Thursday, March 7, 2013

Plant-based ideas and resources

There are thousands of stories of folks who have found health by eating plant-based whole foods.  Most are much more dramatic than mine.  I will list a few of my favorite sites below where you will find success stories, advice and recipes, as well as more nutritional information and recipe ideas.

I know changing your diet is challenging and this is not for everyone. Since I had been making small changes for a long time, I was ready to make this one. I have been telling my kids that I want to live to 100. I thought it was time I figured out how to do that well. I was also tired of feeling tired and want to feel better every day. It felt like a sacrifice at first, as I gave up more foods, but the funny thing is, now I don't feel like I am missing anything. I love the food I eat.  It is beautiful, nutritious and gives me real energy.

You have the power to change your health, if that is your goal.  If you want better cholesterol numbers, a lower blood sugar number, avoid Type 2 diabetes, get to a healthy weight, get your body ready for exercise, get off medications, avoid heart attacks, dementia and strokes, reduce your cancer risk, you can do it, by giving your body the nutrition it has been craving.  You won't need sugar, caffeine, salt, baked goods or chips. Whatever it is you think you need now, your need for it will fade.

The big surprise to me, is still, that eating nutritious foods, will make you healthy and correct your weight.  I give my body the foods it needs and in turn, my body is healing itself.  I am not flawed, the food I was eating was.  I truly believed it was about exercise and calorie restriction.  It is not!  Some very educated and intelligent folks say it is 90% diet, 10% exercise.  I now believe it.  So, eat until you are satisfied.  You don't have to be hungry or exercise an hour every day to lose weight (I didn't exercise in earnest until recently).

Here are few guides that might help keep you on track, as you get started. Dr. Fuhrman is little more flexible than other plant-based proponents.  He shows people how to eat the most nutrient dense foods available and still have a some meat and dairy.  It might be good place to start.

The other big group supporting a plant-based diet is the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.  Dr. Campbell (The China Study), Dr Esselstyn (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease), and Dr. Barnard (Power Foods and many others) are all part of that group. They put out the Power Plate.  My kids love the Power Plate. It is a great tool in helping them round out their meals on their own. Here is a quick read about the Power Plate and a little info about why plant-based diet is such a healthy diet.

I try to limit my grains to one serving a day, as suggested by Dr. Fuhrman.  He said if you have become insulin-resistant or have difficultly taking weight off, you might have better luck with less grains.  Other plant-based proponents suggest differently, but if I ate grains at every meal, I would not lose weight.  I know, because I have tried it. :)

We have the above magnet of Fuhrman's food pyramid and the Power Plate on our refrigerator.  "Salad is the main dish" seemed weird to me at first and I remember saying it out loud more than once. Now it feels like second nature.

My favorite cookbooks:
Eat to Live has lot of recipes in it and I have tried quite a few, but mostly smoothie, dressings and sauces. Honestly, I like to see a picture for more complex recipes, so I bought a few other cookbooks to help me figure out what to eat.

Happy Herbivore, Everyday Happy Herbivore and the Happy Herbivore Abroad, written by Lindsay Nixon.  Low fat, oil free, plant-based and easy! Recipes are noted as gluten-free, soy-free, quick, etc. I use the Everyday Happy Herbivore multiple times a week. I am still getting to know the other two.

Let Them Eat Vegan and Eat Drink and be Vegan by Dreena Burton. Delicious, perfect special occasion recipes and her baked goods are tried and true.  Her recipes are not quite as low fat, but full of whole grains, and a perfect introduction into baking without dairy. We have also found quite a few favorite dinner ideas from her cookbooks.

Spice it up and be prepared!
One thing you won't find in a cookbook, is the spice mix I use on my beans, almost everyday.  I make it at home and keep it near my cutting board. Atlanta folks, remember Tortillas - the restaurant?  They gave away their recipes when they were closing.  One of them was their spice mix for their beans.  I modified it only by reducing the salt.  I mix this up every couple of weeks and use it on our beans and often as a shortcut in any mexican style recipe.  I have a few other mixes, but this is my favorite: 1 tsp salt, 5 tsp chili, 3 tsp cumin, 2 tsp garlic, 2 tsp black pepper.

I didn't like salads much before last year.  I thought you had to put dressing on them to make them taste good and most dressing left me feeling guilty about the calories.  My salads are crazy good now and the only thing I pour on top is balsamic vinegar. First of all, I use a dinner plate for my lunch salad.  Dan uses a giant bowl for his.  I find that makes loading the dishwasher more challenging, but I digress.  Anyway, today's salad started with lettuce, cabbage, power greens (spinach, mizuna, chards, arugula), topped with shredded carrot, garbanzo beans with spices and fresh garlic, peas, green onions, avocado, tomatoes, pecans.  Sometimes, I add sautéed mushrooms or other cooked vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, etc, usually leftover from the night before.  I try to mix things up, but I also admit to being completely happy with the same ingredients for days on end.

You can prep a lot of these ingredients ahead of time, like enough for the weekdays.  Some folks even prepare all their weekday salads ahead of time.  I make mine everyday, but if I am packing one for a take-along lunch, I prep it upside down with the heaviest stuff on the bottom, i.e. beans, peas, tomatoes, etc, topped with my greens. That way things won't get soggy.

One of the most challenging parts of eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, is getting to the grocery store. Here in Anchorage, it takes some calculating to get to the store on a day there is stock. I would shop at the same place every time, but sometimes they don't have spinach for days or any yellow bananas, so I have to head over to another store.  It took me a while to figure out how much to buy and how often I have to go, and which store to go to.

Be brave and share your decision!
I rarely told anyone that I wanted to lose weight. I told Dan, of course and he was supportive from day one.  He had already given up dairy and was willing to support me.  This feels different though, because you are not just trying to eat less, you are going to be eating differently than most of the folks around you.  It feels socially awkward at first, but will get easier. So, a week into it I told my closest friends here in Anchorage, while we were eating out.  One dear friend, who shall remain anonymous, actually laughed out loud, but only because she knew how frustrated I was when Dan tried a vegan diet 6 months earlier (it made dinners very difficult, so beware of annoying your partner).  My friends were curious and supportive. Less than 2 months later, Ms. Anonymous gave it a try.  Then two other friends and my mom. Each in their own way and their own pace.  I gave up meat and dairy immediately, others slowly removed things from their diet or only eat them occasionally now.  You have to figure out what works best for you.

If you are ready, tell me!  I am happy to offer support, advice, encouragement, or all three. I have enjoyed watching folks around me make big changes to their diets and gain incredible health benefits too. I love sharing our successes together. Once you get started, tell your friends and family and maybe they will give it a try too.  People will be skeptical at first, as I am sure some of you still are, but how can anyone even argue with the idea that eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed food is healthier than the standard American diet?  Do some reading (Eat to Live, for starters) and you will have plenty of scientific research to support your dietary choices.

For daily encouragement, I check in on the following folks online. They all have websites/blogs, facebook pages, and pinterest boards.

The Physicians Committee for Responible Medicine
Dr. Fuhrman
Dr. Neal Bernard
Engine 2 Diet
Happy Herbivore - she also offers affordable weekly meal plans with a grocery list
Dreena Burton

There are other Facebook groups that can offer encouragement. They are not endorsed by the above folks, but if you want to ask advice from regular folks, they can be helpful.

I almost forgot! There are two great movies that can help!  Forks Over Knives and The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue. Both are available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

That's all I have for now, but feel free to ask me questions.  I know I probably sound overly enthusiastic, but changing what I eat, changed me, from the inside out.  I'd much prefer to have a face to face conversation than sharing all this on a blog, but alas we all live in different places, with different schedules.  On the chance that my experience could help one of my dear friends find better health too, I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  If this is not your thing, that is fine.  You have to find what works for you. More questions? Ask away. I'm a softie though, so be kind in your comments!