The plant-based challenge

Let’s talk about your diet!  What are you eating these days?  How are you feeling? How much thought do you put into food preparation and meal planning?  Are you chopping, peeling and cutting or are you in a state of grab and go?

What you eat is so important!  It’s one of the most significant factors of self-care and has everything to do with your energy level, your immune system functioning, your physical health (think lab levels from your annual physical) and your overall wellness!  

So let’s talk about it….

About a month ago, I watched the documentary Forks over Knives on Netflix.  Click here to watch the trailer.  I heard about this film a long time ago, but always felt avoidant of it because I thought it might have gruesome slaughter-house scenes that would forever scar me from ever wanting to eat meat again, or it would be some hippie-ish vegan propaganda movie!  Boy was I wrong!

Forks over Knives is an informative, mind-blowing documentary film filled with research from some of the worlds greatest physicians and proponents of the whole food, plant based diet.  It tells the stories of several people who transformed their lives and reversed their disease by focusing almost exclusively on their nutrition.

The whole food, plant based diet is essentially a very strict vegan, no oil, plant based diet that can be seen by some as radical!  I’m certainly not going to ever become someone who exclusively eats this way. However, after watching this, I started to consider what it might be like if I tried to get super conscious of eating more plant based meals and increasing my intake of fruits, vegetables and “whole foods” meaning foods that are consumed as close to their original source as possible and not processed in any way.  

Think of an apple.  If you just eat an apple, it’s far better than choosing an applesauce that has been processed into another food which usually means adding sugar or preservatives.  Making apples into applesauce for example, requires that we cook them down and therefore break down the maximum nutrients and vitamins you could get from eating the whole piece of fruit – as close to its original form as possible.  That said, of course choosing an applesauce is far better than a bag of chips or a snickers bar! But when you’re thinking about whole food, plant based – consider how close you can get to the original source of fruits and vegetables.

As I started out on this plant based challenge, I wondered what the heck will I eat?  I’m so used to making dinner for my family that consists mostly of a piece of meat, chicken or fish with a side of a starch and a vegetable or salad.  I had to start challenging this idea in my mind that A. eating this way is the only way to be full and B. this is the way dinner should look!

I started with things that were already familiar to me – roasting vegetables, making soups and making salads – but expanding on the concepts.  One night I made roasted broccoli and a huge salad and just ate all of that for dinner – which for me felt so weird at first! Like where’s the chicken thigh or piece of salmon?  Where’s the rice pilaf or roasted potatoes? But surprisingly I was satisfied and feeling on a roll. Another night I made shredded chicken tacos for my family and just used the pinto beans as the filling for mine.  I found some inspiring plant based recipes online and made a pineapple salsa and a lime, jalapeno coleslaw for the tacos and they were so flavorful and zesty I never missed the chicken.

At the same time I discovered Forks over Knives, Facebook suggested I might like this page called “Healthy Human Revolution.”  Because facebook seems to know everything about me, I decided to hop on over and check them out! They’re a team of 3 professionals who are also proponents of the whole food, plant based diet.  They’re not short on inspiration and easy to access ideas – like on FB, their blog, podcast and online recipes too. Check them out here:  Every Monday evening they do a FB live segment and share inspiration and tips for those moving towards more plant based eating.

I will say this – eating this way takes time and planning.  But it’s simple to do if you set yourself up to succeed! I have learned to use my weekends wisely.  I spend time Sunday prepping up a few salads for the week like quinoa salad and mason jar salads – where your dressing goes on the bottom, crunchy veggies next, then delicate lettuce leaves on top.  Put on the lid and store upright, then shake to toss the dressing right before you eat them. I make up a bunch of these and bring them all to work on a Monday for the week. They stay fresh until about Thursday and then I choose something else for my Friday lunch.  Chop up all your veggies and bag them up in individual size bags or containers to dip in your hummus or just snack on fresh. Wash and cut up bunches of grapes and that way when you’re in a hurry in the morning you can grab and go with all your fresh fruits and veggies instead of taking a pantry item or buying something on the road.  

Trader Joe’s has lots of healthy nut and dried fruit mixes.  I always have these in my emergency snack drawer at work and when I used to have a longer commute, I never left home without a little trail mix in my glovebox!  It helps you fight off the temptation to drive through fast food and get something unhealthy.

The folks at Healthy Human Revolution debunked a few myths about eating a whole food, plant based diet on one of their recent FB live sessions.  Many people complain that eating this way is too expensive. Not true! I’ve been loading up my grocery cart lately with tons of plant based options and consequently reducing the amount of meat, frozen and prepared foods I might have normally been purchasing and my grocery bill has been the same or less expensive than the way I used to shop.  

Many say it won’t taste as good.  Not true. Once you start eating this way, your taste buds change!  Suddenly you taste the deliciousness of vegetables and fruit in a whole new way.  I peeled, chopped and roasted a whole butternut squash the other day with just a tiny drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and I swear I almost ate the entire tray myself it was so delicious!  When you eat things that are in season too – you’ll really begin to notice a difference in flavor and taste. For example – don’t miss out on the variety of incredible citrus fruits right now. There are so many different kinds to choose from – blood oranges, mandarins, cara cara, tangerines, tangelos, grapefruits, clementines and regular ol’ navel oranges are all at their peak in winter.  It’s sort of like nature knows we need a little boost of sunshine and vitamin C.

Many also say they’ll eat nothing but salad.  Not true! There are so many delicious foods from around the globe that are plant based options. Think of vegetable based dishes from India or Asia – the curries, stews, stir frys that are all plant based.  Pretty much anything you make now can have a suitable plant based substitute like portobello mushroom or vegetable based burgers, tofu and vegetable curries or a stir fry, vegetable based soups, etc., etc., etc!!!  There are tons of options outside of salad.

Many say there aren’t enough choices when eating out.  Not true!  You know my office is directly over a bagel shop – hello temptation!  Every once in awhile I’ll run downstairs and grab a bagel sandwich if I run out of options in my office kitchen.  Last time I asked them to make me a vegetarian bagel sandwich and it was delicious, cheaper and healthier for me than many of the other options on their menu.  I even ordered the veggie sandwich on the whole grain bread at Jimmy John’s the other day with my kids when we were out and about and left feeling completely satisfied.  

So……are you up for a little challenge?  

Can you increase your whole food, plant based meals for just a week and see what you notice?  It will require a little thinking at first and some extra preparation, but I promise you, you will feel so differently eating this way.  Your mind is sharper, you have more prolonged energy throughout the day, your skin will clear up, you’ll sleep better and you’ll naturally lose weight too.  

I was raised by a nutritionist and married a chef, so food is a huge part of my life!  I enjoy cooking, preparing delicious meals and sharing them with people I love. So don’t get me wrong – I’m never gonna be a vegan! Hello real parmesan cheese, bacon and half & half in my coffee! 😉

But, I am having fun with the challenge of elevating my consciousness around increasing my plant based options and I think you will too!  



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