Whole Food Plant-Based Life: A Beginner’s Guide
Earlier this week, Jillian shared her personal story of her transition to a Plant-Based Lifestyle. You can check out her story, “How the Plant-Based Diet is Saving My Life”. Today, she is sharing some tips, answers some frequently asked questions, and provides resources for beginner’s who are curious about the Whole Food Plant-Based Diet and making it part of their lifestyle.
What is Whole Food Plant-Based? Isn’t it Basically Vegan?
NO! But Yes… lol, It’s confusing so let me break this down. A vegetarian eats no meat but may still consume eggs, dairy, cheese and processed foods and oils. A vegan eats no animal at all but may still consume vegan foods such as Oreos, Spicy Doritos and sugary drinks like soda. Vegans also tend to be activists so they do it for protecting the planet and animals, not necessarily for the health benefits- although some are very health conscious, others may consider themselves a “Fluffy Vegan.” When someone is declared ‘Whole Food Plant Based’ (WFPB), they are declaring that they don’t eat any animal, processed foods and in most cases no oil. It’s a high carb low-fat way of eating that revolves around plant nutrients.
Why be Whole Food Plant-Based? What Research is There to Back This Up?
Being plant-based in America is a major mind shift. It means that you don’t mindlessly eat, your entertainment doesn’t revolve around food and you build an intense relationship with your kitchen.
Through years of research, we now know that western diseases can be turned on and off (including some cancers) just by controlling our food. Dr. Campbell, the author of The China Study did a 20-year study that confirmed when rats were given a higher percentage of animal protein their cancer cells grew and when the same rat had the animal protein reduced the cancer shrunk. This is big news! People who embark on the WFPB Journey that have heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and headaches usually see complete transformations of their health within two weeks of making the commitment to changing their food. The evidence is quite convincing once you dive into it.
My two favorite books of scientific research backing up this way of eating (WOE) are The China Study and Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. These books are very scientific in approach so if reading isn’t your thing I recommend watching some Netflix documentaries. Pictured below are some of my favorite documentaries.
Also, once you’re convinced to make this change, I recommend reading A Plant-Based Life. It has been the perfect support for my transition and has so many incredible resources to help with making the transition smooth and not stressful.
Isn’t This Way of Eating Extreme?
I think that eating a plant-based diet is extreme to Americans who are used to their fast-casual eateries and microwaves. But what’s truly extreme is a gastric bypass, open heart surgery and having to check blood sugar levels 5 times a day and be insulin dependent. While these scientific operations and medications can be life-saving, they aren’t disease curing. We need to shift our thinking from fast and easy to lasting and meaningful change.
What Do You Eat?
I eat so much food it’s amazing! When you eat WFPB, no oil, you never have to count calories, you don’t have to measure and weigh your food, you just get to enjoy food. Part of the satiation process is meal planning, buying the produce, cleaning it, prepping it, cooking it and in my case, taking a photo of my finished work and then devouring it. When we eat with purpose we become more satisfied with what we are eating. (Don’t skip this journey, it’s the best part).
Some of my favorite meals are pancakes, muffins, soups, smoothies, spaghetti, burritos, chocolate pudding, and cupcakes. I personally don’t like vegetables so I’ve learned to change the way I experience food by hiding what I don’t like into what I do like. Everything I just listed here is completely plant-based and have no preservatives in them. They are loaded with healthy vegetables and fruits and have an exceptional taste.
Where Do I Start? This is Oh-So-Overwhelming.
Friend… I hear you! This is not an overnight transition, but I have a few tricks that worked for me and I’m happy to share!
First- don’t spend time thinking about what you can’t have. Eat. Enjoy what you can have and as much of it as you like. I hate salad. Seriously, I hate salad. So, I blend my salad in my Vitamix along with plant milk, fruit and enjoy a green smoothie. You want to focus on crowding out the bad food with the good. Consider your transition something that may take 2 months, 3 months, even a year. Set yourself up with some SMART Goals.
SMART is an acronym that stands for Strategic, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-Limited. Decided how long you want to spend in transition if you feel like you need time to ease into this WOE. (This process of Goal setting is very well explained in the book A Plant-Based Life).
Also, if you’re like me and you don’t mind the repetition of meals, eat plant-based meals you like. Eventually, as your body adapts to real food flavor, and loses its craving for overly salted and sugared foods, natural foods become more robust in flavor and you’ll find that your taste buds change. For some, this may come easy, especially if you already like veggies and fruit. But I’m not one of those people. I needed to crowd out my bad food with good food before going all in plant-based. As your taste buds adapt your food will become more diverse. Just choose to commit to the journey.
Set Yourself Up to Succeed
If going out to eat is something you’re used to, this beginning transition may be more challenging. My husband and I almost never cooked because we enjoy eating out. When I decided I wanted to do this, we just had to start saying no to eating out and yes to inviting friends to the house. Sure it wasn’t fun when a household of friends and kids are enjoying pizza hut and I’m eating a burrito, but it provided me the opportunity to share my sincere conflict with food and how I need their help to support me in this decision. Now, whenever my friends suggest going out to eat they intentionally pick places that have vegan menus! It’s so supportive. (PS- Vegan is my go-to when eating out which is really a rare treat).
Also, if you are going to go out to eat, take some time to look at the menu online and even call and talk to the manager. See if they are able to accommodate your eating choices. If the restaurant is a scratch kitchen, the chef may be willing to prepare something special for you. Sometimes you just have to ask.
In the first 60 days of my transition, I always felt incredibly panicked if I didn’t have food prepared and I was hungry. So, I needed to solve this problem. I have a few go-to meals that are really easy to make like burritos and soups. It helps me to have options when I don’t feel like there are any options. Also, brown rice and roasted veggies are always a quick and easy meal. Find what works for you and put those recipes in your back pocket for a raining day.
Finally, organize your life to support your new lifestyle. In my kitchen, I put grains and baking resources inside giant mason jars. I find that my pantry space is basically the size of a shoe box so I can’t store much and leaving things in bags that aren’t resealable just sets me up to spoiling my food before I can get to it. These jars are everything to me. They are beautiful on my counter and at any point in time I can whip up a quick meal just by the things inside those jars like brown rice and pasta. I also use the little 4-ounce mason jars to store pre-made salad dressings that don’t have oil in them. You never know when you’re going to be blindsided with a lunch gathering and the only thing the place has are salads. At least your dressing won’t be boring or packed with oils and processed ingredients.
Whole Food Plant-Based and Family
My family is not on this journey with me. But my journey has cultivated a major shift in our house. My husband has agreed to go to a Whole Foods eating style. While he cooks meat, eats dairy and uses oil, her is still eliminating processed foods which in my opinion are the most dangerous parts of our Western diets. My husband also eats whatever I cook and so does my son so by me spending more time in the kitchen, my family is getting higher quality foods into their digestive systems and the result… healthier people! Everyone wins.
You Can Do This!
Whether you want to be plant-based, vegan, do Whole30, or just simply start working on a crowding out your bad food choices with good food choices, you can do this. Everyone’s journey with food starts somewhere. Mine started with the fear of not being present for my family. What is motivating you to transform your food?