A few weeks ago I came across an article in the JACC-Journal of the American College of Cardiology. In college I learned that a peer reviewed journal, like this one, can be trusted. With seventeen pages of footnotes/reference making up more than half of this twenty seven page article, I still believe that. The article, Trending Cardiovascular Nutrition Controversies, straight up identifies the health aspects of a plant-based diet. Damn it. I’ve known it for a long time but didn’t want to believe it. I was comfortable, why change? For me there are two reasons; 1- I’ve struggled with weight all of my life and until I was 42 I was obese, no doubt this put extra stress on my heart, and 2- I’m an animal lover, and the way that food animals are raised in this country is shameful and I can’t face myself when I know I’m consuming a pig that was raised in a pen, so confining that it couldn’t turn to scratch it’s own butt. Don’t EVEN get me started on the chickens.
I was in denial about the heart health aspects. I thought I was doing what I could with regard to meat, eggs and dairy, by purchasing free range eggs, organic cheeses, and beef straight from a local rancher. But for the sake of my heart I decided to do more. I challenged myself to be plant-based for a month. Plant-based, meaning just that – the basis of my diet (what I choose to consume, not what I’m doing to deprive myself) are foods from plants. I haven’t given up cheese (from sources other than factory farms) and I’m not sure that I ever will. Eggs are not completely off the menu either. While I don’t plan to consume them as a main dish, a free range egg in a batch of 12 muffins is acceptable for my diet. I won’t say that I’ll never eat meat again, but I think I’m headed in that direction.
Eating well (meaning quality, not abundance) has been a focus for several years now. I have a new life and a new husband, and I want to enjoy everything for as long as I possibly can. As a long time bachelor, my husband needed some help breaking a few bad habits (insatiable appetite for Twizzlers being one of them) in order to ensure his longevity. The changes to his diet have all been his choice. For example, I love hummus and carrots. It’s my go to for an addition to a packed lunch or a quick snack at home. When we met, he told me he didn’t like hummus, cool, more for me. At first he would cautiously ask me for a bite when I was snacking. Two years later… it’s now his go to for a quick snack. It turns out he had previously been served a lame hummus. He still doesn’t find eggplant a comfort food like I do but hey… to each his own.
Back to the challenge. Since I already eat a lot of fruits and vegetables this won’t be a shocking change. I rarely eat packaged foods, unless crackers are packaged food? Maybe the correct term is prepared foods. If I’m buying a pasta sauce or salsa it’s never as quick as just grabbing one off the shelf. It can’t have anything in it that I wouldn’t put in it, especially SUGAR!
I tried to find a reason not to make the move to a plant-based diet. I couldn’t find a problem with any of the following:
Variety: I can’t eat just tofu. Nope, no issues here. There are more beans and grains than I’ve ever heard of, all available at reasonable prices. The same is true for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Protein: Surely I need meat to get enough protein. Ummmm nope. The seeds and grains that I’ve added to my diet provide more than enough protein. Also, I’m plant-based, not plant-exclusive so Greek yogurt and cheese (from pasture raised cows) are still on my menu. And then there’s all the products I haven’t tried yet, like soyrizo tempeh.
Price: Could plant-based eating bankrupt me? Nope, I’ve found that grains like quinoa, farro, and brown rice, are less expensive, more versatile, and have a longer shelf life than sustainably raised meat.
Convenience: I haven’t found there to be much of a change in convenience. This had already changed when I gave up fast food and prepared foods. Since I had already made the change to doing most of my own cooking, convenience hasn’t been an issue. I’ve been making my own ketchup for a few years now, the amount of sugar (or sugar substitute) in the packaged stuff is shocking.
So VARIETY, PROTEIN, PRICE, and CONVENIENCE are not going to be issues. I’m strong enough to be my own person and do what’s right for ME. So without concerns of the judgments I might receive from my friends and co-workers, I’ve decided to dive in and give it a try. Will I stick with it? Will I maintain or lose weight? Will a plant-based diet be right for me?
Only time will tell, but I know I will savor the journey!
3 Week Update:
So three weeks into the plant-based diet and I think its a fit for me! I feel great, energized, not sluggish. I’m not missing meat at all.
Part of the deal I made with myself was that I had to be free not to count calories, stress on portion sizes, or deprive myself in any way if this was to work. My weight and body measurements are still the same and I have enjoyed more of a carefree approach to my meals while getting full at every meal.
I’ve discovered a few new dishes that I love. Like the tofu scramble I did on Sunday. I’m looking forward to trying severa, variations of this.
And… there have been some non-wins for sure. My first attempt at making black bean burgers wasn’t technically a failure since they were edible, even enjoyable. But I couldn’t grill them, they had to be baked. And they could have been spicier. I’ll post the recipe once I perfect it.
There is one more week in my month long trial period but I already know a plant-based diet is right for me. Is it right for you? If you’ve already made the change what meals were your biggest challenges and how did you over come them?