Talking about diets in terms of their macronutrient ratios is very popular. It’s also popular in scientific studies. I can’t tell you how many diet studies I read where they list the macro ratios of the diets in their methods, but tell you NOTHING about the type of food that made up those diets! Without that information these studies are worthless, because trust me — you can design diets of all different types of macro ratios that are healthy and unhealthy. Macro ratio is worthless! Focus on the QUALITY of those foods, and make your diet mostly plants!
Years before I went vegan I was vegetarian, and for the longest time my last major holdout was cheese.
The stuff is admittedly delicious.
And even though I knew it was horrible for my health, the environment, and the cows, I felt as though I was addicted.
Knowing this and wanting to be vegan, I tried to find good substitutes. After all, veggie burgers weaned me off beef, almond milk was more delicious to me than cow’s milk, and even other fake meats sufficed in times when I was really jonesing.
So one summer on Cape Cod, my friends and I picked up a package of “rice cheese.” This was 6 or 7 years ago and this seemed to be the best available option on the shelf.
We took it back to our house and opened up a few slices to try.
And it. was. disgusting.
Truly gross. Terrible flavor, awful texture. Just unpalatable.
We tossed the slice out onto a trail in the woods (we lived on a nature sanctuary). Over the next few days I’d pass this slice everyday on my walk to work, and after a week it hadn’t been touched.
Not one bite, nibble. No insect or ants swarming. Nothing.
It was clear. Nature had decided. THIS IS NOT FOOD.
In that moment I declared “I guess cheese is just the one thing they can’t replicate.”
I resigned myself to needing to simply give up that flavor altogether in order to be vegan, and it took me a few years before I could finally let it go.
Well, the funny thing is a lot has changed in the last 6 or 7 years. Not only have meat substitutes become so good they trick meat eaters (I just tricked an entire Final Four party with Gardein Chik’n Tenders — no one could tell they weren’t meat!), but cheese substitutes have officially arrived.
There are a few brands I’ve tried and actually enjoy. Daiya was the original brand where I started to think “ok maybe they’re onto something…”
The latest is Follow Your Heart. My parents love this stuff and while I’m staying with them I have to say I indulge as well. The flavor and texture is spot on.
More artisanal options are popping up everyday as well. In Minneapolis the world’s first vegan butcher shop, The Herbivorous Butcher, sells incredible vegan cheeses that I promise you would fool your most diehard cheese addict.
It appears 2016 is the year to surrender to vegan cheese.
As an illustration of just how good these alternatives are, I present the case of my father.
Growing up he and I shared a Sunday afternoon tradition where we would make what he dubbed the “perfect lunch,” which was a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.
Long after I went vegan he kept this tradition alive, and I was bummed I could no longer participate.
Those days are over.
Today his perfect lunches are entirely vegan! He’s switched to Annie’s vegan tomato soup (which he claims is better than his beloved Campbell’s!) and his grilled cheese sandwiches are now entirely made with Follow Your Heart vegan cheeses!
If he’s making vegan grilled cheese sandwiches and still calling in the “perfect lunch,” you can bet this stuff is good.
If cheese is your last holdout before going vegan, or maybe ditching dairy is your first step into veganism, explore the world of vegan cheeses. We are lightyears away from the days of rice cheese rotting on a wooded trail. This stuff is good.
Dietary advice these days is just too complicated. There’s literally thousands of different “miracle diets” online and in best-selling books. And the worst part is you can routinely find polar opposite advice being sold as the miracle answer.
Well, I’ve got my own miracle answer, but unlike the others out there, I’m not selling anything and my answer is super super simple. Like, really simple.
If you want to lose weight and get healthy just do this one thing:
If you follow the various thought leaders in the plant-based movement you may have seen the acronym WFPB. For the uninitiated, this stands for “Whole Foods Plant-Based.” That’s the diet I and many others advocate for.
Adding to the lengthy acronym, many experts in the field also tack on that the diet they recommend is “WFPB No SOS.”
That, good sir or madam, is a mouthful.
“But a mouthful of what?” you ask.
The “No SOS” addition to the acronym stands for “no added salt, oils, or sugar.”
For many, the thought of simply following a vegan, whole foods diet can be extreme enough. Let’s be honest — for most of the country this is still seen as extreme (even though I really don’t think it should be!)
So the thought of eating this way while also cutting out all added sodium, cooking with oils, or added sugar, seems not only ludicrous, but what’s the point? I mean, is the point of eating to not enjoy our food??
So where do I fall on the “no SOS” spectrum? Let me take it piece by piece.
I do still add salt to my food. Except for the past week… Sort of.
For the entirety of my healthy eating journey I’ve taken a pretty simple approach to salt in my diet. I’ve felt that if I stayed hydrated enough (never a problem for me) and limited my processed food (also not a big problem) that I didn’t have to worry about whatever salt I used on my home cooked meals.
I still feel this way, but over the past week I have been trying a “no added salt” experiment, which I will detail in next week’s post, once I have the final results. So stay tuned…
Though spoiler alert, I don’t think it will change my salt philosophy. Stay hydrated. Limit processed foods. Don’t sweat it (or, do… see what I did there).
I do not add oil to my food. This one was relatively easy for me. I never liked the oily taste anyway, the way oil coats your mouth and lips. Yuck… And once I started sautéing with vegetable broth, I really, truly didn’t notice a single difference in the final product (other than the welcomed absence of said oily mouth syndrome…)
I will still occasionally eat things cooked in oil. If I’m out to eat I may indulge in a few fries here and there, or a vegan baked good that obviously has oil in it. I’m not a complete stickler, but in my kitchen I don’t use it. The only oil I keep is for seasoning my cast iron skillets… I do not believe oil is a health food or necessary in a diet, unless you want to add massive amounts of calories and fat to your meal without increasing the fullness factor one bit. Oil is a great way to gain weight. I stay away from it.
I do occasionally add sugar to my food. Well, not like, white sugar. Or cane, brown, coconut, whatever. I don’t add that kind of sugar. The sugar I do add is in the form of maple syrup in my morning oatmeal. I try not to add a crazy amount, but I definitely use it everyday. I could possibly wean myself off it, but hey — life is meant to be sweet.
In fact, I think the entire war on sugar is a bit overblown and is a red herring meant to distract us from the role of animal products in our diet and processed foods at large.
Sure soda is just awful for you. There’s no doubt. We weren’t meant to be able to deliver 50 grams of sugar to our bloodstream in under 60 seconds. That is decidedly bad for us.
But, it is also undeniable that fruit played a major role in our evolutionary diet.
Oh and not to mention the preferred fuel source in the body is glucose, and the only fuel source for the brain and red blood cells is glucose. Our bodies were designed to run on simple sugars. While much of that can (and should) be delivered to the body in the form of complex carbohydrates, there’s no doubt that simple sugars from fruit are important to our physiology.
And back to the red herring thing. I bet if you asked 100 random people why ice cream was bad for them, 100 would say “sugar.” Not the fact that there is also loads of dairy fat, specifically saturated and trans fats, or cholesterol, or hormones, or pus, or preservatives, or anything else. Is the sugar in the ice cream good for you? No. But is it the only reason it’s bad for you — in other words, remove the sugar and ice cream is now a health food? Absolutely not.
So to make a long story short, I am not completely anti-sugar. I am not afraid of it. I think it is very natural for humans to be drawn to it, and thus I don’t get all bent out of shape about the maple syrup I use in my oatmeal 🙂 And I even bake up a batch of vegan cookies from time to time with some real cane sugar added. You gotta indulge sometimes…
So there you have it.
My feelings on the “no S.O.S.” version of the WFPBD. Did I lose you? Essentially I think oils are useless, salt is delicious (more on that next week), and sugar is a o.k. — in moderation.
I have shared a bit about my personal weight loss story, on my website and in my videos, however I have been a little bit vague about the details. This has not been intentional, but rather a reflection of how it happened.
See, I didn’t actually try to lose any weight at all! I was invested in my personal health and weight loss happened. I like to put it like this; “weight loss is a symptom of a healthy lifestyle.”
I simply improved the quality of my diet and lost weight as a result. That’s all well and good, but I do want to provide some specifics about how I actually lost the weight.
Ditch The Dairy.
When I think back to my weight loss/health journey, there is a very clear inflection point. It happened in 2012 and has nothing to do with Mayan prophecies.
I was nearing my heaviest weight of my life and was about to start a graduate program for health promotion management. I was passionate about health and actually thought I ate pretty good.
I was officially a “pescatarian” — a vegetarian who eats seafood (aka an oxymoron) — though I only really ate seafood once a month or so. For the most part, for about 99% of my meals, I was a straight up vegetarian.
That meant in addition to eating plant-based foods I also ate milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and eggs.
But here’s the thing — I switched to almond and soy milk in 2008, so I never drank milk. And I stopped buying yogurt for the house in like 2009. And I stopped eating eggs straight up in like 2010. And it’s not like I ate tons of ice cream (though I won’t say I avoided it either).
So really my diet was like 98% vegan + cheese.
Ah yes, cheese was my sticking point, as I think it is for so many people.
So in early 2012, at my heaviest, I was cheese addicted. I admit it.
And then I watched Forks Over Knives, twice actually. And upon the second viewing decided that I needed to go “vegan at home.” Up until this point I was buying cheese for my home-cooked meals and eating cheese, ice cream, and eggs in things at restaurants.
I wasn’t yet ready to go fully vegan but I was ready to go “vegan at home,” meaning stop bringing any animal products into the home to cook with or eat. And since I was a poor grad student I ate most of my calories at home. But, I was still grabbing slices of pizza occasionally when out, and not freaking out if an entree I ordered had a little parmesan or something.
Here’s the kicker:
This seemingly small change caused me to lose 20 pounds!
Was I eating massive amounts of cheese prior to this change? Well I feel safe here.. but I have nothing to confess — I don’t think my cheese consumption was exorbitant.
And yet it was like something clicked in my body and the pounds just started coming off effortlessly. Seriously.
So, here are 10 reasons why you should #DitchTheDairy for good right now!
- Dairy promotes weight gain and hinders weight loss. Dropping dairy from my life was the spark that helped me drop significant weight!
- Dairy is FULL of hormones, organic or conventional, it doesn’t matter
- The only purpose of cow’s milk is to turn a 65 lb baby calf into a 400 lb adult cow as quickly as possible. It is “baby calf growth fluid.“
- When you ingest baby cow growth fluid it causes you to grow! It may cause you to gain weight, hold weight due to inflammation, and it might even promote the growth of another type of cell in your body — cancer cells
- Dairy is incredibly cruel to the cows. Just search “dairy cruelty” to see for yourself.
- The calcium in kale and other leafy greens is absorbed nearly twice as well as the calcium in cow’s milk. You don’t need milk for strong bones.
- The top 4 sources of saturated fat in the American diet are all thanks to dairy — #1: pizza; #2: cheese; #3 dairy based desserts (e.g. ice cream); #4: grain based desserts (e.g. cakes made with butter, milk and eggs)
- Dairy contains trans-fats as well, of which there is no safe level of consumption
- Dairy is linked to acne and other skin problems (NOTE: My skin got much clearer after I ditched the dairy!)
- Dairy contributes massively to global climate change! In fact animal agriculture accounts for a whopping 51% of total greenhouse gas emissions, and is a great reason to ditch all animal products!
Bottom line: you don’t need dairy in your life. It’s bad for your health, terrible for the cows, and awful for the environment.
Switch to plant-based milks (almond, coconut, soy, etc), plant-based yogurts and ice creams made with those products, and if you are hankering for cheese still after you’ve kicked the addiction, try nutritional yeast or GoVeggie “Parm” and Daiya or homemade vegan cheese substitutes! I don’t miss it one bit, and I love the way I feel being dairy free 🙂
Dairy was the last animal product to go from my diet, but in all honesty I’d recommend it as the first for anyone only willing to cut one out.
Related Post: How To Replace Dairy In Your Diet
What is causing the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease?
If you cruise the internet you may often see banner ads on the side of websites telling you that “fruit makes you fat!” You might especially be afraid of bananas, so high in sugar, ooooooooo!
Click bait aside, let’s look at the data to find the answer!
I have dreaded writing this post for a long time, but I fear I must confess this. I am a vegan, and I hate salad.
It’s just so boring. There are essentially NO calories in it, and it requires a heck of a lot of chewing. I mean really, what a waste! Seventy-five bites for like 6 calories? C’mon, gimme a break.
I honestly have better things to do with my time.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times in my life where I crave a good salad. If I’ve gone awhile without one, or if I am at a salad place that has tons of awesome, fresh ingredients on hand, things I could never keep at home for just me, then I will gleefully chow down on a big old salad.
Even the process of having salad supplies on hand at all times is difficult! You need to have bags of lettuce on hand, which we all know go bad almost immediately. Then you have to have all your favorite toppings, which for me usually means like 7 different vegetables, some seeds, maybe some avocado (also tough to have on hand at all times).
Then we get to the dressings, which are almost all loaded with fatty oils and often sugar, not to mention preservatives.
Sure you can make your own (I often just use straight balsamic vinegar or lemon juice!), but that’s a process as well.
Salad and I have a complex relationship.
Look don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to trash salad completely or throw it under the bus. Salad is quite possibly the single healthiest meal you can consume. If you want to lose weight fast, eat lots of salads, especially before the rest of your meal. If you want to get in literally endless nutrients and consume essentially zero calories, salad is the way to go.
But this is my point:
Salad is not required.
Liking salad is not a requirement of health. I eat salad probably a few times a month, almost never at home, and I still lost 30 pounds on a vegan plant-based diet and am in the best health of my life!
It is such a stereotype that all healthy eaters eat nothing but leaves. And especially us vegans!
I can’t tell you how many times I have received this comment when I’ve told people I am vegan. “Oh I could never do that, I just don’t like salad that much.”
THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE THINK WE EAT. NOTHING BUT SALAD.
Well I am here to shout from the mountaintops, I hate salad (except a couple times a month when I absolutely love salad. Like I said it’s complicated).
I need more calories than that.
Give me potatoes and sweet potatoes, give me black beans and chickpeas, give me tortillas, give me endless fruit, give me whole grains like brown rice or quinoa, give me starchy foods that have a little substance to them. I need to feel full, and salad just don’t cut it, not for me, a 6-foot, 170-pound male who works out regularly.
If you want to lose weight, by all means, eat salad.
I don’t want to send the wrong message — it is a very very very healthy food. But don’t for a second think that you can’t be healthy because you don’t enjoy eating salads. Neither do I! Not all vegans like salad. Some of us just need a little more food than that 🙂