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  • Writer's pictureJacqui Grant

Nutrition - Embracing Our Unique Selves: Family, Connection, and Plant-Based Nutrition

Connect and Grow Magazine - April 2024 - Edition 8

In a world where conformity often seems like the norm, embracing our true selves can feel like swimming against the tide. Yet, it's in our individuality that our greatest strength lies. Just as each person has their fingerprint, so should our dietary choices reflect our unique needs and values.


When it comes to nutrition, this means acknowledging that there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Whether we opt for a plant-based diet or not, what matters MOST is that our food choices align with our values and NOURISH our bodies.


Choosing a plant-based lifestyle can be both empowering and challenging. It's a decision that often goes against the grain, challenging societal norms and the expectations of those around us. Yet, it's also an opportunity to connect with something greater than ourselves – to honour the planet, the animals, and our own health.


In embracing a plant-based diet, we may find ourselves navigating uncharted territory, facing scepticism from friends, family, and even strangers. Our dietary choices may be met with raised eyebrows, questions, and sometimes outright resistance. Yet, staying true to ourselves and our beliefs is essential for honouring our unique selves.

It's about having the courage to stand firm in our convictions, even when faced with opposition. It's about recognising that our health and well-being are worth fighting for, even if it means charting our own course. And it's about finding strength in our authenticity, knowing that we are living in alignment with our values and principles.


Family and connection play a vital role in this journey.


Gathering around the table to share a meal with loved ones, whether they follow the same diet or not, fosters a sense of belonging and support. It's about the joy of coming together, sharing stories, and creating memories – all while honouring our own unique selves.  This is one of my greatest joys. 


However, having said that, when changing your dietary preference, family can often be some of our greatest critics, but once you explain your reasoning, ask them for their assistance in helping you reach your health goals, family can be your greatest support network.  This has proved true in my health journey.


So, as we navigate the twists and turns of life, let's remember to celebrate our uniqueness and embrace the connections that sustain us.


Whether we're enjoying a hearty plant-based meal with family or simply savouring life's simple pleasures, let's cherish the moments that bring us closer together and nourish both body and soul. And let's do so with the knowledge that staying true to ourselves is the greatest gift we can give – to ourselves and to those we love.


A great recipe to accompany this article could be hearty, flavorful, and plant-based, showcasing the diversity and deliciousness of plant-based cuisine. How about a savory Lentil and Vegetable Shepherd's Pie? It's a comforting and satisfying dish that's perfect for sharing with family and friends, embodying the spirit of connection and nourishment.

 April Recipe - Plant-Based Lentil and Vegetable Shepherd's Pie




For the Filling:


1 cup dry green or brown lentils, rinsed and drained

2 cups vegetable broth

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

2 tablespoons flour (all-purpose or gluten-free)

For the Mashed Potato Topping:

4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup plant-based milk (such as almond, soy, or oat)

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional for added creaminess – ½ - 1 whole avocado, mashed 



Prepare the Lentil Filling:


In a medium saucepan, combine the rinsed lentils and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed. Set aside.


In a large skillet, add the diced onion, carrots, and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened, if they begin to stick, add a splash of extra stock or water.


Add the minced garlic, dried thyme, dried rosemary, paprika, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, until fragrant.


Stir in the cooked lentils, frozen peas, corn kernels, tomato paste, and soy sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes, allowing the flavours to meld together.   Sprinkle the flour over the filling mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.


Prepare the Mashed Potato Topping:

Place the chopped potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.


Drain the cooked potatoes and transfer them to a mixing bowl. Add the plant-based milk, salt and pepper, and avocado if using.   Mash the potatoes until smooth and creamy.


Assemble and Bake:


Preheat your oven to 190°C. Lightly grease a baking dish.

Spread the lentil and vegetable filling evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Spoon the mashed potato topping over the filling, spreading it out to cover the entire surface.

Use a fork to create a decorative pattern on the surface of the mashed potatoes, if desired.

Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the mashed potatoes are lightly golden on top.


Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.


Serve warm and enjoy the comforting flavours of this hearty Lentil and Vegetable Shepherd's Pie with your loved ones, fostering a sense of connection and nourishment that truly embodies the spirit of embracing our unique selves.


Dessert Recipe:


Vegan Chocolate Avocado Mousse



2 ripe avocados

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup maple syrup or agave nectar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Fresh berries, for garnish (optional)


Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. Scoop the avocado flesh into a blender or food processor

Add the cocoa powder, maple syrup or agave nectar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt to the blender.

Blend the ingredients until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed to ensure everything is well mixed. 

Taste the mousse and adjust the sweetness if needed by adding more maple syrup or agave nectar. 

Once the mousse is smooth and creamy, transfer it to serving bowls or glasses. 

Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to chill and set.


Before serving, garnish the mousse with fresh berries if desired. Enjoy your decadent and creamy vegan chocolate avocado mousse!


These recipes offer a delightful combination of flavours and textures, perfect for complementing the theme of embracing our unique selves and honoring our values through plant-based nutrition. Enjoy your meal and dessert!



If you are ready to embark on a plant-based diet but are unsure where to start, book a time with Kathy.


Kathy Ashton

Registered Clinical/Medicinal Nutritionist


T: 1300 003 082 

F: (03) 8488 9934

104 Canterbury Rd, Middle Park VIC 3206

Website:  Health 104

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(c) 2024 Break Free Consultancy Connect and Grow Magazine

Disclaimer: All information is correct at time of publication. It is the reader's responsibility to seek professional input for specific advice.

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