By Betsy Bruns
I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a while ago. Like weight-loss diets, which have a start date, an end date, and the feeling of holding your breath until the torture is over. New Year’s resolutions are rarely successful. Neither are most diets.
According to some estimates, diets fail 95% of the time. Not only is long-term weight loss rarely achieved, but diets can also result in weight gain over the long run. Restrictive eating can lead to loss of lean muscle mass, the slowing of metabolism, as well as eventual disordered eating patterns that may trigger gorging and bingeing down the road.
Back in my younger days when I carried 40 extra pounds and peanut M&M’s were my oxygen, I went on a lot of diets. They were often preceded by a feast of Big Macs, greasy pizza and lots of chocolate. I rarely got through the first week before bailing. My bon voyage feast most likely totaled more calories than the calories I lost in the days that I white-knuckled through the diet. I was probably in the hole each time I attempted to lose weight.
On Jan. 1, 2012, I made a dietary change quite spontaneously. I decided to stop eating meat after watching a film that expanded my consciousness about the ethics of eating animals. I felt so much compassion for abused farm animals and what they endure in our factory farming system that I lost my appetite for meat and never looked back.
That decision has taken me on the most amazing odyssey. In the years following, the expansion of my consciousness led me from a vegetarian way of eating to a vegan diet, and eventually, to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.
What is the difference between a vegan and a whole food plant-based diet? A vegan diet means you eat no animal foods or animal by-products. Like a vegan diet, a whole-food, plant-based diet omits all meats, fish, dairy and eggs as well as most refined and processed foods, like refined white flours and overly refined grains, sugars and oils. A whole food plant-based diet is a healthier version of a vegan diet.
If you are not eating animal foods or heavily refined foods, what do you eat then? Lots of things! Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans move from the side of your plate to the center of your plate. There are hundreds of varieties of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans that can be eaten and prepared in ways that replicate the comfort foods you enjoy today.
Plant-based diets can help you lose weight and keep it off because they are packed with fiber, which helps fill you up. If you aim for 40 grams of fiber a day, you will be full, satisfied and will not need to count calories or go hungry. Studies have shown that when eating this way, a 16% increase in after-meal calorie-burning speed occurs, referred to as the thermic effect of food. This appears to be because the vegan diet improves insulin sensitivity by 24%. Improved insulin sensitivity allows nutrients to enter the cells of the body more rapidly and converted to heat, rather than to fat.
Still not sure? Why not try this way of eating for 21 days and experience what it does for you? Think of it as a test drive, not a diet. The free, evidence-based 21-Day Vegan Kickstart has everything you need to get started on a plant-based diet: meal plans, recipes, grocery lists, daily videos, nutrition tips, cooking demonstrations, and more. To learn more or sign up, visit kickstart.pcrm.org.
Veggies in a Blanket
Makes 8 servings
Whenever I demo this recipe in a “PCRM: Food for Life” class it’s a hit. It’s a simple, yet tasty snack, appetizer or light meal. This recipe is part of the PCRM cancer series classes.
1 cup store-bought hummus or bean dip (or homemade using recipes in the guide)
8 whole wheat tortillas
4 carrots, grated
8 lettuce leaves, 1 cup baby spinach, or 1 5-ounce container sprouts
Thin sticks of cucumber, red bell pepper or shredded red cabbage to add before rolling (optional)
Shred carrots. Spread hummus or bean spread thinly on tortillas, and then add carrots and lettuce, spinach, or other veggies. Roll up each tortilla, secure with five evenly placed toothpicks, and slice into five individual rolls per tortilla and serve as an appetizer. Or, to serve as a meal, simply cut each tortilla in half.
Power Plate Meal: Veggie Sauté with Baked Oven Fries
Keeping things simple is helpful when trying a new way of eating. Recipes that are fussy and that require lots of unfamiliar ingredients and spices can be overwhelming. Some of my favorite meals are whipped up by whatever I have in my refrigerator.
Chop and over medium heat, dry sauté whatever veggies you have on hand. Onion, mushroom and greens are my favorite combination. Dry sauté means using no oil. You will be surprised to learn that oil is not needed to sauté vegetables. If they start to stick, just add water, one tablespoon at a time. You can also add a splash of vegetable broth or tamari to add moisture and flavor. Season according to your taste, using the spices you have on hand.
Baked Oven Fries
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut four medium Yukon gold potatoes into fries, about ½ inch thick. Place fries in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for five minutes. Drain well and place in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, toss until fully coated. Lay evenly on a cookie sheet or baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Serve with ketchup or your favorite oil-free sauce.
Betsy Bruns is a plant-based health coach, “Food for Life” instructor with the “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine,” as well as an Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practitioner. When she isn’t making healing food taste like comfort food or helping clients tap away stress and cravings with EFT, she’s soaking up nature and dreaming of ways to make life more delicious for all beings. Visit Vegsetter.com.