Thursday, May 19, 2016

How to Fail a Plant Based Diet in 10 Easy Steps!

How to Fail a Plant Based Diet in 10 Easy Steps:

 1. Believe everything on the Internet in regards to individual results of a plant based diet, recipes, etc.

If you've started a plant based diet and done any searching on the Internet, you've probably seen lots of testimonials from people claiming a 100 lb (or more) weight loss, discontinuation of blood pressure and diabetes medications, and how fantastic life is now, all due to a plant based diet. Ever notice that most of those testimonials are posted on sites whose main purpose is to sell you something? Not that there's anything wrong with buying a plant based cookbook (they're good inspiration) or a delivery meal plan if you don't have time to prep, but my point is that you should pay more attention to your own results than those of others. What's YOUR goal? Lower blood pressure? Weight loss? Controlling (and possibly reversing) coronary artery disease (CAD)? Focus on your goal, and your own results. If you stick with the diet, you WILL see improvement in most of these areas. And as far as plant based recipes, there are a lot of vegan recipes on the Internet that are actually very high in fat (plant based fat is still fat, although some are better than others, educate yourself on the differences!). Vegan does not equal plant based/no oil to improve CAD, and depending on ingredients may actually hinder your goals, so... be aware. 
2. Don't vary your diet.
One of my previous posts included a meme that basically insinuates that most people, upon hearing that you're on a plant based diet, will assume that you eat salad 24 hours a day. Don't eat salad 24 hours a day. It would be just as boring as eating hamburgers every day, every meal (and more difficult to stick with). In the last week, we've had spaghetti, pizza, tacos, lemon-blueberry pound cake, various stir-fries with brown rice, among others, and lots of oatmeal (just because we really like it!).  Find foods you like and concentrate on those, but don't be afraid to step outside the box on occasion. It's actually been kind of fun, taking some of my previous, delicious, fat-laden recipes and finding new non or low fat variations. You will become an expert with spices, take my word for it.

3. Underestimate how much time you'll spend on grocery shopping and prep time for cooking.

I'm so lucky to have a wonderful husband who is a willing sous-chef and does most of our meal prep (peeling, chopping, slicing). While you might like to eat a carrot stick once in awhile, not too many of us are excited about chomping on a whole zucchini, or potato. Chop ahead...meaning, if you're dicing carrots, or any other veg that you use a lot of, chop extra, and stash the extra in the fridge for your next stir fry. Also, when trying to create variety, you'll find a lot of recipes with ingredients that you don't normally stock in your pantry. You will now. We're lucky to have internet sites like Amazon for those ingredients that aren't readily carried by your local supermarket. But it takes time to find these ingredients, especially at a decent price. I rely on my local supermarket, thrive market online, Amazon, and an occasional trip to a specialty grocery store.

4. Think that it's "ok" to have an egg or a slice of "real" pizza every once in awhile.

If you do have an egg or slice of pizza, don't let it derail your diet, as discussed below in "Give it up if you cheat." But if you go into this diet thinking that it's ok to eat these foods "in moderation" (there's a subjective term...), one egg turns into three or four, one slice of pizza turns into a steak with baked potato, butter, sour cream, and before you know it, your cholesterol and blood pressure are right back up there. Make the commitment to remove these foods from your diet, then the little bits you get on occasion won't have nearly the same effect.

5. Reward your fantastic effort and results with "just a little bit" of sugary, fat-laden foods.

See above. Thinking that it's ok "just this one time" turns into two and three times, or more. Actually, for me, seeing my results after just a few weeks was enough inspiration to turn down these kinds of rewards. Sure, I would enjoy it for a few minutes, but then I'd spend several days making up for it. But we DO need rewards, so I make my rewards plant based, maybe a sugary treat on occasion, or some satisfying meat alternatives.

6. Expect to find plant based "meats" and "cheese" that taste "JUST LIKE THE REAL THING!"

Here's a hint...they don't! I would suggest not even trying to incorporate plant based meat and cheese substitutes until you've been on the diet for at least a few weeks. It's kind of like the old "absence makes the heart grow fonder" quote. If you haven't had it for awhile you will be much more forgiving in terms of taste and texture. Also, plan on using these only for the cheat days you know you will have because most meat and cheese substitutes are pretty high in FAT, although they're plant based.
7. Think that because a food item is "plant-based" you can eat as much as you want.

Fat is FAT, whether it's plant based, or not. Having said that, we all know that a little bit of fat goes a long way in making something delicious, palatable, and just might be the make or break point of your diet. So, if you must include fat, make it a "healthy" fat (olive oil, avocado, or heart-healthy nut oils). The guacamole I put on our tacos is so satisfying, we don't really miss the meat.

8. Get discouraged when you hit a plateau in weight loss.

I lost 5.5 lbs in my first three weeks on this diet. But my weight varies, and I'm stuck right now at about a 5 lb weight loss. I track my weight every couple of days and the downward trajectory is encouraging. Focus on THAT. And, focus on the other benefits of this diet (lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, etc). DON'T weigh yourself every day. Try increasing your exercise (especially cardio) if you hit a plateau. Being fit and healthy with a few extra pounds is better than flabby skinny (it's possible, believe me).

9. Give it up when you cheat.

Don't cheat. Try not to cheat. Who are we kidding? Of course, there will be that time you're out at a restaurant, or at a friend’s house and there are no options that fit your diet perfectly. In that case, just try to make the BEST choice. That's not really cheating, that's just being realistic. Don't think that a few grams of fat means that you have to start all over. If you're following the diet, one day won't derail everything. See "Set your expectations too high" below.

10. Set your expectations too high.

Don't strive for someone else's results. Set your own goals and track your results. Also, don't expect that you'll NEVER vary from the diet. Instead, plan ahead. If you're going to be traveling where it might be difficult to get plant based meals, bring your own food, or, if that's not possible, take the BEST choice of what is offered. Making that commitment to always make the best choice of what's available is the best thing you can do for yourself (and your health). 

 On that note, here's a really delicious black bean tortilla soup we've enjoyed this week!


1/4 of a Red Onion, chopped
1 C diced Celery
4 medium Carrots, peeled and sliced into small chunks
1 small Yellow Crookneck Squash, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 medium Zucchini, cut into 1 inch chunks
4 small Red or Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 can Diced Tomatoes
1 C cooked Brown Rice, (optional, I used leftover)
2 cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 tiny can diced Green Chilies
1 and 1/3 quarts Vegetable Broth (to cover veggies)
2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp Onion Powder
2 tsp Chili Powder (more or less to taste)
1 tsp Cumin
Low fat or fat-free Corn Tortilla Strips, baked preferably

Combine all of the vegetables in a large pot and add the diced tomatoes, cooked brown rice, black beans, and diced green chilies. Add enough vegetable stock to cover by one inch (or more if you like more broth in your soup).

Add the seasonings, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings at the end, if desired.

To serve, ladle into a soup bowl, and sprinkle with the tortilla strips.


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