Plant Based Eating Is Catching On! Cue the processed vegan junk food craze!
Plant based eating is definitely becoming more popular. People are realizing that the research relating to our health, environment, and animal welfare support and promote a plant based diet, and it is all a little too strong to ignore. People are also clueing into the fact that plant- based foods are delicious, supply tons of energy and make them feel amazing. Love it! What I don’t love, is that along with people hopping on the veggie train, I have seen a tremendous rise in vegan convenience foods. A whole food plant based diet does not have much room for these, but they abound, and I know people are drawn to them. I’ll occasionally partake, but very infrequently and I always check food labels and make sure that they are minimally processed and as close to whole foods as they can be.
Forks over Knives, which I would argue is the top resource to those following this diet, defines a whole food plant based diet as: A diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.” Most of the vegan convenience foods that I see out there fall into NONE of these categories and are in fact processed and loaded with oil, sugar, soy isolate, and too many calories. It is definitely a mistake to confuse vegan with "healthy food". I hate to hear from people, "Oh I was vegan for a while but gained so much weight and felt terrible". A little prying always reveals that they went the junk food vegan route and ate hardly any whole foods!
Vegan DOES NOT equal healthy! To illustrate the point, the following foods are vegan:
Kool-Aid Sugar-Sweetened Soft Drink Mix Lays potato chips Oreos Sweet Spiced Chili Doritos Swedish Fish Strawberry Pop Tarts Goya Flan
In addition to these "accidentally" vegan foods there are a plethora of new vegan cheeses, meat substitutes, prepared foods and restaurants that have vegan foods that aren’t always the healthiest choices (can anyone say french fries with vegan ranch)?? Now I will qualify that I think that these foods are certainly better for the planet and much kinder to animals, but they may not, in fact, be the best thing to put in our bodies. I'm not saying I never have them, or that there is no place for them. Some people when they make the switch have some big time cravings for cheese or meat and these can fill that void if used judiciously. They are not as addicting as their meaty/cheesy counterparts, so they can serve as a means to get off of the meat and cheese train. A step down so to speak. It is when they become a frequent staple that it becomes more of a problem.
Faux Meat Galore There are tons of meat substitutes out there. Fake chicken patties made from mycoprotein (there’s a fungus amongus), burgers made from processed gluten, and soy taco meat fill the freezers in the natural food and regular supermarkets. The nutrition in a store-bought veggie burger compared to a homemade bean and sweet potato burger pales in comparison. A newcomer to this huge new market is pea protein, and it seems like it may be healthier, but it shows up in processed foods, which we should avoid, so I am not throwing any gold stars at it.
It is tempting to go with the burgers that look just like a burger, have burger mouth feel and taste very much like a burger, and I am not saying that we never have them, but letting these faux cow burger patties become your go-to protein source results in you not getting all of the benefits of a whole food vegan diet. Meat substitutes are very often highly processed. They also have lots of salt and preservatives in order to have a long life in the refrigerator or freezer aisle. Reading labels carefully is paramount. Isolated soy protein, aka soy protein isolate and the long ingredient labels that you see in so many meat substitutes are what we need to steer clear of. We miss out on all of the nutrition offered by beans, sweet potatoes, veggies (and all other healthy components of veggie burgers), when we eat a processed v-burger.
Wheat gluten is another favorite meat substitute and if you can handle gluten (which I can’t), a better one to go with than isolated soy. It is generally less processed and the consistency is very close to meat. My family recently had the Impossible Burger and it was like they had all died and gone to "my mom/wife won't give me the evil eye if I eat this" burger heaven. Totally freaked out over how much it tasted like a burger. My husband actually had the waiter double check that they gave him the right one! SO much better for the environment, and studies that have compared the health effects of veggie protein to animal protein heavily favor veggie over meat.
To Soy or Not to Soy?
Soy has definitely gotten a bad rap, but studies show, that if eaten in it's whole unprocessed form, it is a great (and highly recommended) part of a vegan diet. A diet filled with isolated soy proteins which is a highly processed source of soy, however, is the type of diet that can get us into trouble. People living in asian countries eat a lot of soy and they generally have 32% lower rates of cancer and 40% lower rates of heart disease. They also consume whole and fermented soy products, not processed ones. Our country consumes too many processed soy products made with the worst part of the soy that has been stripped of a lot of the nutritious components of whole soy. Once again, we have taken a perfectly healthy food, adulterated it, and made it unhealthy!! We westerners are so good at doing that!!
There are definite health benefitsto consuming whole soy. I stick with sprouted organic, and if I can’t find sprouted, then just organic. Tofu and tempeh (which is often made from soybeans) are the best way to go, as they are fermented (more digestible and available nutrients), whole foods, close their source. The healthiest sources of soy are miso, tempeh, tofu, soy milk, and edamame. The farther your protein gets away from the source, and the more processed it is, the less nutritious it becomes. For instance, a tofu steak is going to be a better choice than a processed veggie burger that has soy isolates as one of its many ingredients. Say Cheese!
At the risk of looking like a hypocrite (if you scroll back, I did a faux cheese blog), I will say that I am not too crazy about the cheese substitutes out there. Once in a blue moon, a rendez vous with some cashew cheese is probably OK, but people get a little too friendly with these. They are fat and calorie dense and therefore crave-able and it’s hard just to have a bit of them. People start with a little on a pizza, then are eating grilled cheese, dipping crackers in the spreadable types and, boom, fake cheese becomes a habit. I do have to say, that fake cheese probably isn't as addictive as real cheese as it lacks the highly addictive casomorphines that are released in our brain when we eat real cheese. This addiction is probably why I get the eye rolls when I tell people that I like vegan cheese just as much as regular cheese. I never ate cheese before I went plant based and therefore never had a cheese high. Vegan cheeses, for the most part, have little to offer in the way of nutrients. A faux cheese pizza, for example, has very little nutrition (but, I'll admit that a bit on a pizza loaded with veggies is a nice treat). A flat bread loaded with veggies and topped with nutritional yeast, packs a better nutritional punch and also tastes delicious!
Homemade cheese is another option. My newly vegan 14 year old son and I just took a fermented vegan cheese class and the cheese was incredible! It was made from either almonds, cashews or macadamias or both and it was YUM. I do believe this unprocessed fermented cheese is a good sub, but needs to be eaten in moderation since it is very calorie dense! It is way better than eating cheese, but it certainly is not low fat or lo cal, so proceed with caution.
Vegan in a Hurry
I have seen some great convenience foods that are vegan, and ones that are loaded with preservatives, fillers, sodium and fat. Read those labels!!! Gardein makes a large variety of veggie burgers, “pizza pockets”, and chicken tenders to name a few. They are made from a mix of soy and wheat proteins. They are definitely processed and not a first choice for me, but occasionally my husband wants something that tastes like a burger (my homemade, burgers are quite there yet) so he has one of these.
Next to the Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat burgers (which are gluten free unlike Impossible) are another one that he likes and they are made from pea protein which I like better than isolated soy. What I don’t like is that they have around 20 gms of fat (5 saturated) compared to the zero gms in my homemade burgers. Their beefy crumbles are a dead ringer for beef in chili or bolognese and I have used them to feed guests who had no idea they weren’t eating meat until I told them at the end of dinner. An entire package of the crumbles have 30 g of fat. You can easily eat a quarter a package in a sitting so 8 gms of fat. It also has yeast extract and several other natural preservative type ingredients that again, my homemade food does not have.
Personally, if I am not making them myself, I go for one of the veggie burgers made from beans, veggies, sweet potatoes,and/or quinoa. There are lots of these on the market and many are oil free. Pritikin has been around forever and their veggie burgers are definitely nutritious and full of just veggies. Check the labels, look for lots veggies, no fat, or as little fat as possible and a short ingredient list.
Here is my cheese blog for a review of my favorite cheeses which I use once in a blue moon.
It’s best to stick with whole foods and make your own food, but we all know that it is not always possible to cook EVERY meal. Sometimes we want to grab and go, and there are brands that do a good job keeping their products pretty close to whole food plant based. Read labels, stick with food that is as close to its original form as possible, high fiber, and oil free if possible. As a general rule, the shorter the ingredient list, the better. And once in a while, if you enjoy some fermented cashew cheese on a cracker, so be it!
I got mine to eat plants and love birds. Miracles happen everyday!
Recently, several of my friends asked me if I would talk to their husbands about switching their diets around to be more plant-based. One said her hubby had gained a lot of weight recently, another had a health scare, and the other one has been diagnosed with cancer. All of them have said that they've tried to get their husbands to agree to try to eat more plant-based, but it's just not happening. They eat meat, dairy, and more meat and very little fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains or nuts and seeds.
Here's the deal. Men can be stubborn. No news flash. Just the facts. If you are a dude reading this, you’re probably like, yep, that’s me. If your hubby is like mine, he needs stats, and the delivery must be brief to prevent early tune out. The stats I choose to put forth are "well researched and published by well known doctor stats", not "I read 'em in Men's Fitness stats." These stats, combined with watching Forks over Knives, and the fact that he holds the "happy wife/happy life mantra dear to his heart worked on my husband, who is now almost fully plant based. I find my husband will eat whatever I make if it tastes good. Making the switch took a bit of trial and error, but I have become a very good oil free vegan cook. It takes more time out of my week but is so worth it.
The "men are cavemen" argument, which my guys used when I first tried to get them to switch to more plant-based diets holds no water, so when used against me, we started with a full-on no more meat regime, but in retrospect baby steps might have been better. 2 days a week of meatless meals, then 3, then 4 etc. It is a huge adjustment if you are used to eating meat at all of your meals to go cold turkey (pun intended). Another way to go, is plant based breakfast, let them eat whatever (hopefully not too bad) for lunch and make a plant based dinner. Come up with yummy breakfasts that are meat free and make some delicious dinners. Feeling full and nourished can never go wrong. I think that is the way to go, unless you are both on board and ready to make it happen. If so, then lose the dead animals and GO for it!!!
Here are some stats, facts, and tips to help get your guy on board, and some links to studies/info that are hard to ignore….
Eating plant based can prevent and even reverse heart disease - Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. 1 out of every 4 deaths are due to heart disease. Here is the kicker. Heart disease is completely preventable and even reversible. The before and after pics of diseased arteriesafter following a very strict plant based oil free diet are ASTOUNDING.
We only need 8-10% of our calories from protein. The RDA has recommended this amount for over 50 years, but we have gotten so carried away with protein. Any more than the RDA, especially if it is animal protein, is detrimental. Almost all plant based foods have at least 8-10% of their macronutrients made up of protein. If you eat a well rounded plant based diet, you get all the protein you need. Plant based athletes are hot, and ripped. We women like that.
Plant based diets prevent erectile dysfunction. Hello! Do you have their attention yet? Mild and moderate erectile dysfunction affects approximately 10 percent of men per decade of life (i.e., 40% at 40, 50% of men in their 50s, 60% percentof men in their 60s). It's about blood flow my friends, and as arteries get clogged up by eating fatty foods and meat, guess what stops working? Less or no meat equals more of the good stuff.
More than 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer in the United States each year. At least one-third of annual cancer deaths in the United States are due to dietary factors. There are too many studies to list that show a strong correlation between animal protein (which includes red meat, processed meat, poultry, dairy etc) consumption and cancer. Most often these studies show that more of these foods are eaten in certain parts of the world, cancer rates rise. Some have gone so far to label red meat and dairy as carcinogens. Why we all haven't heard this is twofold: First, we don't want to hear it because America is obsessed with burgers and steak, and second, the meat, egg, and dairy industries are SO powerful!
Avoiding diabetes is actually easy on a plant based diet. Areas of the world, like Japan, that eat a plant-based diet see very little type II diabetes, despite the fact that they eat lots of rice and noodles. It is the meat in our diet that raises the fat circulating in our blood and changes how we respond to sugars. Lots of new studies are showing that meaty and fatty diets cause insulin resistance and that plant based diets aid in insulin sensitivity, weight loss, and more controlled blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
As men get older, too many start to have prostate issues. It is something that a lot of men don't talk about to each other. Prostate issue are no joke, and can cause pain, erectile dysfunction, and if the problem ends up being prostate cancer, treatments can be brutal. A plant based diet is the best diet to avoid prostate issues. Some prelim studies have shown that the diet can not only prevent, but can reverse prostate cancer. Eating a plant based diet is the best way toavoid prostate problems in the first place.
Eating plants gives you tons of energy and makes you more attractive. Period. The hanging gut, low energy, bad breath, body odor and addiction to fat and meat are not sexy and can be remedied with some good ‘ol healthy plant eating! And for the boyfriends/hubbies without a gut who are staying slim on a low carb or Ketogenic diet, please let them know that you would like them around longer and that a low carb diet is a killer.
Finally,a plant based diet is kind to animals and the environment. Many think women care more about this than men, but this is far from true. Except for maybe the man in the White house and his appointed leaders of this country, many men care deeply about the environment and animals.
** Here’s a bonus idea to get him eating plants... Get naked and cover yourself in kale. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to keep her guy healthy. In all seriousness, being healthy is sexy! Set a good example, and he'll come around.
It has been far too long since I blogged about my plant based life because I have been working on some cool projects!!! One is that I have been writing for nutriciously.com. The website is a great spot to learn tons about eating a plant based diet. It is filled with information, and I am lucky enough to be an active contributor. Here are the articles that I have written to date so far. Read them, then make some New Years resolutions!!!
Another project is a family affair! My husband is producing and hosting a show based on his book, The Big Fat Truth. We take different groups of people, all prone to being over weight (i.e. night nurses, teachers, diabetics) and help them lose weight through introspection, motivation and a plant based diet. The reason he went with a plant based diet on the show is because he knew I would be angry if he didn’t (happy wife happy life), and more importantly, he knows that it is a diet that is sustainable, makes people feel amazing, is great for health and well being, and is AMAZING for weight loss. It of course, is also what WE do!
I have spent the past couple of months watching people drop 50 plus pounds changing nothing but their diets. It is beautiful watching them finally have the energy to play with their kids, get out and exercise, and come off of all of their diabetes meds. Yes, OFF the drugs. Quickly too. In short, it has been an incredible experience. The show will be on in the spring, and I will post more about it then.
JD and I have a page on facebook called " Based Life with Chrissy and JD Roth". Please follow! Lots of live cooking demos and tips for living a plant based life. OK, I want to get back to writing my next “official blog” which is on junk food veganism. Look for it at the beginning of next week.
Summertime, and the living is easy.... and so is eating too much crapola as you travel. It is always easier to stick to any type of diet when you're at home in a situation where you're cooking for yourself or your family. I am not going to sugar coat it, plant-based eating on the road can be a bit rough at times. I've been doing it for 2 1/2 years, and I wouldn't have it any other way. In the beginning, I would drive my family crazy when I couldn't find anything to eat. I've done this long enough now to know what I need to take with me, and how to get prepared ahead of time. Sane family = happy times on vacation and my running all over creation to find something to eat was annoying to the 3 guys who had to run around with me. Why fight over food, when you can instead argue over who is sleeping with who? Let your obstacles be your inspiration and just make it happen.
I have a friend who travels a lot for work and uses it as an excuse to not go plant based in the first place. “I'm always traveling, how could I possibly go plant-based? Too many business dinners. It's impossible.“ Anything is possible once you commit. It is a bit tougher, but it pays off big time. You might even change a life of someone else at the table in the process. Healthy eating is infectious. Order a vegan meal in Salt Lake City and your business "buddy" next to you might take notice and ask about why you are eating that way. Of course, your explanation of why is so compelling that he now wants to try it himself.
Here are some tips to help you stay well fed and happy while you travel. Whether it be for work or summer travel, there are many options to enjoy. You just need to change your mindset. No, you can't just walk into anywhere and grab something. You need to PLAN AHEAD!! The extra effort, as always will pay off in that you can fight all of the nasty germs floating around on the plane, offset the fact that you might not be getting your regular workouts in because you're traveling, and decrease the fatigue that goes along with traveling because eating better definitely makes you feel more awake and alive.
Listen, some of these suggestions might sound ridiculous to you. They are just some of the things that I have found helpful. I am headed to NYC today and I know where I am staying has a blender so the mini magic bullet stays home this time. I will head to the closest Whole Foods or Trader Joes as soon as I get there and stock up! There are TONS of vegan options in NYC so no worries about dining out there. Portsmouth NH where we are headed next, has a great looking "Health Food center" so I am good there too. Check out my instagram at chrissyroth2 as I post my meals on the go.
Surviving on the go:
1. Google ahead of your travels and figure out what restaurants and food stores will have the best options for you. You can call ahead to some of the smaller natural food stores and they will have your bag of groceries packed up and ready to go so you can just run in. There's also a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods just about anywhere I go now. It is always my first stop. I always stock up on fruit and whatever veggies will hold for short amount of time in the hotel room. I'll also grab some crackers, hummus, almond butter, some type of bread, a couple cans of beans (I actually bring a small can opener.) A whole grain pita with almond butter and bananas is super satisfying when you come back to your room starving because your only option was a burger at your business lunch. When I get to my hotel room, I always ask for a plate and some forks and knives to be brought up so they are there when I need them.
2. If possible, rent a house versus staying in a hotel. Believe it or not, it is usually cheaper then a hotel! Eating every meal out is tough, so if it is an option, VRBO it, and live like a local. Hit up the farmer's market close to where your staying and enjoy the fresh local produce. Get to know the natural food store in town. Look into restaurants that serve some plant-based options and have dinner there. Look at preparing some of your food on vacation as a treat, not a chore. I VRBO 90% of the time on my travels.
3. When you know you're going to be dining out, call the restaurant ahead of time and see what they can do for you regarding keeping it plant-based. Generally, chefs don't understand what plant-based is so just ask for no oil or low oil vegan meal. At least over the phone you don’t have to see the eye roll. All kidding aside, I've done this many times and if I ask the chef he can usually come up with something that is quite good. I've had lots of people eating off of my plate at restaurants wondering how I ended up with such an amazing off- menu meal.
4. Pack up the mini magic bullet and bring it with you. When you have to eat out at a business dinner and there are very few options, the magic bullet becomes even more magical!! When you get back from the dinner you hardly ate and can have a shake, it is a life saver. It is also great for a quick breakfast on the go. Get your run in, make a shake and bag the hotel bacon and eggs.
5. If the town doesn’t have a vegan restaurant (of course you have googled ahead to find this out), look for ethnic restaurants. They often have more veggie options than good ‘ol standard American death-come-early-to-ya food. Thai and Indian have lots of plant based options. Request no oil or super low oil if they won’t do no oil, and it often works out quite well. I will usually bend my oil restriction a bit on vacation. I would rather not, but sometimes it is nearly impossible to eat oil free on the go.
6. If all else fails, order side dishes. I'm the queen of side dishes. I'm always satisfied and happy trying a bunch of different veggie sides. A salad, broccoli, and a baked potato (or 2) are a perfect dinner in a limited option situation.
7. Bar up! I am not at all a huge fan of protein bars as they are processed and generally not whole foods. That said, they are some of my little bff's when I travel. Go Macro Bars, Cliff Builders, Lar, Alt, and Simply Protein bars are some of my go to's. When traveling, I usually go for the higher protein content bars because I seem to be lacking in that nutrient when I travel. I can not always get my hands on beans, tofu or lentils, so I end up getting it from a bar. It's a quick fix. The reason, in general, that I hate bars is because people are usually shoving so much animal protein in their mouths, then grabbing these high-protein bars (most of which contain whey, casein, and other animal protein.) Unnecessary and dangerous. They usually contain more sugar and/or fat than is healthy as well, so better not to make a daily habit of them.
8. Chill baby, baby. Don't stress yourself out. In the beginning I would get so crazy when I traveled and end up not eating anything and being miserable. It will totally work out. Again, it's just a change in mindset. Vacations, for too many people, mean gluttony. Work trips mean sitting there with a bunch of other businessmen/women eating steaks and other foods drowning in oil. It doesn't have to be that way. Treat yourself to a new drink, find a fabulous vegan restaurant, walk to the local farmer's market, or find a beautiful hike to satisfy you. It's all about the choices, and planning ahead.