Welcome, Ashley Galloway Thomas MS, RD, LDN, founder of The Fresh Beet Nutrition to my Plant Chat! Ashley is the plant-based registered dietitian behind The Fresh Beet, a nutrition website focused on helping women find their “Happy Plate.” She provides a range of valuable nutrition advice, from how to build a better smoothie to balancing your dinner plate. Since earning her master’s degree in Nutrition Education and Health Promotion, Ashley has worked as a dietitian in hospitals, outpatient centers, research, and now, health and wellness at two local universities where she teaches nutrition and serves as the campus dietitian. Ashley currently lives in one of my favorite towns, Charleston, South Carolina. You can follow Ashley at @thefreshbeet on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
What was your path to becoming a dietitian focused on plant-based eating?
While taking more in-depth metabolism classes in grad school (2010), I learned a lot about how beneficial plant foods are for the body on a cellular level. I found it fascinating that by eating more plants, I could reduce my risk for cancer, heart disease, and other common chronic diseases we see today. Since then, I’ve followed a plant-based diet and I have to say, I’ve never felt better. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate that following a plant-based diet is also healthier for the environment, an outcome that helps fuel my desire to spread the goodness about plant-based eating.
Why do you think a plant-based diet is so beneficial for people?
There are many reasons that plant-based diets are beneficial for people. The main benefit I like to bring to the table is fiber, because it can help with weight control and can reduce cholesterol, two common
health issues in the US and issues to which many Americans can relate. The majority of Americans fall well below the recommended intakes of plant-based foods that provide fiber like fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Getting people to enjoy eating even one additional serving of plant foods can be beneficial. As the USDA Dietary Guidelines promote, I like to help people make “simple shifts” towards eating more plants. I’ve helped someone who typically eats a classic American breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns and a biscuit every morning to replace that breakfast twice a week with a bowl of oatmeal, fruit, and nuts. As a result, they reported feeling “lighter and more energetic” throughout the morning rather than heavy and lethargic. I’ve also observed increased bowel movements, weight loss, and cholesterol reduction in people who start including more plants in their diets.
What kind of resources does The Fresh Beet provide?
The Fresh Beet provides healthy recipes, nutrition advice, and The Grocery Guide, a video series dedicated to helping people cut through marketing schemes and make the most nutritious choices at the grocery store. I also provide online nutrition coaching but am not taking new patients at the moment — check back in the Spring!
Tell us more about your plant-based nutrition course.
Absolutely! This course is for people just starting out and currently on a plant-based diet. It walks them through analyzing their current diet so they can determine which nutrients their diet is lacking and how to fill those gaps. Eating adequate amounts of some nutrients can be difficult on a plant-based diet. This course walks you through which nutrients are commonly under-consumed and how you can better meet those needs. The course is 1.5 hours long but you can consume it at your own pace and you refer back to it whenever because you’ll have access to it forever. Click here to view the course content and more. I am offering a free coupon for Sharon Palmer’s readers; at check out, use the coupon code: PALMER-FOR-PLANTS.
What are some of your best tips for people looking to try a plant-based lifestyle?
Make it a gradual transition to ensure that it’s a sustainable lifestyle change. Start by eating one more plant-based meal than you do now each week, and plan exactly what that meal is going to look like. Use a recipe online or from a friend and be sure to shop for what you need to execute that meal each week. Once you’re comfortable with that additional meal, add another, and so on. Also, become familiar with the plant-based proteins you will use to replace animal-based ones; ex: soy milk for cow’s milk; beans, tempeh or tofu for animal meat. And most importantly, be sure that this lifestyle change is one that you are ready for and excited about. If it’s something that you feel you “have” to do because other people are doing it or because your doctor is pressuring you to do it, you won’t enjoy it and it won’t last. Something I like to clarify with people is that a plant-based diet is not vegan; you do not have to swear off animal foods altogether. It simply means that the bulk of your diet is made up of plants and that animal products are sprinkled in, rather than serving as the star of the show as in the Standard American Diet.
Tell us what kinds of foods you eat every day to stay healthy and vibrant.
I typically start my day off with a bowl of oatmeal cooked in soy milk and topped with fruit, nuts and chia seeds; or I’ll make a smoothie bowl topped with the same. Lunch is typically different every day but some plant-based staples at home for dinner include falafel pitas with salad, veggie stir-frys with tempeh over brown or white rice, and big salad bowls topped with veggies, whole grains, and hummus. In addition to snacking on fruit, nuts, and homemade granola bars, to ensure I get my probiotics, I also snack on yogurt and drink Kombucha.
Do you have a favorite plant-based recipe to share with us?
I do! I call it Kiki’s Summer Bowl. It’s named after my sweet lab mix who is always “helping” me in the kitchen. This meal hits almost every food group and is loaded with fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes and whole grains. It’s delicious, satisfying and is sure to energize your mind, body, and soul. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
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