What you eat has a big impact on how you feel both physically and mentally. We need to eat foods that fuel our body and help provide brain power, as well. Foods high in sugars, high fructose corn syrup, salts, and saturated fats can literally make our bodies crash. Processed and genetically modified foods should be avoided at all costs. From there, there are still many food choices we face each day.
I adopted a vegetarian diet about nine years ago after reading and studying books such as John Robbins', “The Food Revolution” (this book can be purchased through the bookstore on my website) and many other great ones on the topic of nutrition and wellness. I feel better than ever and I believe that my skin looks better too. I never ate much meat to begin with so it was not terribly difficult for me. For those of you how enjoy meat, but are considering switching to a plant based diet for your health, or because you care about the welfare of animals and the environment, there are some great meat alternatives available today for those times when you are craving it. I will provide recommendations at the bottom of this article.
I am now taking my commitment to my health one step further by giving an all plant based diet a try. Some people call this eating vegan. I prefer calling it a plant based diet for two reasons. To truly be vegan is hardcore (congrats to all of my super disciplined vegan friends out there! I think its awesome), but it means no leather, no wool, no silk, no honey, as well as dairy or eggs. The other thing is that I do not believe in is forcing a way of eating on anyone and I think there is a bit of negativity (perhaps mostly due to misunderstanding) attached to the word vegan because many (again, NOT all) are extreme activists. So, I am on a month long trial run to see if eating all plant based makes me feel any better. I will, however, withhold my right to return to eating organic butter, cheese and eggs if this is not working for me after a month.
It is not easy for me to give up these three main things to go from vegetarian to totally plant based. It is amazing how many recipes call for eggs for example. But, I am tracking everything that I eat and want to share with you some of my favorite recipes and ideas so far to keep it healthy, fun, and simple. After all, if you are consuming all pastas or pretzels to fill you up, you will not receive the necessary nutrients. You do need to do a little research, which is why I am here to help.
The biggest question I get asked is how do you get enough protein? Excellent question, but it is absolutely not a problem. There are similar questions & concerns about calcium. I will list a few foods below:
Sources of Protein in Grams
Sources of Calcium in Milligrams
So, my fears leading into this new self challenge were really the thought of giving up my yummy cheese and how to avoid mayonaise that I use often use on sandwhiches, in coleslaws and in salad dressings... There is a vegan mayo called Vegenaise that I had tried a while back, but it sure did not taste like my yummy Hellman's REAL Mayo. Guess what? To my most pleasant surprise I went to my local Kroger recently and with all of the regular Mayo’s there it was, my new favorite product! It was like a light beaming down from heaven onto the Hellmann's Vegan Mayo! YES! They did it and it tastes exactly the same in my humble opinion. Ok, so one worry crossed off! There is also a vegan butter called Earth Balance that is a spread. I prefer to use olive and coconut oil most of the time, but it is a good option to keep on hand.
To get started on my plant based journey, I first researched vegan recipes on Pinterest. It is an excellent resource and allows you to view the recipe on your phone if you stop at the store unexpectantly and need to know what ingredients to pick up. So I stocked up on organic humus (I really liked the Simple Truth Original organic), lots of fresh organic fruits snd veggies, flatbread wraps, and Dave’s Killer 21 grain bread (if you have not tried it i HIGHLY recommend it). Not all bread is vegan (or plant based) so i urge you to take a minute to read lables. Organic is always preffered to avoid the toxic pesticides, herbicides and GMO's that could be harmful to your health.
Next, I headed home. I put everything away and decided to get my Cuisinart out and shred four carrots, two beets, and some cabbage. I would use some that day for lunch and package the rest up for convenient use throughout the week. I with these fresh ingredients, I made an incredibly flavorful wrap for my lunch that day. That night I made vegan chili using the Quorn Brand meatless crumbles.
Below is an account of what i ate my first full plant based week
Sunday: ( yes i was feeling a bit spicy 😂)
breakfast- organic fig bar
lunch- 7 grain “chicken” soft taco with salsa
dinner- 1 portabello taco and one corn taco, lots of salsa and guacamole
breakfast- fig bar
lunch- veggie wrap with carrot, beets, spinach, sunflower seeds, humus and red cabbage slaw
breakfast- grapes, raspberries, and vegan banana bread
lunch- wrap with hummus, carrots, beets mixed w a little basil oil, and spinach
dinner- leftover chili
breakfast- banana bread and more fruit
lunch- veggie sushi from Fusion
dinner- veggie pizza ( zucchini, peas, red pepper, carrot, onion, banana peppers, and broccoli) no cheese from Mio’s Pizza
breakfast- fig bar
lunch- leftover pizza
dinner- sticky asian cauliflower, coconut rice, and edamame
breakfast- fig bar
lunch- sandwhich on 21 grain bread with hummus, carrot, and vegan mayo
dinner- pretzles, bread and CHEESE (I fell off the wagon, but felt it was necessary to be honest and keep this real)
If you decide to give this challenge a try or even give up meat and step into vegetarianism, please consider the five following tips:
1. Research the nutrients in different foods.
2. Eat your rainbow. The more colorfully you are eating, the bigger variety of vitamins and minerals you are receiving.
3. Practice my yoga philosophy of awareness, acceptance and forgiveness. By this I mean be aware of what you eat and how you feel. Listen to your body and to your intuition. Accept yourself where you are. This “diet” is not for everyone and that is Ok. Finally, any improvements that you make to your lifestyle should be applauded. If you fall off of the wagon and have a cheat meal occassionslly it is OK, just start fresh the next day and try not to give up.
4. Make this committment to yourself with a friend so that you can hold each other accountable.
5. Find recipes that excite you, but that are approachable. Keep it simple, but be sure to eat a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
It is said that by eating plant based you have zero chance of heart problems, according to Dr Mark Furman (you may enjoy Dr Furman's book, "Eat to Live," which is available in my Amazon book store). So I am giving this a try. I do not believe in being pushy about my diet or my lifestyle, I simply want to share with you what works for me. I will be doing a similar blog at the end of the month on my new website totalsoulfuljourney.com chronicling things that worked for me, what did not work, where to eat plant based in Cincinnati, and more of my favorite recipes. So please stay tuned.
A few things that you might want to know that no one else will probably tell you. One, if your stomach acid is low your urine may be pink after eating beets- do not panic! Simply drink some lemon water to balance your PH. If your urine is pink and you have not consumed beets then you should consult your physician. Also, if you adopt a plant based diet cold turkey, pardon the expression, you may experience some bloating or stomach aches at first. This is due to an adjustment in your natural gut bacteria. The body will naturally adjust, but you can also take a probiotic to help the process.
In Conclusion, I reccomend eating mostly fresh organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans for great sources of protein. There are faux meat products which may sound strange when you have chosen to give up eating meat, but it is nice when you miss the texture. I used the meatless crumbles in my chili recipe photographed above. You can use the faux chicken in any chicken casserole recipes you have. So, I do not recommend eating it often, as it is processed, but occasionally it does work well and is still lower in fat and cholesterol that real meat and no living creature is harmed.
Peace, Love, and Happy Eating,
P.S. I have included the links to the recipes for the banana bread and sticky cauliflower if you click the blue words it will take you there. If YOU have favorite vegan or plant based recipes I would love to hear from you in the comment box below! Lets do this together!