The one thing you should never outsource.

People outsource all sorts of things.  You probably take your clothes to a dry cleaner.  You drop your car off to have the oil changed.  You pay FedEx to send a package rather than driving it there yourself.  We all love outsourcing tasks that are too difficult or we don’t have the skill set to do ourselves…it’s a natural and normal part of life.

But one task you shouldn’t ever outsource is your food.  That’s right.  You should shop for and prepare your own meals. At home.  Instead of paying a restaurant to do it for you. You could be like me, even and say you hate restaurants. Why?  There are several reasons to prepare your own food:

  1. The alternative is hideously expensive…why are you paying upwards of 70% more to have someone else prepare and bring you your food?  All you need is an hour twice a week to trek to your local Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or local healthy grocery.  Once the groceries are in your house, they’re easy to prepare and consume.  Even buying exotic, expensive ingredients is still way less expensive than eating out.  But you don’t even need fancy schmancy stuff to make simple, delicious vegan meals.  Think lentils and rice, potatoes and vegetables.  Stick to the basics and save a ton of money, which you can use to retire early.  If you think, heck, I make enough money, I can afford to eat out all I want.  No, you can’t.  Okay, if you’re saving 90% of your income, then fine, eat out all you want.  I’m guessing most people are saving less than 10% of their income and still have car payments, credit card payments and a house payment.
  2. It saves you time…your rationale for eating out is that it saves you time, but little do you know it really doesn’t.  Think about it.  You have to drive to the restaurant, find parking, wait to be seated, wait to give the server your order, wait for the food, wait for the bill, wait for them to run your card, then drive home.  That all takes time and should be factored in to the equation. Convenience is so often sited for eating out when it’s clearly not that convenient at all.  How many times have you had to wait longer than you thought for a table, or try to find another restaurant when the line was too long at the one your originally selected?  I was recently at a restaurant (against my will, trust me) and we waited at least 10 minutes just for the server to bring our bill, after we waited forever for everything else.  Of course it’s not the restaurant or server’s fault (they were busy), but still, why bother with that?  Remember, at home you don’t get a bill!
  3. Your kitchen is under your control…if you’ve never worked in a kitchen, you might be surprised at how food is prepared in one.  It’s prepared with more oil, salt, sugar and fat than you would ever use at home.  I was once in line at a Mexican restaurant and requested sautéed vegetables with my burrito.  I watched them dump a few handfuls of peppers, onions and potatoes into a pan and then casually add what looked like half a gallon of oil into the pan. Yikes! It’s not pretty, but it’s why restaurant food tends to taste pretty dang good…they’re cooking in a way that appeals to most people – and that means more of everything.  Eating at home means you get to decide how much salt (none would be good), sugar and fat gets added.  Everything is tailored to your tastes and desires, not local Joe at the next table that eats 5k mg of sodium a day and has killed off the majority of his taste buds eating chicken wings and nachos.
  4. You’ll learn some valuable cooking skills…I’m not saying you need to whip out creme brûlées a la Martha Stewart, but I do believe everyone should be able to prepare rice, cook potatoes, sauté vegetables and conjure up a few basic soup recipes like, I don’t know, split pea (my favorite) and coconut curry lentil.  Besides, cooking is actually kind of fun, and if you keep it simple (which I highly recommend), you’ll spend less than an hour on most everything.  Which is probably still much less time than it takes to eat out.
  5. You have much more control over your environment…weight loss experts attribute the number one reason for success or failure on a diet to…(drumroll, please)…their environment.  If you’re out at a restaurant and see french fries on the menu, you’ll have to use your willpower to order a side salad instead.  At home, you’re not likely to have french fries as an option, simply because they’re too time consuming to make.  You’re much more likely to eat healthy when healthy food is all you bought at the store and all you have in your home.  But eating somewhere like the Cheesecake Factory, with their seemingly endless entrees (have you seen the size of their menu?) and gazillion desserts (what is peppermint bark cheesecake?) will most likely result in you ordering something you would never prepare at home.  Don’t rely on willpower to help you win that fight.  Just choose not to go there and you’ll easily win that battle.

It’s true that Tim Ferriss sold more than a few copies of his book The 4- Hour Workweek by encouraging the outsourcing of pretty much everything.  However, food preparation is much too important to trust to, well, anyone. Outsource your dry cleaning, your car repairs and your heart surgery, but don’t outsource your food.  Make it yourself.  Stay away from restaurants.

I once read that the best rationale for managing your own money is that no one cares more about your money than you do.  I think that applies as much to food preparation and your own health as it does to investing.  No one cares about your health more than you do.  So manage it yourself.  Don’t relay up on restaurants to do it for you.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

Why you shouldn’t be a junk food vegan.

I get it.  Even a junk food vegan saves animals and the planet and is probably still healthier than they were if they used to consume the SAD (standard american diet).  While that is all great, there’s a whole host of reasons why, if you are a junk food vegan, you should be transitioning to a healthy vegan diet of whole, unprocessed plants.

A junk food vegan is someone who consumes heavily processed foods, i.e. Tofurkey, Oreos, Ben and Jerry’s dairy-free ice cream and eats very little fresh fruits and vegetables, grains or legumes.  While these types of foods can be good for those new to a vegan diet and for the occasional treat, they aren’t healthy and won’t benefit you in the long term.

Here are my top reasons why you shouldn’t be a junk food vegan:

You won’t realize the health benefits of a vegan diet…of course, even if you went vegan for the animals or the environment, you probably still anticipate a higher level of health from leaving animal products off your plate.  Unfortunately, if you’re a junk food vegan, you might not experience the myriad of health benefits going vegan entails. You might not have increased energy, sleep better, lose weight, and lead a life of complete bliss (okay, I made that one up).  To realize the full health benefits of going vegan, you need to fill up your grocery cart with fruit, make giant salads and generally eschew highly processed foods.

Your palate won’t adjust to healthy foods…it’s a little known benefit, but completely true that as you begin eating healthier foods, your body begins craving those foods.  If you’re  stuck in faux meat land and wolfing down foods with copious amounts of added sugar, oil and salt, your palate will never adjust to just how good healthy food tastes.  Yes, that’s right.  At some point you may prefer a giant salad to a greasy vegan pizza or veggie burger and fries.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but you might be surprised that given enough time, you will start to prefer simple, whole, unprocessed foods.

You won’t be setting a good example…non-vegans (or soon-to-be-vegans, as I like to refer to them) won’t be impressed by your veganism if all you eat is heavily processed food-like substances.  Like it or not, if you tell people you’re vegan, they expect that you eat healthy…and look healthy.  In other words, if you’re significantly overweight they aren’t going to be super excited about adopting a vegan diet.  On the other hand, if you look trim, your skin glows and you exude good health, they’re going to be all that much more willing to jump on the vegan train.  Like it or not, our society places a premium on aesthetics, and as a vegan there is an expectation that you walk the talk, so to speak.

You won’t feel regret after every meal…sure, junk food tastes good, but regret not so much.  You might not regret your poor food choices right away, but eventually all the added salt, sugar and oil will take it’s toll on your health and regret will be a constant companion.  Realize that cravings can and do subside, and that sticking to an unprocessed, whole food vegan diet might be hard in the moment but will pay off in the long term.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

How to Eat More Fruit

So many people ask me about my diet. Most have a hard time believing that I just eat mostly fresh fruit.  Aside from wondering where I get my protein (which I get plenty of, thank you) they wonder how in the heck I can eat so much more fruit?

This question boggles my mind because I find after eating mostly fruit for the last few months that all I want to do is…eat more fruit. I don’t get bored eating the same fruit day after day for weeks on end.

For example, it’s the end of June now and it’s right in the middle of the season for melons like cantaloupe, honey dew and watermelon. I absolutely love, love, love melons…so this time of year is my fave.  Until they go out of season, I’ll enjoy eating these fruits every single day.

But wait, back to the questions…how can you eat that much fruit?  How can you eat just fruit as a meal? Most people like fruit all right, so they might eat a cup of blueberries, a banana or an apple a day.  If that’s all you’re currently eating, let’s up your game.

It’s easy to eat that much fruit or to eat a fruit-only meal if you know enough about fruit to avoid some common mistakes that can lead to less than optimal experiences:

Eat only ripe fruit – if you’ve ever eaten a banana that tastes more like bamboo than banana, then you’ve eaten fruit that isn’t ripe. If you’ve ever been disappointed by a tasteless cantaloupe or a firm avocado (which is a fruit), you’re probably eating unripe fruit.

Determining the ripeness of fruit depends on the fruit, of course. Bananas should have some brown spots. Avocados and papayas should have a fair amount of give when you press on them.  Cantaloupes that are ready to eat will have a strong sweet smell at the stem. Mangoes will have a strong smell and also feel soft to the touch.

You’ll use many of your senses, including sight, smell and feel to properly determine if your fruit is ready to eat.

Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries should have a nice smell but you’ll mostly use color to determine ripeness.  Oranges should smell sweet and have a tender texture with wrinkles on the skin.  It will also feel heavy for it’s size.

If  you’re unsure about whether a fruit is ripe, just experiment.  Buy one or two and do a taste test.  You can also check out  Your Produce Guy for great videos on when to tell if fruit is ripe.

Learning to identify when fruit is ripe is part science and part art.  Getting good at it will greatly increase your enjoyment of fruit.  I highly recommend it.  The time and effort you invest will pay off handsomely.

Eat fruit in season – duh, you might be thinking. But too many people make the mistake that if it’s at their local grocery store it must be in season. Not necessarily true. If consumer demand is there, supermarket chains will do what they can to provide it. Blueberries in February? Watermelon in December? How cool is that?

Actually, it’s not really cool at all.  To get your blueberries in February, they have to be shipped from far away, they will cost a fortune, and they’ll likely taste terrible.

Eating fruit far removed from it’s natural growing season doesn’t make sense economically, globally or from a taste perspective. It’s disappointing to open up a watermelon in December that you paid a lot of money for and discover it tastes more like water than melon, and that it had to be shipped from Mexico.

You can research which fruits are in season and when, but a good way to tell is just to buy the fruit that your local grocery store or farmer’s market has on sale or on display.

Right now my local Trader Joe’s has organic mini watermelon and my favorite (and my dogs) cantaloupe on display as soon as you walk into the store. This is a good sign that these fruits are in season, relatively inexpensive and sometimes even local.

Adjust your fruit consumption to the season and you’ll be eating the most ripe as well as the most nutrient dense fruit.

Properly store your fruit – not keeping your fruit and even vegetables at proper temperatures will not only affect the taste, but often the ripening process. Nothing drives me more crazy than seeing people store their tomatoes and avocados in the refrigerator. Argggghh! Cold tomatoes go mushy quickly and taste terrible! Ditto for avocado.

A good way to remember is to take note of your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Where are they storing their produce? You hopefully never see refrigerated avocados and tomatoes.

Same goes for bananas, apples and oranges. Room temperature is the perfect way to consume these foods. Though you can sometimes slow the ripening process, there really are no benefits to making your fruit colder than it needs to be.

I don’t even like my lettuce cold so I’ll often take it out of the fridge an hour or so before I plan to make a giant salad.  Weird, yes, but there is a taste difference.

Don’t give up on fruit – I’ve never been a fan of honeydew. What a tasteless waste of time. Next to it’s awesome melon cousins of watermelon and cantaloupe, honeydew felt like an uninvited guest showing up at the party.

A few weeks ago my local Trader Joe’s ran out of organic mini watermelons and instead stocked organic honeydew melons. What?? After much internal debate, I reluctantly placed a few in my cart, reasoning that I should probably act like an adult and give it another try.

Guess what?  I loved it! The same consistency and flavor as a cantaloupe, but with much lighter notes.  All these years I missed out on eating such a satisfying fruit because I most likely hadn’t eaten one ripe, or had a few bad ones, or eaten ones that weren’t in season.

Don’t be afraid to try fruits you haven’t had, or try those again you thought you didn’t like.  I didn’t really eat papaya until a few years ago.  Now it’s one of my favorite fruits.  Drizzled with a little lime juice, it has a unique flavor that I crave.

All these tips will assist with how to eat more fruit.  You might move up to eating fruit as a meal or maybe easily double what you already eat on a daily basis.  Either way, just start eating more fruit.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

How do you eat all that fruit?

So many people ask me about my diet. Most have a hard time believing that I eat exclusively fresh fruit and some raw vegetables and greens.

Aside from wondering where I get my protein (which I get plenty of, thank you) or calcium (ditto) they wonder how in the heck I can eat so much fruit.

This question boggles my mind the most, because I find after eating mostly fruit for the last 5 months that all I want to do is keep eating, well, more fruit. I don’t even get bored eating the same fruits day after day.

But wait, really, how can you eat that much fruit? It’s a common question. Most people like fruit all right, so they might eat one apple or a single banana in a day. But eating fruit as a meal is hard for most people to get their minds around.

It truly is easy and pleasurable to eat that much fruit…but the kicker is you have to avoid some common mistakes.  The produce section of your local store can be like walking into an Apple store, never having owned a Mac. It’s confusing and intimidating at the same time.  So here are some (hopefully) helpful tips for how to eat more fruit:

Eat only ripe fruit – if you’ve ever eaten a banana and struggled to get the peel off, then you’ve eaten fruit that isn’t ripe. If you’ve ever been disappointed by a tasteless dry cantaloupe or a pink instead of red watermelon, you’re probably eating unripe fruit.

Determining the ripeness of fruit depends on the fruit, or course. You’ll need to use all of your senses by smelling, touching, examining and even listening to the fruit.  Picking ripe fruit is part art form and part luck.

A ripe avocado will have some give when pressed and the Hass variety will be a darker green or black.  Cantaloupes and honeydews should have a strong smell and feel heavy for their size.  Berries should look and smell good.  Watermelon should be free of cuts or abrasions and have a nice solid sound when tapped with your thumb.

Fruit selection prowess will take time and patience. You’ll get to know which stores carry the best fruit, which brands are consistently good, and which fruits you prefer over others, regardless of ripeness.

There is nothing quite like eating fruit that is fresh, in season and fully ripe.

Eat fruit in season – duh, you might be thinking. Of course you only eat fruit that’s in season. But too many people make the mistake that if it’s at their local grocery store it must be in season. Not so true.

Supermarket chains try and appease their customers by making blueberries available in February. The problem with that is more than twofold, but we’ll talk about two. One, the fruit generally is generally transported from a distant location ( i.e. Chile, Mexico) when it’s not in season. You’re not exactly eating local.

Two, if you’re eating fruit that isn’t in season, it’s likely not going to taste great and it will usually cost you dearly. Which makes sense, really. You’re paying for it to be brought from a long way away and for growing a crop that isn’t in season.

However, eating fruit out of it’s natural growing season will generally result in fruit that doesn’t taste good. It’s double disappointing to open up a watermelon in December that you paid a lot of money for and discover it tastes more like water than melon.

You can research which fruits are in season and when, but a good way to tell is just to buy the fruit that your local grocery store or farmer’s market has on sale or on display. Right now my local Trader Joe’s has organic mini watermelon and the sweet smelling cantaloupe on display as soon as you walk in the store. This is a good sign that these fruits are in season.

Properly store your fruit – not keeping your fruit and even vegetables at proper temperatures will not only affect the taste, but often the ripening process. Nothing drives me more crazy than seeing people store their tomatoes and avocados in the refrigerator. Argggghh! Tomatoes that are too cold taste terrible! Ditto for avocado.

A good way to remember is to take note of your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Where are they storing their produce? You hopefully never see refrigerated avocados and tomatoes.

Same goes for bananas, apples and oranges. Room temperature is the perfect way to consume these foods. Though you can sometimes slow the ripening process, there are no benefits to making your fruit colder than it needs to be.

I don’t even like my lettuce super cold so I’ll often take it out of the fridge an hour or so before I plan to make a giant salad.

Don’t give up on fruit – I’ve never been a fan of honeydew. What a tasteless waste of time!  Cantaloupe and watermelon are far superior in taste and texture than that pathetic, boring excuse for a melon called honeydew.  Or so I thought.

I was forced to reluctantly try a honeydew recently when my local Trader Joe’s ran out of organic mini watermelons.  In their place were these unassuming white melons. I grudgingly placed a few in my cart.

I was shocked to discover it was really, really good! The same consistency and flavor as a cantaloupe, but with much lighter notes. All these years I missed out on eating such a satisfying fruit because I most likely hadn’t eaten one ripe, or had a few bad ones, or eaten ones that weren’t in season.

Don’t shy away from fruit or vegetables you haven’t liked in the past.  Your taste buds may have changed, or you may have just had an unripe one.

Just eat it! – now that you’ve selected some ripe fruit and stored it properly, it’s all ready to eat.  Wait, why are you slinking off to your neighborhood restaurant?  You have fruit to eat!  Get to it!

Some 40% of food produced in this country is thrown away.  Food waste is a tremendous drain on our resources and silly, if you think about it, as John Oliver did recently on his not-to-be-missed show.

Food in general, and fruit specifically, is too precious to waste.  Eat your fruit and save the restaurants for special occasions.

Good Luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

Why going to extremes might just work.

All things in moderation.  Balance. Small changes over time add up to big improvements.  These are all commonly accepted bits wisdom. But do incremental changes really work?

I recently read Penn Jillette’s book Presto! How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear.  He’s the Vegas magician that is half the duo known as Penn and Teller.  Well he was really more than half the duo…more like three quarters.

Penn was packing around some spare lbs in 2014. He estimated his weight at 330 at his highest, which was when he found himself in the hospital while his doctor told him one of the arteries surrounding his heart was 80% blocked.

He needed to lose weight yesterday.  Not a cosmetic amount, more like 50lbs.  100 would be better. Heck, if you can lose 100 you won’t even need any of the medication you’re currently taking, he was shocked to hear his doctor say.

That was when Penn realized he wasn’t taking 5 different medications, as he thought, because he was a big loser in the genetic lottery, but because he was a self-described “fat fuck.” The realization that he was where he was because he ate whatever the hell he wanted didn’t sit well with him.  He was disgusted with himself.

It wasn’t as if he hadn’t tried to lose weight in the past.  Just as many of  us do, he tried limiting portions, cutting back on carbs, fats and sugar.  He tried exercising.  But any weight lost always came back, and brought friends that led to his continued and consistent weight gain throughout the years.

So Penn tried something different.  He tried something drastic that most people would never even entertain.  He consciously chose to lose weight not as an adult would, as he put it, but as someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to be successful.  More like as a crazy person would.

So he ate only potatoes for 2 entire weeks.

“It’s much easier for me to make a major change than a minor change.” he hypothesized at a recent Google Talks.

What makes a major change easier?  Progress.  It is often immediate when you make a major change.  For example, in Penn’s situation, eating only potatoes for 2 weeks made him lose weight like a crack addict.  Going from eating a standard American diet of cheeseburgers and chocolate cake to plain potatoes tends to do that.

Stepping on the scale to a new lower number every day certainly makes whatever method you choose easier to stick to.  Positive reinforcement is a lot more encouraging on a daily basis with extreme change than it would be on a weekly or monthly basis with moderation.

While we don’t know if Penn’s weight loss is a permanent one at this point, we do know extreme measures worked much better for him than all his previous attempts at moderation.

Should you go cold turkey?  Extreme or gradual change, which is for you?  While I don’t exactly endorse eating potatoes for 2 weeks, I do understand and have experienced the benefits of extreme changes.  I became vegetarian overnight and then vegan, and also gave up coffee cold.  I had been drinking coffee for 30 years every single day, multiple cups.  I decided back in 2013 that I wanted to part ways with coffee, an amicable divorce if you will.  So I left coffee, walked right out on it.

Sure, I could have weaned myself off, slowly decreasing the amount I drank and then switching to decaf.  My thought at the time was this – I knew leaving coffee was going to be a horrible, terrible, no-good experience.  I might as well just walk out and be done with it.

So I did.  I won’t lie.  Giving up coffee (and caffeine) meant that I suffered tremendously for 3 weeks straight. Head-splitting migraines were my constant companion and sloth like energy levels plagued my every day.

As soon as I began to think it would never get better, everything changed. Headaches vanished, energy level came roaring back, and my life returned as if nothing had ever happened.  It’s been over 3 years now and I have never once wanted for a cup of coffee or a jolt of caffeine.  I wouldn’t change anything about what I did, though it remains one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

The point is…and there is a point.  Extreme measures can work.  They’re not popular because, well,  they’re pretty damn hard.  Moderation is a much easier sell.  Most people simply cannot get their heads around the idea that they suddenly can’t have something.

The upside though, is that if you can handle extreme measures, you’re that much more likely to succeed.  Giving up caffeine completely or eating only potatoes for two weeks means most of the hard work is over and done quickly.

Change happens quickly with extreme measures. You body is forced to adapt because it doesn’t really have a choice.

Whatever it is you’re looking to do, whether its becoming vegan, raw vegan, or losing weight, consider making an extreme change rather than moderation.  It will be hard, you will suffer, but you’ll also see some immediate progress that might make the changes that much easier to stick to.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

Why you should never count calories, carbs, protein or anything else for that matter.

You should never count calories. Yes, this statement runs counter to every single shred of weight loss advice ever given or received.

Of course we must count calories.   Right? Plus, we should make sure we get at least 30% protein.  But not more than 30% carbs. Not even 31%.  Then keep that fat content below 40% or we’ll balloon up like an Orca.

But what if all of this focus on macronutrients (fat, protein and carbs), counting calories and this ridiculous fear of not getting enough protein is just distracting us from something really important?

Truthfully, what’s really important, even if most people and every single diet program out there fail to realize it, is this:  If you eat whole, fresh, unprocessed foods, you don’t need to break food down into calories or nutrients.  It’s just not necessary.

So no, you don’t need that giant tub of protein powder from Costco, nor that box of Cheerios pronouncing Protein!, or those tortillas with Low Carb all over the package.  Indeed, you need food that isn’t packaged at all.  No nutritional information.  No percent of calories from fat, no serving size calculations.  Just eat an apple.  Mother nature has conveniently packaged fruit and vegetables into perfect serving sizes with just the right amount of calories, protein, fat and carbs.

A friend once called me from the grocery store.  Wanting to eat healthier, she was lamenting the fact that she “needed to get better at reading labels.”  Actually, I told her, you’re better off buying food that doesn’t have a label.

What???

Wait, so I’m just supposed to eat food as it grows in nature?  That sounds too difficult.  What about eating out? What about pizza?

The secret is, eating fresh, whole, unprocessed food is incredibly easy.  Sure, it’s not drive-thru easy.  It’s not order a pizza to be delivered easy.  But it is easy.  As in, if you’re hungry, eat some fruit.  Make a giant salad with fresh, organic vegetables and tender lettuce.  Make you own dressing with tahini and lemon.

Plan on eating a lot, probably more than you’re used to.  You’ll need to in order to get in enough calories.  Processed foods pack a ton of calories in a small package, while fresh produce is mostly water and a much smaller amount of calories.

Also plan on more trips to the grocery store. You won’t make it on a once a week trip to the store, in all likelihood.  You’ll need to go every few days if you’re buying perishable items.

But how does this work?

It has to do with caloric density.

It’s a hugely important concept and one central to a great book on the subject, The Pleasure Trap.  The idea is that food in it’s natural, unadulterated state is low in caloric density.  Therefore, you’re able to eat a volume of food that is probably much higher then you’re used to.  No calorie restriction or small portions.  You can eat until you feel satisfied.

Compare that to food that is high in caloric density, which doesn’t make you feel full and is super high in calories.  Like an orange versus a bagel.  The orange is clearly unprocessed and natural, with a large amount of it’s contents comprised of water. The bagel (and all bread) is a highly processed food where the wheat has been ground into flour and the dough is cooked.  At 1600 calories per pound, it’s easy to overeat bread and still not feel full.

Despite being roughly the same size, an orange is 60 calories and a bagel is at least 250. You could eat 4 oranges to roughly equal the calories of one bagel.  The bagel will not fill your stomach, where 4 oranges will come much closer.

Replacing bread with oranges not only gets you lower and better quality calories, but of course there are all the nutrients in 4 oranges vs the very few nutrients that comprise one bagel.

Eat more, weigh less.

Trying to lose weight by counting calories and macronutrients doesn’t work in the long term.  It simply requires too much discipline and no one likes to feel hungry all the time.

The good news is you don’t have to eat less to lose weight.  It’s not the quantity of food that you’re eating that results in weight gain, but the quality of the food.

So stop reading labels and breaking food down in to it’s nutrient parts.  Start eating lots of unprocessed, whole foods.  You might just be surprised at how easy it is to choose natural foods over heavily processed “food-like” substances with copious amounts of added salt, sugar and fat.

Good luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

How to order nothing and be okay.

Recently, I went out to dinner and did something I pretty much never, ever do.

I ordered nothing.

That’s right. Nothing. I drank water.

No, it wasn’t because there were no vegan options. There were plenty. It wasn’t that that food didn’t look or smell good. Indeed, the smell of sautéed onions and Thai curry could be enjoyed a full block before arriving. I ordered nothing because, well, actually for a couple of reasons.

The night before we had come to the same restaurant and I had ordered some vegan Thai fried rice and another yellow curry rice dish. Both were amazing. Delicious. Vegan.

Both were also not healthy by any stretch of my hungry imagination. No matter how bad I wanted to believe they weren’t, both dishes were full of sodium, oil and perhaps even MSG. All of which combined to make me feel pretty crappy when I woke up the next morning.

While I love supporting restaurants that offer vegan fare, I very seldom eat out. It’s just too difficult to make good choices. Assuming you even have good choices to make.

But sometimes real life gets in the way of even the best laid plans. In this instance, we were on vacation in Bend, OR. We were meeting friends for dinner. We had my in-laws staying with us. We all jumped on our bikes and rode down to check out the local food trucks and enjoy a cold beer.

So there I was, pedaling to the restaurant on a warm summer night, enjoying the company of friends and family. Though I would have preferred to prepare food at home, because, you know, I hate eating out,  I also understand the allure of dining out in some instances.

Then I had a decision to make.

The thing about restaurant food…

Spoiler alert: restaurant food isn’t healthy. I know, right? I bet you had no idea. It’s true though. You would never cook the way a restaurant does at home. You would never use that much salt or oil. Restaurants prepare food in such a way that it appeals to everyone (makes sense, right?). So additional sodium and fat are added to every dish in the form of oil, butter and/or salt to make a highly, even hyper palatable food.

Oh, and also…

There was also another issue with going out to dinner on this night that I forgot to mention…I wasn’t hungry. I ate a late lunch only a few hours before. It was a big lunch following a big ride. I was still very full.

Typically, I would eat anyway. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable. Because they do. When the server turns to you for your order and you say you don’t want anything, it makes people uncomfortable. I’m not sure exactly why this is, but it happens.

I don’t like to make people uncomfortable. I want everyone to have a good time. I’m a people-pleaser and also outstanding at avoiding conflict. So I would have typically ordered something rather than order nothing. Then I would have eaten it, simply because it’s in front of me, and I would have regretted it afterward. But this time I didn’t.

I declined to order and told everyone that asked the truth. At least the partial truth. I wasn’t hungry. Simple as that.

It wasn’t a big deal. Truthfully, no one really cared that much. Sure, there were questions. But then everyone kind of forgot about it. Then we talked and laughed as the sun set in Bend on another blissful day of riding bikes and hanging out with friends and family.

The lesson is this.

I learned something from this experience that I wanted to share. If you’re not hungry, order nothing. If you’re at a restaurant that doesn’t offer the food you want, don’t order anything. Going without for exactly one meal isn’t the end of the world. Believe me, we could all stand to skip a meal now and then. Truthfully, it felt kind of good to go without.

Of course, since we were there for a couple of hours, I did eventually end up with an appetite. I whipped up a quick but decadent meal at our rental house when we returned, complete with everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t. No added fat or salt. The next day I woke up feeling great, rather than puffy and bloated from overeating copious amounts of added oil, salt and who knows what else.

Truth be told, there are a gazillion roadblocks out there on the road to eating a healthy vegan diet. Our society isn’t exactly set up to cater to those that choose to eat as optimally as possible. Of course it’s the opposite. Companies want to sell the food they make the most amount of money on…and that, for the most part, is not whole, fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.

It likely won’t become easier any time soon. There will be no multi-million dollar marketing budgets for bananas or red leaf lettuce. There will be more, not less, restaurants opening with nothing but highly processed and unhealthy entrees on their menu.

The lesson here is this: listen to your body. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry. Don’t eat food that makes you feel bad that you don’t want. If it comes down to skipping an occasional meal, your world will not end.

Heck, it might even feel good.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

Make it easy to go vegan by getting your environment right.

Going vegan just got a heck of a lot easier.  Experts agree that getting your environment right, meaning free of animal products and any other unhealthy foods, is the biggest key to succeeding at making a dietary change.

Take a look around your environment.  Evaluate your pantry.  Open your refrigerator and take stock.  Peruse your freezer.  Those cupboards.  Open them and look at your dried and canned goods.

If you’re like most people, you might not want to disclose what’s really in your kitchen.  Are there Costco-sized potato chip bags in the pantry?  Tubs of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer?  Cold pizza in the refrigerator?

Having non vegan foods or even unhealthy vegan foods in the house might seem harmless.  You’ll just not eat them, right?  Well, perhaps if you’ve more willpower than most, but more than likely, if it’s in your house it’s going in your mouth.

Get rid of all the non vegan food and foods that don’t promote your health.  That’s right.  Donate them to a food bank.  Give them to your neighbor (preferably one you don’t like).   Take a stand against animal products or unhealthy food in your house.

Make a decision that any unhealthy eating goes on outside of your home.  If you must give in to cravings make sure that they are one time situations at a restaurant or somewhere besides your home.  This way, it’s (hopefully) an infrequent departure and not a full on giving up of your plan to go vegan.

Your home environment should be a sanctuary and only contain the healthiest food choices.  It’s a rare individual indeed that can continually reach past last night’s pizza leftovers and grab the lettuce instead.  Don’t rely on willpower to see you through those times.  Nobody has willpower that strong.  Make going vegan easy by removing those temptations entirely.

What about my not on board with the whole vegan/health thing family members? Of course, this means you’ll need the cooperation of those your live with.  Spouses and kids need to eat too.  Apparently.  Give them the same guidelines.  Outside the house is the only place unhealthy eating can occur, in the house is for healthy vegan eating.  If you’re doing the grocery shopping, even better!  You get to decide what’s brought into the house. Use your power wisely!

Your environment determines your success in a number of different ways.  Why not create the one that makes going vegan easy?

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

 

 

What eating mindfully means and why you should.

When we can slow down and really enjoy our food, our life takes on a much deeper quality. -Thich Nhat Hanh in How To Eat

Eating mindfully.  What, is that some kind of weird meditation thing that those crazy Buddhists do up in the Himalayas?  Well, no.  Wait, maybe.

Eating mindfully does have some similarities to meditation.

Okay, let’s start again.  Here’s what you need to know about eating mindfully – it’s an extremely beneficial practice and has virtually no downside.

Eating mindfully, for those adventurous enough to try it, will do everything from improve your digestion to help you shed some pounds faster than a high school wrestler in a sweat suit.

Eating mindfully is simple but not necessarily easy.  Depending on how you eat now, it could be incredibly difficult to make that transition. However, if you’re willing to devote some time and energy to it, you will reap surprisingly significant changes. Not unlike meditation.

Eating mindfully means you give some time and energy to eating.  Time, for sure.  You cannot inhale a smoothie while parallel parking, applying black eyeliner and listening to the Beastie Boys and call it good.  That is the opposite of eating mindfully.

Eating mindfully is sitting in a comfortable position, with no television, radio or even reading material.  Complete silence is ideal, though of course light conversation with friends and family that you’re sharing food with is good too.

Once comfortably seated and all media is silent, you can begin to eat.  Take the time to chew your food and savor the flavors.  If you’re eating watermelon, enjoy the crunch and sweetness.  Eat as slow as you need to in order to fully chew and appreciate your food.

Think about the origin of your food and what it took to get that food to your store and then to you.  Appreciate the labor inherent in all foods.  Be grateful that you have the means to purchase and enjoy an amazing abundance of different types of food.  In a nutshell, you’re meditating on your food.

This is impossible! Now, if you’re like me, this will be slow torture at first.  I am used to watching videos, typing emails, listening to podcasts, scrolling through Twitter and/or reading while eating.  Basically, I do the exact opposite of eating mindfully.  I eat mindlessly.

Several times during my meal I would go to grab my phone, my laptop or some other electronics in order to quell that voice in my head that became so annoyed with the fact that I WAS JUST SITTING THERE. DOING NOTHING.  LIKE A PSYCHOPATH.  As meditators know, it’s extremely challenging, but also hugely beneficial, to just do nothing.

Okay, technically I wasn’t doing nothing.  I was eating.  But for me, eating most meals is a simple task that invites all manner of other things I can do or think about besides what I’m actually doing.

As it turns out, that’s not how eating is supposed to work.  According to Thich Nhat Hanh, author of  How To Eat (yes, I bought a book called How To Eat – don’t judge.):

 Sometimes we eat and we’re not aware that we’re eating. Our mind isn’t there.  When our mind isn’t present we look but we don’t see, we listen but we don’t hear, we eat but we don’t know the flavor of the food. This is a state of forgetfulness, the lack of mindfulness.  To be truly present we have to stop our thinking. This is the secret of success.

For me, the “sometimes” part of the above quote could really be changed to most of the time. I tend to eat the same way I do practically everything. Fast.  Distracted.  Preferably while doing and thinking about a million tiny little things.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy eating, because in fact I do, and very much.  Unfortunately, I’m clearly guilty of not being present when eating, and missing the flavor of my food.  My mind is always busy elsewhere, even if I’m not reading or listening to something.  Removing distractions is one thing, but actually making my mind present is a huge struggle so far.

Eating mindfully is a work in progress.  In truth, I’ve only been doing it for a few days.  Some days and meals have been easier than others and I’m still battling that tendency to have something going on in the background, even if it’s just the voice in my head.

Sitting and looking at your food the entire time is an exercise in patience.  Taking the time to enjoy the taste, smell and texture is something I’ll have to continually remind myself to do.

So far though, I’ve notice some significant changes in how I eat:

Satiety kicks in…it goes without saying that eating quickly and mindlessly doesn’t allow your natural stomach receptors to alert you that you’ve eaten enough.  For vegans, this is likely because vegan food tastes so good.  Dang you vegan food, for being so tasty that I’m constantly eating like I’m in a vegan hot dog eating contest with Paula Deen.

I have a lot of company, though.  Most people eat too quickly.   Judging from how long it takes me to eat now, that I’m eating mindfully, I would say everyone eats too quickly.

Letting your natural satiety signals kick in rather than eating so quickly that you’re uncomfortably full before finally realizing it has a number of benefits, including better digestion and weight loss.

Imagine how appreciative your body will be if you’re not taxing your poor, overworked digestive system by dumping tons of food down the pipe at once?

Then imagine you eat slow enough to avoid that bloated-whale-washed-up-on-the-beach feeling that we all get after overdoing it.

My experiment with eating mindfully is intriguing.  So far, I’ve really enjoyed learning How To Eat  after 46 years of getting it wrong.

Consider the practice of eating mindfully.  You might be surprised at how your body and mind respond to focusing on this important and pleasurable task.

Thanks for reading!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

 

Here’s how processed food is sabotaging your weight loss.

Let’s first define processed food.  Processed food is anything that is changed from it’s original state.  Technically, if you take a banana and strawberries and blend them to smithereens with your VitaMix, that is now a processed food.

But wait, you say, isn’t that a little extreme?  Well, yes, but for our purposes here, and for yours going forward, let’s just think of processed food that way…as anything that’s been changed from it’s original state.  An apple…not a processed food, while apple juice is a processed food.  Cooking a potato is processing a food.  Steaming broccoli is processing food.

Okay, now we’re straight on that, let’s examine why consuming processed food is likely sabotaging any plans you may have to lose weight:

  1. Processed food is full of sodium -unless you’re the Sherlock Holmes of label reading, standing in the canned food aisle with a magnifying glass and a silly hat, you likely have no idea how much added sodium is in processed food.  Take canned black beans, as an example.  I dare you to find one that doesn’t have at least 500 mg of sodium per serving. It’s tough to do.  How about bread?  Good luck finding one with no added salt. Most pasta is also full of salt. Why?  Because adding salt provides two very distinct benefits for food companies that want to sell more food – it is a preservative and it makes food taste good (which makes people buy more of said food). You can easily verify this by taste testing a reduced salt vegetable soup.  I can guarantee it won’t taste very good.

Sodium, while a big benefit to food companies and their bottom line, is not quite as kind to your body.  Excess sodium results in inflammation, water retention and can even be an appetite stimulant. What? Oh great, so in addition to making me feel bloated and puffy, it can also make me want to eat more?  Wait, won’t that make it REALLY DIFFICULT TO LOSE WEIGHT?

Your body does need sodium, which it can get easily from unprocessed foods. Unfortunately, the average person takes in north of 3400 mg of sodium per day, while the recommended amount is 1500 mg or less.  So where are those nearly 2000 additional milligrams coming from?  Since nearly everyone I know claims they don’t salt their food, then it must be coming from, you guessed it, highly processed foods.

If you think you’re safe because you eat no processed foods but you eat out all the time, think again.  Restaurants are notorious for cooking with salt, both to enhance flavor but also to keep up with the “average” consumer, who is taking in 3400 mg of sodium a day. Restaurant fare is designed to appeal to the masses, so salt, sugar and fat are used seemingly without restriction.  For this reason and a million others, I hate eating out.

Guess what doesn’t have added sodium?  Well, not much, but you’re pretty safe with raw, fresh fruit and vegetables.  You know, the unprocessed stuff.  They also don’t have a label, so you can get rid of that silly hat and magnifying glass.  Oh, and even better, eating fruits and vegetables is not an appetite stimulant.  Actually, because they’re so high in fiber and water, they actually suppress your appetite. As any real food should, right?

2. Processed food is calorically dense – processing food, by changing its form, either by cooking or blending or juicing, will make it more calorically dense.  When trying to lose weight, calorically dense food is not your friend.  Unless you enjoy feeling like you’re starving.  Highly processed foods like olive oil are super calorically dense.  It takes up very little room in your stomach.  It doesn’t make you feel full, despite being very high in both fat and calories.  Eating rich foods that aren’t satiating is not the recipe for success you need if you’re looking to lose weight.

Blending and juicing foods is a form of processing.  It also makes it super easy to overindulge.  Imagine sitting down to eat 8 bananas.  It sounds nearly impossible.  But if you blend those 8 bananas with water, you can easily drink down that smoothie quicker and easier than you can possibly eat all those bananas.  So leave smoothies and juices for once-in-a-while situations and just eat the fruit or veggies you planned on blending instead. It’s just too easy to ignore your natural satiation signals when you blend and juice food.  For more on satiation signals and how highly processed foods completely bypass those, read the awesome book The Pleasure Trap.

Cooking food is also a form of processing.  Cooking, whether baking, steaming or frying (please no), removes water from the food and changes it’s structure and resulting nutrient content.  It also makes it more calorically dense and thus harder for your body to signal satiation.

3. Processed food dehydrates you – the more processed a food is, the lower the water content.  Think of high water content, unprocessed foods –  like watermelon, oranges and lettuce.  They all have north of 90% water content.  Now think of highly processed foods like crackers, bread and those ridiculously good Girl Scout Cookies.  All have very low water content.  When you eat these highly processed foods, your body has to pull water from somewhere in order to digest them, resulting in dehydration.

Dehydration is often mistaken for hunger pangs, which can lead to eating when you’re really not hungry…which by the way, CAN MAKE IT REALLY HARD TO LOSE WEIGHT.  So the solution isn’t to eat those processed foods and drink more water.  The solution is to not eat those foods, drink water when you’re thirsty, and eat high water content fresh fruits and vegetables.  You might actually find, as I did, that you don’t need to drink nearly as much water if you’re avoiding processed foods and eating fresh, whole, ripe produce.  Always try and get your water from your food first, then from drinking fresh, filtered water (from your own reusable container, of course).

If weight loss is your goal, or even if you just wish to make the healthiest choices possible, eliminating processed foods from your diet will turbo charge your progress.  At the very least, choose the least processed option with the least amount of ingredients.

You’ll know you’ve made progress when you reach the point where the majority of the food you eat doesn’t even have a label.

Good Luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!