, and yoga.}

Vegan

Paleo

Raw Vegan

WAPF

When it comes to your diet, how do you identify?

Take any of the above groups (or hundreds I haven’t listed), and you’ll end up with thousands of blogposts or books to read about why this approach is hands-down the best for everyone.

These days, paleo and vegan tend to be the most popular approaches when it comes to dietary extremes. Yes, they’re not necessarily extreme to the person following it, but compared to the standard american diet, they’re extreme.

If you take a look at a vegan and a paleo diet, I see more similarities than differences.

Yet, the diet wars are still going strong between these approaches on why saturated fat is going to kill you (or is actually good for you), why the China Study is a must-read study (or why it’s completely debunked), and much more.

Instead of wasting time on diet wars and throwing studies back and forth between the two groups – because anyone can find a study that supports their belief online (just most people won’t read or critically interpret it well) – let’s band together in support for real, whole food.

You can look around the world at communities thriving on a variety of different ways of eating – some groups eat higher fat and others eat higher carbohydrate diets (all based on whole foods).

I’m done arguing for one side or the other, and honestly, I don’t belong to one particular diet camp. If you want to label foods, then a lot of my meals are vegan or vegetarian while a lot are also paleo (and some are both).

Here’s why I’m skipping the diet dogma and showing my support for REAL, WHOLE FOODS.

Let’s look at the similarities between a great paleo and vegan diet.

1. Eat a lot of plants!

If we can all agree on one thing, it’s that we can all eat more plants, especially veggies. Eating a wide variety and colorful veggies will provide tons of phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins and minerals.

While we often hear to eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day, I much prefer eating 5 servings of veggies alone and typically 1-2 servings of fruit a day. Start by taking a look at how many veggies are in your diet currently, then gradually increase the amount and variety. If you have a salad at a meal, some raw veggies as part of a snack, and throw some veggies in a green smoothie or with eggs, you can easily get 5-7+ servings of veggies a day.

Other plant foods to consider are herbs and spices – don’t forget about the flavor pop and nutrient boost from these foods! Grab some fresh cilantro, parsley, or basil – they’re so versatile in meals, smoothies, or even homemade pesto.

Don’t be scared of plants. While eliminating grains and beans/legumes may be helpful (short-term or long-term) for some people, it doesn’t mean everyone has to remove them. Focus on soaking/sprouting them and eating them in their most unprocessed form, if you do eat them (such as quinoa vs a quinoa flour or bread). Same with fruit – while fructose in foods like soda can be harmful to your health, having a small amount of whole fruit daily is going to support health for most people.

2. Eat real, whole foods.

Yes, you can eat a vegan diet that is not-so plant-based and is made up of pasta and oreos. On the other hand, you can eat a paleo diet that is filled with bacon, beef jerky, and almond flour desserts.

Luckily, the health-minded people promoting these approaches to eating are focused around eating real food that is grown from nature or raised in nature.

Most people in the country are honestly confused when it comes to nutrition. The food industry is really great at marketing processed foods to appear healthy with added omega 3s or protein. People are making food decisions based on numbers – calories, protein, and fat – rather than on ingredients.

What I love about both groups is the focus around environmental sustainability and ethical support. While some people choose to eat plant-based out of ethics and environmental reasons (factory farming is a huge burden on the environment), others choose to eat local and more humanely raised (and healthier) animal products. Either way, it’s not supporting factory farming.

By combining forces, we can promote people shopping locally from farmer’s markets or having a CSA (community supported agriculture). We could together teach the country what real food is and inevitably would improve people’s health along the way. It’s also a great way to join forces against the large food industry that is built around factory farming and processed and refined foods that now make up the majority of food in the supermarket.

3. Focus on Health & Skip the Diet Mindset

While of course there are plenty of people each day trying a vegan or paleo diet for weight loss and approach it with a diet mindset, there are plenty of other people thriving on both styles of eating from a health perspective.

I’ve learned a lot from the paleo community on the power of movement (over exercise), sleep, and hormonal health. On the other side, there are a lot of plant-based people that talk a ton about the healing power of plants and mind-body health, and I love diving into them.

Health is much more than nutrition and whether or not you eat beans, grains, meat, or eggs. When you remove the label, you can expand beyond your physical and nutritional health to improve your mental, emotional, spiritual, and social health. When I did this, I realized that tweaking tiny parts of my diet didn’t matter and taking daily time for self-care and healthy relationships made a much bigger difference in my health and happiness.

Ditch the Diet Dogma

Over time, I’ve allowed myself to keep an open-mind (somewhat reluctantly, at times) when it comes to health and nutrition. I’m not going to let diet dogma or strict approaches dictate how I eat or how I live because I also know the power of savoring food and not living a lifestyle of deprivation (or entirely focused around food). My thoughts on different approaches have changed with time, and I know plenty of people that are both thriving on a plant-based diet and a paleo-style diet who are eating whole foods and prioritizing other aspects of their health.

One of my most popular posts on my blog is called “The Best Diet of the Year” for good reason – how you eat should always be individualized.

I do hope you consider that you don’t have to label your diet to be healthy, and you can choose to nourish your body with foods that serve you without following diet dogma.

Consider the power you also have with your food choices when you buy food – whether that’s shopping at farmer’s market, skipping conventional meat (in exchange for local, humanely raised meat or no meat, if that’s your preference), or bringing a delicious veggie-packed dish to your next potluck to show your friends and family how delicious whole foods can be. No need to label it as paleo or vegan either!

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