Plant Based Nutrition 101

By Anne Custer

Plant based diets have become a trend in the past few years, with meat and dairy alternative sales skyrocketing, more public interest in sustainability, and increased research in the health effects of these diets. However, it’s more than just a trend- it’s an overall lifestyle change driven by compassion, consciousness, and wellness. I made the change three years ago to a completely vegan diet. After my certification in Plant Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center of Nutrition Studies, I can confidently take pride in my lifestyle and the benefits I (and the animals, and the environment, etc.) reap.


Before you read, here are a few definitions to be aware of:

– Pescetarian. Eats fish, dairy products, and eggs, but not poultry or red meat.

-Lacto-ovo-vegetarian. Eats both dairy products and eggs. This is the most common type of vegetarian diet.

-Lacto-vegetarian. Eats dairy products but not eggs.

-Ovo-vegetarian. Eats eggs but not dairy products.

-Vegan. Does not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other animal product.

The terminology between plant based and vegan differ slightly. Plant based eliminates oils, refined sugar, and processed foods. It is exactly how it sounds- plant based! Vegans may or may not consume these products depending on their preference.

Disease Prevention

Right now, about 3 out of 4 Americans are on some type of prescription drug. The majority of these medications are for chronic diseases that could be prevented and reversed by proper nutrition. The underlying problem behind this is the fact that the majority of medical professionals and the general public do not believe in the power of nutrition. Doctors are paid based on the number of patients they see, the tests they order, and the pharmacotherapy prescribed. This type of system doesn’t allow for a holistic approach where the needs of the patient are priority and the curative option (usually diet and lifestyle change) is taken. Diet and lifestyle changes can be cures for long term chronic diseases, while medicine temporarily treats a symptom of the disease, until they need a new medication for a different symptom. This is how people end up prescribed many different pills to take each day, all while the sustainable, cost effective solution is in their kitchen.

Of course, the nutrition I am speaking about is plant based. I learned a great deal about chronic disease prevention and reversal from my certification program. For example, there was a study out of the Pritkin Center that looked at the relationship between plant based diets and type 2 diabetes. 40 patients with the disease were prescribed a low fat, plant based diet along with exercise and within 26 days, 34 of the patients (85%) discontinued all medication. All medication! Perhaps the most controversial is the ability to turn on and off tumor growth in rats injected with cancer. The rats were fed a diet containing 20% of casein, which is a protein found in cow’s milk, then a diet containing of 5% casein. Scientists found that tumors continued to grow at a fast rate when fed 20% casein, but when switched to the lower amount, the tumors not only stopped growing, but they shrunk. This is controversial for many reasons, but mainly it contradicts the animal rights movement, which is one of the main reasons people decide to switch to plant based diets. I was first interested in veganism after hearing about the health benefits and the amazing power it has to combat disease. However it has grown into an appreciation for the Earth and the environment, as well as a desire to see the suffering of animals for our consumption come to an end. Unfortunately, these tests cannot be undone, but we have this information now that we can utilize to be a voice for the animals harmed in the process.

Diet patterns

I get endless questions about what I eat. How do you get protein, iron, calcium, B-12, etc.? What can you eat? Do you get bored? Do you eat a lot of salad? (The answer to that is a firm no.) So, just for the curious reader here is a vegan food pyramid. An example dinner from this would be brown rice with lime juice and cilantro, sautéed veggies, black beans, topped with fresh Pico de Gallo and guacamole. Sounds boring, right? No, but really there are bountiful options and many foods I didn’t discover on a SAD. (Standard American Diet. Yes, it is as sad as it sounds.) As for things like iron, calcium, and B-12, these micronutrients are of concern in a vegan diet because they aren’t as bioavailable to be absorbed in plants as they are in animal products. This shouldn’t discourage you because it is still easily achievable to get these nutrients. Fortified tofu, cereals, and nut milks have plenty of absorbable calcium and sometimes iron. It’s important to pair iron sources with a source of vitamin C. Put some lemon juice on sautéed kale, have a snack of cashews and an orange, or make a creamy chickpea salad with craisins. The possibilities are endless! As for B-12, if you are like me and hate the idea of supplementation, either buy fortified foods or use nutritional yeast as a seasoning on potatoes, vegetables, pasta, or even popcorn.  The last word I would use to describe a vegan diet is restrictive or boring. I can eat whatever I want and feel good about the choices I make. I rarely have the same thing for dinner in a week and look forward to trying new foods and recipes. Plus, most people eat vegan meals without consciously deciding to and many common recipes are easily made vegan.




These resources have challenged, inspired, and educated me throughout this transition. If your interest is sparked, I encourage you to do your own research and seek out resources that can do the same for you.



Forks Over Knives



PlantPure Nation



How Not to Die by Michael Greger

Whole by Howard Jacobson and T. Colin Campbell

Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman

Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran



Harrisonburg: the Foodie town

A review of local eats

By: Ashley Bubb

When I came to JMU & Harrisonburg, I had never heard of the local food movement, or had I been exposed to a town with so much emphasis on “going local”. Going local means supporting local farmers and businesses by purchasing from local farmers, restaurants, and vendors.

Throughout the four years you spend at JMU, you should make it a priority to “Go Local” and support your local restaurants and farms. I have compiled reviews of my favorite five ways to go local in Harrisonburg.

1. The Farmer’s Market

The Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market, located in the downtown Turner Pavilion, is open every Tuesday & Saturday from 9-1. The Farmer’s Market, depending on the season, has a variety of in-season produce, plants, and a ton of other food vendors. Whether you would like a grass fed burger, local eggs, homemade breads, or a warm cinnamon bun, the Farmer’s Market is the place to be! It is a great way to support local farmers and vendors. The best part of the market is its inexpensive, quality food. Coming to the Farmer’s Market with even just $5 can get you some good eats

2. The Friendly City Food Co-Op

A co-op is a business that is owned by a group of owners that aims to enrich the community with local products. The co-op sells healthy, and wholesome foods, with most products being organic. You can find fresh produce, local meats, and baked goods from local bakers. The co-op also sells typical groceries, and locally made hygienic products. You can find some nifty snacks at the co-op, with my personal favorite being coconut covered dates J My favorite part of the co-op is the pre-prepared meals and hot food bar! If you ever want to have a nutritious, cheap, and local meal for dinner or lunch, the co-op is the place to come! A general consensus among dietetics

majors is that the best meal there is the Pad Thai Chicken in Peanut Sauce.

3. Bella-Luna Pizza

Being from New Jersey, I have a very high standard for pizza. Bella-Luna exceeds my expectations. Finding out that Bella-Luna creates their pizzas with produce, meats, and cheeses from local farms in the Shenandoah Valley & Central Virginia made it even more delicious J Bella-Luna pizza dough is made from scratch daily (and is better than any pizza dough you have ever had). The atmosphere of Bella Luna is a calm and welcoming one. It is great for a night out with friends, or even a date while also supporting the local movement

4. Food Bar Food

Having the slogan of “Global Comfort Food”, Food Bar Food incorporates creative meals with emphasis on fresh and local ingredients from the Shenandoah Valley. Food Bar Food is known for their authentic meals and creative cocktails.  Popular menu items include Caramel Shrimp and J&L Green Farm Beef Burgers.

5. Little Grill Collective

If you are a fan of brunch, the Little Grill is the place to go! The aim of Little Grill is to localize where the food comes from by building a network with local food producers. But it doesn’t just stop there. The Little Grill is also about sustainability. They minimize food waste by composting and creating their lunch specials based on the leftover food. All foods do not contain high-fructose corn syrup, and all chicken, eggs, and beef are free range! Warning to all who come: make sure to get there early for brunch or there will be a wait because it is just that popular.

I hope I have inspired you to make a choice to go local during your time in Harrisonburg. Going local also ensures that you are consuming nutritious and high quality foods. This movement is evolving, and I can’t wait to see what else comes out of it!

Forever a Foodie,


Grass-fed or Get Out?

Meat has been a hot topic in the news lately. The World Health Organization started it. They deemed processed red meats a Group 1 Carcinogen. What else is in this Group? Smoking tobacco. So, you can imagine the kinds of conversation this warning started. Before you freak out… They aren’t saying processed meats are equivalent to smoking. You can still have some bacon at Sunday brunch.


Everyone loves bacon jokes, but what does this really mean? To understand why the WHO would say such a thing, we need to go back to the source: the cow or the animal from which the meat originated.

Cows are a huge industry in the U.S. They give us red meat, butter, milk, and cheese. Try to come up with a product that doesn’t contain one of these ingredients. It might take you a minute. However, since we have become so dependent on these products, we have tried to come up with ways to make them fast and cheap to produce.

How? This is where it starts to get ugly.


Before we industrialized cows and their by-products, they ate grass. Unlike many other mammals, cows have an unusual stomach that can tolerate grass. Their rumen, a four-chambered stomach, is designed to efficiently digest grass and turn it into energy. Cows that eat grass are extremely healthy as this is their natural diet.

In the U.S., conventionally-raised calves are often born on a ranch and nursed for a few months while grazing on the pasture. By the time they are roughly six months, they are shipped to a feeding mill where they begin a diet of corn infused with protein and fat supplements. Their feed is laced with estrogen and liquid vitamins. These cows do not have access to grass. They are prone to illness, and it is easy to imagine why. They are eating a grain-based diet when they were made to eat a grass-based one. As a result of their sickness and damage to their digestive tracts, antibiotics are blended into their feed as well. If all of this wasn’t enough, the hormones and by-products in their feed gets stored in their fat that we then consume!

The benefits of grass-fed are widely documented. Grass-fed beef is lower in total fat and saturated fat. It has a high amount of carotenoids and Omega-3s (from the components of the grass) and CLA (an antioxidant and heart healthy fat). Many studies on red meat are used with conventionally raised red meat, and as a result, often have negative conclusions about the health of those who consume it. With all of this information in mind, it makes sense why eating these products can be detrimental to our health.

I do not mean to deter you from eating these foods, but I do mean to inform you. Understanding what you’re eating and where it comes from is a huge skill set and one that promotes wellbeing in all areas of our lives.

Grass-fed isn’t just for red meat: products like milk, butter, and cheese can also be found in grass-fed varieties. Even chickens and their eggs are found in grass-fed and pastured varieties (take a look at the difference in the yolks below!). These are usually sourced out best at farmer’s markets, co-ops, or health food stores in your area. Other terms used to appropriately describe grass-fed foods are pastured or pasture-raised. You could even take it a step further and ask your farmer about their growing tactics. They should be happy to tell you!



By Emily Ward

            If you follow any health nut on social media, you’ve probably seen the snapchat story or the Instagram post about their love for acai bowls.  They are currently one of the biggest trends in health foods and the craze is well deserved.  But what’s so great about them? Isn’t it just a regular old smoothie put in a bowl and eaten with a spoon?  Not exactly!  Acai bowls have a wider variety of health benefits than regular smoothies, and their thicker texture makes them take more like ice-cream.


First off, let’s talk about what exactly acai is.  Harvested in South America from a palm tree, an acai berry looks like a cross between a grape and a blueberry.  It contains large amounts of essential micronutrients, such as iron, calcium, and vitamin A, while also being low in sugar and high in fiber.  Acai is also full of amino acids and essential fatty acids, making it one of the most nutrient dense foods out there.  One of its most remarkable nutritional attributes is its high level of antioxidant activity.  Its antioxidant power is found to be the highest among all fruits and vegetables, which is the reason it is used for such a wide variety of health problems.  These properties are why acai is considered a superfood.

            Now that we know the health benefits, let’s consider why acai bowls are eaten with a spoon and not just sipped like a smoothie.  Unlike the liquid consistency of a regular smoothie, an acai bowl should have a thicker, scoopable consistency.  This is typically achieved by using a variety of fruits, such as bananas, strawberries and blueberries, that are blended to a pureed consistency and mixed with some kind of milk along with pureed acai.  If a super thick, ice-cream like consistency is desired, some form of nut butter is blended as well.  Eating your bowl with a spoon instead of slurping it through a straw can also help you feel more satisfied and keep you full longer, as it requires you to consume it slower and allowing your body to have time to tell you when you’re full. 

            Not only does the acai and fruit components of the bowl contain a wide variety of health and nutritional benefits, but the toppings added to the bowl are also normally nutrient dense and beneficial to the body.  Typical toppings include hemp granola, solid fresh fruits, nut butters, agave nectar, coconut, honey, chia seeds, and dark chocolate.  These toppings can add more nutrients to the bowl, as well as adding to the texture and flavor, making it more beneficial and enjoyable for you.

            Acai bowls can easily be made at home with a blender and the right ingredients, but they are also served at smoothie bars across the country.  Harrisonburg has its own acai bowl place, inside the Shenandoah Bicycle Company on South Main Street there is a smoothie bar that serves acai bowls.  It’s quickly becoming one of the hot spots for JMU students and Harrisonburg residents, and its menu includes a wide variety of options, including a build your own bowl option.

            Basically, acai bowls are not only delicious, but they are super nutritious too.  They taste like ice-cream, but contain a huge variety of micronutrients and macronutrients, and who doesn’t want ice-cream with nutrients?! Go to the store, pick up some acai and your favorite fruit, get your blender ready, and add acai bowls to your diet!







By Kara Carter

Good fat?!? Believe it or not, all fat isn’t bad for us. Our bodies need fat for energy and protection of our organs. In the past few years avocados have become a popular, yet relatively fatty, food fad. Because avocados are so popular, let’s take a look at them.

We can start with the basic nutrition facts for 1 avocado (approx 200g):

Calories: 322

Protein: 4g

Fat: 28 g

Carbohydrates: 17 g 

Fiber: 13.5 g

Sugar: 1 g 

Fat is definitely the greatest nutrient in an avocado, supplying 252 calories of the total 322 calories. That’s almost 80% of the calories! Before automatically assuming this food is bad, take a look at the fat breakdown:

Saturated Fat: 4 g

Monounsaturated Fat: 20 g

Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g

Of these, saturated fat is the worst for our bodies because it is densely packed and more difficult for us to break down. Monounsaturated fats are not packed as tightly together, making them easier to break down, and therefore healthier. Polyunsaturated fats are even more loosely packed and even healthier. Higher amounts of these unsaturated fats are very healthy for our hearts!

Avocados also provide heart healthy vitamins including folate, vitamin E, C & B6 and potassium. In addition, avocados contain the phytonutrient, glutathione, which is a cholesterol lowering plant sterol that can also protect against cancer. Lutein is another phyonutrient  found in avocados that helps to promote healthy vision.

So overall, avocado is a very healthy choice of fat for us to consume, however it is still fatty. Because of this, we should think of it as more of a condiment, like mayonnaise, and use it in smaller potions.

In experimenting with avocado at home, I have found it’s delicious in a breakfast burrito! Here’s the recipe I use:

Avocado and Egg Breakfast Burrito


1 eggs

Whole Wheat Tortilla

Spices of your choice (I used a Citrus Seasoning Blend)

2 Avocado Slices

Feta Cheese


Stove top: Whisk egg in a bowl with spices. Pour into small pan over medium heat. Scramble the eggs until fully cooked. Put eggs on the burrito and top with avocado and cheese. Roll burrito up and enjoy!

Microwave: Whisk eggs and seasoning until blended in an oiled, microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. If egg not fully cooked, microwave for an addition 15 -30 seconds. Put eggs on the burrito and top with avocado and cheese. Roll burrito up and enjoy!

A Stressful Situation

By Cara Christie


We all know what stress is. We experience from day to day from different sources. The most prevalent stressor at this time is probably school for the most of us. But what exactly does that mean when you’re trying to lose weight?

There is this sneaky little hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone released into the blood stream from the adrenal gland under stressful situations. The adrenals are responsible for our built-in “fight-or-flight” mechanism in which cortisol is secreted. Cortisol in turn releases glucose into the bloodstream to provide muscles with energy (to help us run) while simultaneously inhibiting insulin release so glucose can’t get stored. This means that glucose is readily available for use by the body. Cortisol also causes arteries to narrow and epinephrine to be released, resulting in a harder and faster heartbeat. Once the stressful situation is over, the body returns to normal conditions. However, in the busy lifestyles we face, we are under constant stress. Constant stress means constant release of cortisol. So what effects does that have on our bodies?

Blood Sugar Imbalance/ Diabetes

When there is glucose in the blood stream, it is the body’s natural response to release insulin to help glucose be taken into the cells. Under stressful conditions where cortisol is in charge, insulin is inhibited and glucose has nowhere to go aside for muscle use. So when we don’t use up that glucose, there is a large build up and the cells can’t get the glucose they need. Overtime, this causes our sugar handling system to weaken through insulin resistance.

Weight Gain

Consistent elevation of cortisol can result in weight gain. It is known to aid in fat storage during these trifling times. The body believes it is constantly being under attacked from your stressor, so it has to store as much energy (a.k.a fat) as possible in order to keep on fighting. Another reason that may further hurt your weight loss endeavors is due to the excess amount of glucose in your blood. Since glucose can’t get into the cell as well, we can’t detect satiety as well. And we all know that when were not full we feel the need to eat until we are full. Overeating under this condition causes excess glucose in the blood that will more than likely be unused by our muscles. So where does all that excess glucose go? Straight to fat storage where it can be saved for usage on another day. The fat tends to accumulate in the abdomen, around organs, which is one of the unhealthiest places to store fat. The reasoning behind this is that there a high amount of cortisol receptors located in this area along with increased blood flow, making it an ideal environment for fat to thrive.


Compromised Immune System

Have you ever wondered why you’re always sick during exam week? Cortisol is known to be a natural anti-inflammatory. However, constant work to reduce inflammation levels along with a bad diet and a lot of stress can result in a compromised immune system. With a weakened immune system, it is more important to focus on being healthy than losing weight.

Other issues that constant stress can produce include GI Problems, CVD, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid disorders, dementia, depression, and more.

What can you do to fight cortisol?

Relax! Find something to do that keeps the stress away and keeps you calm. Try a yoga class or pick up a hobby that will take the focus off of what’s on your mind. Additionally, eating healthily and exercising makes all the difference when your body is under chronic stress. Try to exercise at least three days a week. Be sure to limit sweets and carbohydrates, they will only result in energy crashes and give you a little extra unnecessary weight around the waist. Limit caffeine as well, which has been known to increase cortisol levels. Instead of grabbing a quick cup of coffee from Starbucks, opt for green tea instead, which provides antioxidants and a natural energy boost that doesn’t produce as much cortisol. Be sure to get in enough fruits, vegetable, and lean protein to keep your immune system afloat during the long semester.


Good Habits for Eating Less

By Trevor Lomax

Instagram: @trevorlomaxfitness


Since I’ve been cutting back how much I’ve been eating lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about techniques to eat less while still feeling full. This can be extremely difficult especially in a college setting where E-hall has chicken nuggets every Thursday and Chipotle is right across the street. But how can one eat less of all of this amazing, delicious food out there and remain sane? Here are my top 5 tips for eating less:


  1. Wait it out.

One thing I’ve learned in my journey is that it’s okay to be hungry. Being hungry doesn’t mean you’re going to die right away, it simply means that your body is hoping for another source of energy so it doesn’t have to use up those critical fat stores. You know…in case the dinosaurs trap you in a cave for a week. Now that we’re not cavemen and cavewomen fighting for every last piece of meat, we can let ourselves be hungry. Don’t wait too long though, about 30 minutes to an hour can even help space your meals out enough to consume a more appropriate amount throughout the day.


  1. Waste some time!

One of my favorite ways to spread my meals out is by taking some time to cook myself food. By taking an extra 20 or more minutes to cook a meal you not only space your meals out but also get the satisfaction of having something delicious that you made yourself. Often, home-cooking your food results in healthier meals but it also has the added bonus of teaching you a great skill to add to your arsenal to achieve any health or fitness goal you have.


  1. More Veggies!

Most veggies are very low calories. Vegetables are mostly made up of water and carbohydrates. A medium tomato has about 20 calories and a cup of spinach about 35 where as a cheeseburger from E-Hall has about 400. So eat a salad at the beginning of a meal to fill up before the calorie dense foods come into play. Make salads with grilled chicken or steak or tofu on top. Snack on carrots or celery. Sauté some mushrooms and onions to add flavor and bulk to your meals, cook asparagus or Brussels sprouts or green beans as a side. Get creative; make your favorite vegetables and experiment. You may find vegetables become a delicious and routine part of your diet. Plus, mom will be happy you got your vitamins in for the day.


  1. Never eat in front of the TV or computer.

Be mindful of what and how much you’re eating. Look, feel, taste, and most importantly, enjoy your food. I’ve found that when I remember each bite of my meal that I stay full and have less of an appetite. Sometimes it’s just the chewing or act of eating that your body craves. Eating in front of the TV or computer can also easily become a psychological trigger without you noticing. After the first time, the following times you watch TV or start working on the computer you may feel the need to eat even though you’re not actually hungry.


  1. Drink lots of water.

Zero calories and its free almost everywhere. Need I say more? Many of the times when we crave food it’s because our body is actually craving the water within the food. Ever wanted watermelon on a hot summer day? Steadily drinking water throughout the day can keep you feeling full and craving food less. Not to mention drinking plenty of water has tons of other benefits that will keep you feeling ready to tackle the day.