January 4, 2016 11:06 PM

The Top 5 Ways to Successufully Adopt a Plant Based Diet


But, first:

I didn't adopt this way of eating to lose some weight (which I did), to conquer my fear of kale (nom nom nom) or to claim status as some veg head (um, the name is Veg Girl, thank you...). I read the research (and more research) and found that this way of eating really does in MOST cases, support a strong immune system, thus, delivering good health in the form of prevention and even reversal of many of the chronic illnesses that commonly plague us. Illnesses (diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, allergies etc...) that are so common in fact, that we just write them off as a part of our genes or an ailment of progressed age. Excuse me, but both are BS.

When the president of the American College of Cardiology adopts a plant-based diet AND recommends it to his patients--

When the American Institute for Cancer Research says 34,000 lives can be spared by adopting a plant-based diet--

When a major hospital system uses an extra 20 acres to grow a garden and not build a parking lot--

When a physician writes a prescription for produce--

When there is actually a conference with the words "nutrition" and "healthcare" in the title and 600 physicians and clinicians from around the world attend--

When a prominent New York Times food journalist leaves his post to join a plan-based meal delivery start-up--

When GQ names the Best Burger to be a veg burger--

Speaking of burgers, when the McDonald's CEO leaves to join the Board of Directors at a vegan meat start up--

When vegan mayo goes mainstream, White Castle introduces a meatless slider, Starbucks introduces coconut milk and Ben and Jerry start slinging dairy free ice cream--

Then you know this trend is taking root...

OK, but how do you actually start?


Here we go::

1A. Remove the crap. Listen, you don't need to know everything, or really much of anything in the beginning, but you do have to clear the crap. Let's make this simple, get rid of the processed meats, cheese, milk, cookies, the bags of chips, the soda, etc.. you are sharp enough to intuitively know what should not be there, what makes you feel good when you are eating it and what brings on the guilt immediately afterward - pitch it. And, I don't mean have one last hoorah and eat it, I mean - in. the. trash. Spray cleaning solution on it if you have to to avoid any late night dumpster dives (got that from Oprah...). If  you're really not sure if something is worth keeping or not (this will become easier, scouts honor), read the label, does it look anything like this:


or this


or maybe this?


Any similarities to what you are holding in your hand? If so, pitch that package. If you are looking at something that does not have a label, chances are you're good - keep it.

1B. Replenish. One of the main reasons people don't stick to this way of eating is because they don't have their go-to snacks. In order to be successful, you've got to re-stock your kitchen, desk drawer, office, (car?) with easy to make, plant-based food. My go to is my oil-free garlic hummus. I whip up batches in the blender and eat it throughout the week either dip with veggies or a whole wheat tortilla.  There really are countless ways to change up the flavors and I've even made peanut butter flavored hummus and smeared it on a black bean chocolate brownie for something sweet. Kids love that. These little no bake snack bites are also really great for a mid afternoon snack!

2. Get Cooking. There are an abundance of meal delivery services popping up. You can order the ingredients and cook them yourself or you can order ready made meals, however you'd like to go about this is up to you, but if you would like control over what is in your food, I'd suggest brushing off that spatula, Googling "easy plant based recipes" and get cooking. When I adopted this way of eating, I couldn't cook at all. Funny story - when I tried to cook before I went plant-based, one day I made an omelet for my boyfriend (now husband) and after briefly leaving the room and coming back in, the plate was cleared! It was not until years later that I learned he flushed it down the toilet because it tasted so awful. That was my starting point.

The easiest way to begin cooking is to take a look at what you and your family already eat. Do you enjoy Friday night pizza? Can you not have spaghetti without the huge meatballs? Do you love your Burgers? Tacos? All easy to convert - Listen, I don't want you to eat all that crazy, "vegan food", we are doing this to help soften your learning curve, we don't really need to stray from your ordinary. Really.

If it's pizza night, take the kids/spouse/family/friend with you to the store and find a whole wheat (if you don't have any gluten issues) crust. Next, find a sauce with as few ingredients in it as possible, head over to the produce aisle and pick out your toppings! Mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, peppers, squash, spinach, asparagus, carrots, etc all make great pizza toppers.... add some oregano and bake. Same idea with tacos or burritos, have everyone make their own. Burgers: enlist your helpers and make a night of it. I suggest you make more than what you think you'll need so that you are not cooking every night. Batch cooking is the easiest way to save time and money. Make large batches of soups, stews, burgers, casseroles, and eat all week!

3. Social Support. This is not about banding everyone together and having them agree to hop the train with you, it's about respect. If I only had friends who followed a strict plant-based diet, my circle would be tiny, seriously, like 3. We all drive different cars, have different styles, go to different jobs, and eat different ways. Don't think that just because you've taken the animals off your plate means your friends and family must do that too. Gathering and eating at restaurants is probably the number one social activity, so how do you still participate? Restaurants and their talented chefs alike have come very far in this day and age of serving people with different dietary habits, so it's not nearly the challenge it once was. However, you still want to feel confident that you'll be able to sit around a table with your friends and talk about something other than what is (or is not) on your plate. People may not know "where you can eat", so you choose the restaurant. Look around and choose a place where everyone will find something, Mexican, Thai, Italian, Mediterranean, probably all good options. If the choice is not up to you, find out where you are going and look up the menu on-line and choose before you go, I have found this helps me very well.  Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine has this cheat sheet with some basics that you can order any many different types of restaurants. You can download the entire card here.


3. Find Inspiration. No matter what we work toward, what we strive for every day, we all lose a little steam sometimes and need some help remembering why we began this journey in the first place. Burnout is the worst! The internet is thankfully becoming more and more populated with success stories by people who have found happiness on a plant based diet, but without a doubt THE most inspirational and motivational website is Forks Over Knives. Prompted by the wildly successful film, Forks Over Knives regularly (maybe even daily) posts before and after photos of people along with their back stories of why they initially adopted a plant based diet. The stories are sent in by people from all walks of life, including even physicians, many who are now just beginning to understand the ongoing health benefits of a plant based diet. In addition to perusing FOK, I also encourage you to find a plant-based cooking class in your community. I have been teaching cooking classes since 2008 and along with meeting like minded folks who can offer unwavering support, you'll also find seasoned plant-based attendees who are attending classes - these folks are also fantastic inspiration and they want to talk about their journey! Becoming a part of a community whether it be attending a regular plant based cooking class or maybe just joining in on a monthly pot luck party, it's important to find support, listen and interact with those who have done this before you, they are probably your best tools.


5. Never stop learning. Med school is not walk in the park, our doctors have worked damn hard to earn the knowledge and trust that is required to help us regain and maintain good health. That said, in their years of education, nutrition and its effect on our health was sorely missed. Even our medical community is scurrying to figure out this whole plant-based business and how exactly it works. The good news is that if you always go back to the basics, you'll be right: a whole food, plant-based diet is immune supportive and health promoting. If you'd like to geek out like me and keep your nose always in the books, there are some wonderfully reputable websites I think should not be overlooked: 


The Plantrician Project's mission is To educate, equip and empower our physicians and healthcare practitioners with knowledge about the indisputable benefits of plant-based nutrition. To provide them with the resources they, in turn, use to inform and inspire their patients to shift from the Western industrialized diet to a life-changing, whole-food, plant-based way of living.

Here you will find solid resources that will educate you AND your physician. You'll find their newly published QUICK START GUIDE, they continually curate the Internet's largest and most comprehensive plant-based resource, their massive ULTIMATE PLANT BASED NUTRITION RESOURCE GUIDE and they have recently joined forces with Rouxbe Cooking School to create CULINARY-RX, an on-line nutrition and culinary program that will easily get you cooking plant-based within 60 days flat!

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Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine's efforts are dramatically changing the way doctors treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. By putting prevention over pills, doctors are empowering their patients to take control of their own health.They are also building a new way of viewing research. PCRM founder and president, Dr. Neal Barnard, has been working tirelessly for over 30 years to create his non-profit organization in to the highly respected entity it now is. They conduct clinical research on healthful diets that build the foundation for the role of nutrition in medicine, they educate and empower people to take control of their health through Kickstart, Food for Life, and other nutrition programs and offer an ever growing library of plant based research free to the public. They are also home to the newly opened Barnard Medical Center, the nation's first fully plant-based medical center in Washington, D.C.

NutritionFacts.org is a strictly non-commercial, science-based public service provided by Michael Greger, MD. Now a 501c3 nonprofit charity, NutritionFacts.org provides free updates on the latest in nutrition research via bite-sized videos. The most fun and entertaining way to learn! There are now hundreds of videos on more than a thousand topics, with new videos and articles uploaded every day.

PlantBasedResearch.org is an online narrative review of peer-reviewed, scientific research papers and educational resources that are relevant to plant-based nutrition. Links to the abstract are included with every article, and links to the free full articles are included when possible.


I hope these resources have helped you as much as they have helped me over the years. I am in my 8th year of eating this way and I'm pretty sure I still learn something new every day, and that is by choice. Overhauling your diet to regain good health can be intimidating, but you don't need to make it your life's mission if you choose not to. Maybe you take baby steps to get there, or perhaps you'll make the switch overnight, whatever works best for you, remember, it begins with adding a Plant on Every Plate.


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