Getting Started with Plant Based eating

This is a post that I’ve been thinking about for a while, mostly because a lot of people ask me what I recommend to get started. But I’ve put it on the back burner for a while and it probably would have remained there except for this post, which I saw this morning. If there was ever a post that demanded this reaction, this is it. picard face palm

Take a moment to skim it if you like, pay particular attention to the next to the last paragraph (assuming the call to eat a pepperoni pizza is a paragraph).

While I was tempted to begin a post taking this girl apart for the ridiculous “article” she wrote, I think it’s better to think about what she tried and where she went wrong. As usual, there is more to be learned from failures than successes. In a nutshell, my recommendations are:

  1. Do your homework
  2. Start small
  3. Plan your snacks

As usual, I’ll elaborate.

Do Your Homework

Clearly poor Zoe Karavolis did not do her homework. She had a couple of friends who were going to try vegan and she jumped in without any knowledge, planning, or intent. Bad idea. I can think of very few things in life where most people would try to make a major change (car, house, job, etc.) without doing some basic research and planning. Yet many seem to think that changing your diet is not of the same importance. Approached that way, you are destined to fail.

I wanted to implement healthy eating habits into my diet and I only kind of did. Yes, I ate more fruits and vegetables, but I also ate a TON more carbs. Pasta. Rice. More pasta. Potatoes.

The failure to understand the difference between unrefined and refined carbohydrates was her downfall here. A little education on the difference between white rice and brown rice, whole wheat or other whole grain pasta compared to white pasta and the just plain greatness of potatoes (didn’t she see the Martian? Matt Damon lived on just potatoes and that’s been replicated in numerous scientific studies) leads her to somehow believe that carbohydrates are bad. But, in fact, a whole-food plant based diet should be 80-85% complex, unrefined carbohydrates. It’s what makes us full and happy, gives us plenty of fiber and staves off virtually every disease of affluence.

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying plant based eating is thinking that they’re just going to eat fruits and vegetables. Starch, in the form of unrefined foods, is your best friend. When you’re consuming the right kinds of starches, how much you eat becomes almost irrelevant.

When I decided to try plant based eating, I spent well over a month reading all sorts of books and cookbooks in preparation. I then committed myself for 4 months, thinking that would be a good trial. The rest, as they say, is history.

Start Small

I had a strong start. I really did. I even ate salad (a rarity for me). I dramatically increased my fruit and vegetable intake — I planned my meals around main courses made primarily of fruits and vegetables and was able to incorporate some unique new recipes.

Doesn’t this sound suspiciously like virtually every New Year’s resolution you’ve ever heard? While I admit that there are some people that really need to jump in with both feet to make progress, for a change of this magnitude I’d really recommend starting small. Meatless Monday is a great way to go. Check out the link for some good ideas on how to incorporate Meatless Monday into your life. It’s worth it!

2015_MM_environment_infographics2If you find that Meatless Monday is working for you, then you might start going plant based for breakfast each day. Making the switch from cow’s milk to almond or soy milk is pretty easy, especially if you’re using it on cereal or in coffee. Word of warning, the sweetened and flavored plant milks seem to be taking over the dairy case. Look for the unsweetened (sometimes called “original”) variety without vanilla.

Plan Your Snacks

I have been known to say, on more than one occasion, that the success of any eating plan depends not upon the meals, but upon the snacks. You’re plan is only as good as your snacks.

Seriously. Everyone eats snacks between meals. If your plan doesn’t have easy, nutritious snacks then you’re doomed to failure. For me, the breakthrough was homemade hummus. It takes about 5 minutes to make and a batch lasts me about a week. If you want a quick recipe, email me and I’ll be glad to send you mine.

I actually cried when I saw my dad making chocolate chip cookies.

And really, you couldn’t figure out how to make chocolate chip cookies vegan style? There are about a million recipes out there for everything from Tahini Chocolate Chip cookies to everyone’s favorite Cowboy Cookies (thanks Claryn, for both!)

OK, I tried, but I just can’t resist commenting on that next to last paragraph. Sorry.

For all of you that have a strong passion to veer away from animal products, I respect you. I love animals just as much as the next person. But I was raised eating dairy and meat and that is the way I intend to live.

The “I love animals just as much as the next person” line is a killer for me. What she meant to say is that I love some animals a lot and others I choose not to think about how they are treated and killed with gross inhumanity because I’ve be acculturated to eat them.

And the “I was raised eating dairy…” line might be the chorus for intellectual and emotional laziness. Why not just admit that you’re a lazy kid and change is hard, so I’m going back to the unhealthy diet that big business has pushed on me. Probably ought to take up smoking too.

Did I go too far? 🙂

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