Well, I survived the month of WFPB – whole food plant based – eating! Ha, it wasn’t hard really, just that others around me thought it would be. As I indicated in the last update, the hardest part was eating out and having to ask questions about the choices offered. At home I was fine and tried a number of new recipes, several of which are keepers and will be repeated.

Will I stay with it? This was an experiment to see how easy/hard it would be to eat only plant-based foods. I don’t have health problems driving me to seek a better way of eating; I am not opposed 100% to consuming the produce of animals; and I already was choosing options that minimized the effects of consuming animal products. We eat a lot of meatless meals and even when a meal includes meat the portions are smaller than most people would use. I always try to buy from sources that use humane practices or fish sustainably. I know there are many people who will say that any consumption of animal produce caused pain and suffering, and I do understand that. To those people, one cannot justify the choice to not be plant-based. Still, I do feel pretty good and attribute at least some of that to focusing on my diet, so honestly I have not decided whether to stick with it or not.

“Focusing on my diet” may be what stops some folks from considering WFPB eating. By that I mean – it can be challenging since this is a whole food and plant-based (WFPB) way of eating. The emphasis is on little or no refining, eating the whole food, eating real food not replacements full of artificial or food-like contents. Did all my choices live up to this? No, I ate at a few restaurants and I use store-bought condiments at home, so not all the foods were 100% whole. But all in all, I felt like the month was mostly WFPB. I cook a lot and don’t use a lot of prepared foods, so it was less challenging for me. Of course, for people short on time to cook there are many ways to shortcut, like making extras and freezing or preparing items ahead of time on days off work. For people who don’t cook there are good options if labels are read and choices are carefully made, but many of the ready-to-eat foods are heavily refined and contain ingredients that are better to avoid. I did feel like there was more planning involved in preparing a meal that would satisfy all parties.

A few of our dinners:

                Everything Salads (all the salad veggies & fixin’s I have on hand)
                Pasta and Broccoli Leaves in Toasted Walnut Sauce (not a keeper!) with sautéed asparagus
                Veggie Pot Pie (awesome!!)
                My version of  Otro’s Inca salad
                Spicy Curry Vegetables, Black Pepper Saffron Rice, Cucumber salad
                A pinto bean-chopped veggies salad
                Veg stir fry

A lot of non-animal products exist, so one can eat plant based, but not necessarily healthy. I always tell people potato chips and sweet tea are plant based but as a steady diet not so healthy! Of course, unhealthy diets are not exclusive to vegan, or plant-based, ways of eating. Anyone can make poor choices on a regular basis. My recommendation is always to eat a variety of foods, preferably minimally refined, and eat in moderation. Want an ice cream or that decadent chocolate cake? Have it, enjoy it, share it if you can, and don’t make it a frequent habit. Not ready to give up meat or dairy products? Ok, but maybe skip the fried and scorched meats, avoid highly processed meats, and don’t have cheese on everything.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from trying this way of eating. If you have health issues or a family history of heart disease or cancer, it would be very worth your while to see how it works for you. Removing animal products from the diet may help you live longer and avoid killer diseases. Even if you feel you can’t cut them out completely, look for ways to minimize them in your diet. Your friendly neighborhood health coach is there to help!

What is it? Whole food, plant based eating. Basically it’s a vegan diet but with the emphasis on whole foods, foods in their most complete state. Less processed, not stripped of goodness and nutrition. Why am I writing about it? Because I decided to embark on this eating plan for the month of March! I want to see how well I do avoiding all animal and seafood protein, all dairy, and eggs. I think you will be reading a lot more about this way of eating if you haven’t already.

There are many reasons people decide to forgo eating the produce of animals: Animal rights and protection from cruel mismanagement; a person’s own health; not liking the taste or texture of flesh; religious restrictions; and some more, I am sure. I have been reading many articles on why a plant based diet is better for human health, and I want to see for myself how it affects me, if at all. I am in good shape, with a good weight, ‘good’ blood levels, and overall good health. So I don’t look for a major shift in any of that. Yet, will I lose weight, which I do not want to do? Maybe I’ll gain weight, which would be ok (as long as not too much!). Will I feel less energetic, more tired? Will my occasional intestinal distress clear up? Will I feel hungry all the time or more satiated than on my present way of eating? Will it be a lot more work cooking and planning meals? I’ll post updates each week so you can see how it goes for me. A well-rounded plant based diet does require some planning to make sure one is getting a full complement of nutrients and sufficient calories – potato chips and soda make a ‘vegan’ diet but not a healthy one!

My eating plan this month will consist of many vegetables, whole grains, beans and pulses, seeds, nuts, and fruits. My last post was about raw food diets not being for me, so will have a mix of raw (salads) and cooked vegetables. I have a wide repertoire of recipes and there are thousands more available on the web. Most can be adapted to solely plant based. We eat a lot of meatless meals already, so my husband is accustomed to it. He is not fully on this ride with me, but agrees if he feels the need for meat, he can get it when we go out for dinner, about once a week. Probably the hardest thing for me to skip will be eggs – I don’t eat a lot of eggs but they can be a quick and satisfying meal or snack, so I will miss them. We are about 98% dairy free, with just the occasional buttermilk for a dressing or biscuits or maybe a little cheese now and then. So going 100% dairy free will not be tough for us. I do have some processed foods in my kitchen but not a lot and even those are minimally processed. Got to have a little convenience! Breakfast and lunch have not really changed for me. I usually have oatmeal and toast or a breakfast ‘cookie’ and fruit in the morning – I just switched to coconut oil or peanut butter in place of butter on my toast, for instance. Lunch is mostly meat-free anyway for me, consisting of leftovers or maybe a veggie patty from the freezer. I actually began the WFPB on 2/26 since Sunday starts my week of menu plans. So far our dinners have been:

  • A salad of spinach and lettuce topped with red rice, sliced celery, shredded carrot, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, and vegan mayo mixed with curry powder and mango chutney
  • A variation of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Tex-Mex salad of lettuce and cabbage, black beans, corn, tomatoes, onion with an avocado based dressing
  • A veg-full soup with lentils and lots of spices
  • A veggie stack plate from a local restaurant (pita stacked with hummus, beets, garbanzos, quinoa, more)
  • Pasta with a fresh tomato sauce; sautéed broccoli leaves; sautéed asparagus
  • Red rice and black bean filled corn tortillas, enchilada style, with homemade enchilada sauce; a broccoli salad with cherry tomatoes, avocado, and spring onion in a light lime dressing; and a roasted kale, fennel , and delicata squash dish
  • Thai food from a local restaurant (Asian restaurants make eating veg easy!)
  • Spring Lasagna from Mollie Katzen’s Heart of the Plate cookbook; side salad
  • Roasted Beet and Spinach salad with walnuts

 

I am not stating everyone should give up all animal produce for all time. Humans are omnivores, meaning we can digest and assimilate food from animals and plants. Each person must decide for themselves. However, the way too much of our animal or fish protein is produced today makes the quality far inferior to the meat our grandparents ate. Factory farms where cattle, pigs, or chickens live in filthy, overcrowded conditions, are fed with feed not suitable for anyone’s consumption, and dosed with hormones and antibiotics whether needed or not and fish farms where the water is extremely contaminated, the fish are overcrowded, and again the feed is not suitable – these conditions are not how animals should live. The animals are stressed and therefore their flesh is of poor quality and reduced amounts of vitamin E, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Plenty of studies point to improved health and lower risk of modern lifestyle diseases in people who eat plant based diets. Reductions in diabetes, obesity, and some heart disease are most often cited. Some people simply don’t like the look, smell, mouth-feel, and taste of meat. And some religions prohibit eating the produce of animals. Whatever your reasons, if you have thought about ‘going veg’ give it a try, it could be interesting. Commit to a reasonable length of time – no less than two weeks – and see how you feel. I’ll post updates on my progress as the month proceeds!

20160412_vegormeatConfused about the tug-of-war for minds and mouths between Paleo promoters and vegan adherents? Me too! The studies they quote. The statistics they report. The claims they make. All contradicting each other. What’s an omnivore to do?

On the paleo side the argument, generally, is that Paleolithic humans ate nuts, seeds, berries –whatever they could gather – and meat from small animals, or large animals on occasion. The belief is that these early humans did not eat cereal grains (i.e. wheat, corn, rice, oats, etc.). It is also believed that humans have not yet evolved to digest grains and legumes, therefore grains and legumes cause illness. Like the Atkins diet, meat plays a large role.

The vegetarians & vegans have many reasons for shunning meats, such as their health, compassion for animals, religious restrictions, or simply personal preference. They believe that humans can get all the nutrients needed for good health from a diet that does not include flesh, and for vegans a diet that also does not include anything produced by living beings, like eggs, milk, and honey.

And studies of each type of diet can be found to “prove” the case, or excerpts from the study may be used to bolster the case. Claims are made to convince you that you are wrong to eat the other way, crazy to eat in a way that harms health, harms the earth, harms animals, and so on. Statistics are used to show how much better populations do on whichever diet the speaker is promoting.

The problem is – both are right and both are wrong. Both schools agree with vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and, except for vegans, dairy being included in your diet. And some vegetarian/vegans may not eat grains either. The main difference is the question of meat.

We humans are considered omnivores, meaning we can obtain nutrients and energy from both plant and animal sources. For many long years in America and much of Europe a well-balanced diet was considered to include both sources. But in many parts of the world meat is a minor or non-existent part of a healthy diet. And today in America and Europe many healthy people do not eat meat or fish or ‘anything with a face’. Other people cannot imagine a meal without some type of meat, and some people hardly eat anything but meat. Who is healthier?

Well, that depends on so many factors, all of them relate to you and your body more than to anyone’s arguments – pro-meat or pro-vegetarian. What each camp often fails to consider is the individual person – what is best for your physiology?

If you do eat meat, how do you feel? Do you feel lethargic after a meal with meat where you did not overeat? Do you experience digestive issues when you have been eating meat? Does your nose get stuffy or begin to run, or do you get hives after a meaty meal? If the answer to these is “yes” maybe you should try avoiding meat, fish, and poultry for a couple of weeks then see how you are feeling. If you are better and not having the issues, try adding one type of animal protein, usually the lightest first, back to your diet and wait 2-3 days before adding another type. Check with yourself on how you feel after resuming each type. If the break does not help or the symptoms return when you resume the meat, perhaps you would fare better as a vegetarian. (It is possible (though rare) to be allergic to meat, so strong symptoms should be noted and meat avoided until you rule out that possibility.)

If you do eat meat and do not experience any of those issues then I do recommend you obtain that meat/fish/poultry from sustainable, humane sources. Most typical grocery stores carry meat from confined animal feeding operations (CAFO), fish farms, and huge poultry sheds. You’ve probably seen pictures of some of these operations and maybe heard some of the sad stories from them. These conditions are not how these beings were meant to live, and often are filthy and extremely unsanitary. Not what you should be eating! I also recommend avoiding or strictly limiting highly processed meats – packaged lunchmeats, hotdogs, fish or chicken nuggets, and the like. Then, to keep “everything in moderation” as I like to tell people, try to have a number of meatless meals each week.

If you eat meat but sometimes think about becoming a vegetarian, give it a try. First, gauge how you feel, what condition you are in, your weight, and if possible your bio-metrics when you start. Look up some recipes, find restaurants with veg options (other than salad they leave the chicken out of!), and try it for two to three weeks or longer. Then check yourself again – how you feel, what condition you are in, your weight, and if possible your bio-metrics. If you feel better and feel your body is in better shape, then it’s a dietary choice that suits you. This is especially true if part or all of your reasons for going veg is animal welfare.

If you are or become a vegetarian/vegan, you should be watching that you are getting enough calories for the lifestyle you live. Sufficient calories are important, and easier to get from a meat-and-potatoes type diet. Eat a variety of foods, not rice at every meal or only salads. Mix it up. Some vegetarians like the meat substitutes that abound nowadays, but I find it satisfying to skip those as well as ‘real’ meats. Some of the substitutes are as chemical-laden as processed meats so watch out for that!

It’s possible to eat very well or very poorly whether one eats meat or not. The key is to know yourself and what works for you – for your body, energy, and mind. Eat a variety of foods that work for you and always in moderation!

 

Image courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net