Join me on my journey as I train to complete my first full marathon ... in under four hours. I'll share my experiences as it relates to training, as well as my lessons learned about whole-food, plant-based nutrition, health and wellness. It's going to be a great run!
A friend of mine who is interested in exploring a whole-food,
plant-based lifestyle asked me recently to name my most favorite book on the
topic. Imagine the dilemma I faced -- having to choose between the likes of Doctors
Barnard, Esselstyn, Campbell and
My pick will most certainly surprise some -- Michael’s Pollan’s In Defense of Food. For those unfamiliar with Pollan, he advocates whole-food flexitarianism
NOT veganism, which means you can still enjoy meat and dairy,
though in much smaller amounts. While I do believe that a plant-based lifestyle is ideal, I recommend Pollan because his path forward seems more
practical and, quite frankly, doable to
many considering transitioning from the Standard American Diet to a diet rich
in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. As Pollan puts it, "Flexitarians can still enjoy turkey on Thanksgiving and grandma's pot roast on Sundays."
I have personally experienced people shutting down the
minute I tell them about our whole-food, plant-based lifestyle. All they hear is what they can’t enjoy
-- processed food, meat, dairy and eggs, which IS the Standard American Diet. For
many, that’s just way too many “NOs" and not even the most extraordinary vegetable dish from the hottest five-star vegan restaurant in Manhattan will change their minds.
Pollan eases people into it. My hope is that those who read him will be
persuaded to adopt his whole-food flexitarian model and remain inspired to continue learning and moving closer towards becoming full-on plant-strong.
On another note, my friend's question started me thinking about my most favorite plant-based resources. To that end, I've put together a list for all of you interested in learning about or expanding your knowledge of this lifestyle. I would love to read your recommendations and favorites as well. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
*With the exception of Earthlings, all movies are available
via Netflix or iTunes. Earthlings can be viewed for free online at www.earthlings.com.
If you’re part of the Facebook and/or Twitter communities, I encourage you to
LIKE and/or FOLLOW each film’s respective pages. You’ll get a wealth of
information (and some really great recipes) beyond what each movie offers.
All are available via Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.
The China Study by T. Colin Campell, Ph.D Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. Food Rules by Michael Pollan In Defense of Foodby Michael
Pollan Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., M.D.
Kickstartby Neal Barnard, M.D.
Facebook LIKES *I LIKE hundreds of pages in the health and wellness community but there are a few I visit the most. Here they are!
Since Matt and I have become entrenched in the health and wellness
community with emphasis on a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle, we’ve made
plenty of observations. The one that stands out for us -- in fact it’s
the one we talk about the most -- is the overwhelming resistance to accept varying points
of views. There are no greater examples of this than the arguments that arise between paleos and vegans over whose path forward is right (whole grains versus
lean meat), or the outrage that ensues from the vegan community when one of their own steps out in
public to reveal she ate an egg. (Hi, Ellen!)
I found this online. So cute.
Bacon and tofu get ready
to duke it out!
Rather than focusing on our similarities,
we seem much more intent to stay within our particular group and try to prove the other teams wrong or embarrass others because they may have made a different food choice than we would have. I’m left wondering where that gets any of us. If
the point is to inspire others to join our cause, we’re failing. I’m certainly
not open to learning anything new if the bearer of information is going to
attack me personally on my choice to be plant-strong.
The area that flexitarians, paleos and followers of a plant-strong lifestyle get right
is noteworthy: we have all successfully transitioned from the Standard American
Diet (SAD), which is largely made up of sugar and processed food, to a whole-food
All of us have embraced the mountains of scientific and clinical
research that concludes the SAD is responsible for obesity, heart disease,
cancer, Type II Diabetes, dementia, allergies, asthma, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. -- you name it and the
SAD is behind it. How can what we eat not be responsible for that which ails us?
Growing up, my dad told me to put good quality oil in my car. Why? He said it
would run better. Imagine that!
So when I see a social media article that seeks to inform on the
dangers of the SAD high-jacked by a paleo and vegan arguing over the fringe concepts (whole grain versus lean meat) rather than the core concept
(whole-food), I’m left scratching my head. Neither the paleo nor vegan needs to
be convinced that the SAD causes death and disease, nor will either change
his/her belief that their dietary preference is the be-all and end-all because of a negative Facebook interaction. The same can’t be
said for the 100 or so people watching this spectacle. Wouldn’t it be something if the paleo and
vegan put aside their differences to espouse the power and benefits of a
whole-food lifestyle? Maybe then the other 100 on the thread would be inspired
to learn more and start weaning himself/herself off the SAD.
Think of how far we could take our agreeableness! We could partner together to affect real, sustainable change:
Educate Americans on the abysmal failure and life threatening dangers of the SAD.
Work to bring
whole-food menu options to our hospitals, schools, work cafeterias, etc.
Ensure that our medical professionals are schooled in proper nutrition.
Demand our government stop selling out the health and lives of Americans in
favor of campaign donations, and also start to appoint unbiased men and women to lead our food and health regulatory agencies.
Reduce the demand and
accessibility of processed food and sugar.
Improve farming and livestock
And so much more.
Our reach could extend far and wide and we could save America billions in healthcare costs.
When we get side-tracked by our own self-righteousness, we’re losing
opportunities to influence others still addicted to the Standard American Diet.
When we take Ellen to task because she chooses to eat an egg, we look like a
community intolerant of other people’s points of view. We’re turning people off from wanting to explore the benefits of our lifestyle. "Don’t let the
perfect be the enemy of the good."
If people are able to successfully break their addiction to the SAD, we
should celebrate their achievements and encourage them to go deeper and to
never stop learning. Transitioning from the SAD to a whole-food diet is fraught
with challenges. Let’s not add to those challenges by criticizing whether someone chooses tofu over chicken, or vice versa. We should view it as one less person on the Standard
American Diet and one more whole-food advocate in our camp!
You may remember when I shared with you my shock and awe over receiving an e-mail from Dr. Mark Hyman’s office
asking me to review his new book, The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook, in advance
of its Feb. 26 publication date. Even writing about it today -- two months later -- and the invitation still seems so surreal.
For those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Hyman, he’s well-renowned
for his work in helping people like you and me lose weight and prevent and
reverse disease. His book,The
Blood Sugar Solution, is a New York Times No. 1 bestseller and has been
featured on national shows likeLive!
With Kelly and Michael,Dr.
Oz,Charlie Rose, et al.
What makes him a stand-out from many of the medical
professionals we’ve come to rely on is that Dr. Hyman attacksthe cause of illnesses rather than just
treating the symptoms. What do I mean by that? He firmly believes that the most
powerful medicine we can take is at the end of our forks, not at the bottom of
a pill bottle. He believes control of our health belongs in our hands. And now
he’s putting his money where his mouth is with this amazing cookbook that
features more than 175 ultra-tasty recipes for total health and weight loss.
Whether you followThe
Blood Sugar Solutionsix-week program or simply want to
eat your way to optimum health, Dr. Hyman believes, as I do, that we arenotlimited to a steady diet of bland and
boring “health foods” that taste like cardboard going down. In fact, there’s a
world of culinary delights waiting for us when we replace the mass-produced
“factory foods” that make us fat and sick with home cooking at its best. These
recipes show us the way.
"In 1900 only 2 percent of meals were eaten outside of the home;
now it is more than 50 percent," explained Dr. Hyman in a recent video blog. "And most of the meals eaten at home today are factory made science projects
“cooked” in a microwave. The consumption of industrial fast and processed
food is driving our epidemic of obesity, diabetes and chronic disease that now
affects EVERY other American. We
need a food and cooking revolution to change that!"Watch Dr. Hyman’s brief video in
At the start of The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook, Dr. Hyman invites us to take an
assessment of our own health and then gives us advice on what to keep and what
to discard from our fridges, pantries and shopping carts. Next come the recipes ... 175, to be exact! You’ll be pleasantly
surprised, as I was, at how easy it is to prepare these healthful and
incredibly-tasting foods. Many of the dishes take less than 30 minutes to
prepare, so there’s no running out of delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner
options no matter how busy our schedules.
His recipes are flexitarian, which
means there are plant-based and lean meat dishes to satisfy vegans, vegetarians
and omnivores alike. You’ll delight in sumptuous meals like Chinese
Eggs and Greens, Asian Prawn Paella, Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai, Veggie
Scramble, Spicy Sage Turkey Sausage, Mexican AND Vegan Lasagna and a Blue
Cheese Cowboy Burger. Also featured are wonderfully healthful desserts and
protein shakes that will make your mouth water. This cookbook has plenty of
good eats for absolutely everyone.
Matt and I whipped up his Chinese Fried Quinoa. It was the
simplest stir-fry we've ever made and it tasted fantastic. The spices of
ginger, garlic and chili flakes left behind a wonderful aroma, which lingered
long after our meal was finished. Our kids even enjoyed it ... and they are some of
the toughest critics! (Recipe and nutritional information are available in the comments section below.)
Tempted yet? You can pre-order his all-new The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbooktodayand begin your journey to renewed vitality
and optimal weight with one delectable meal after another! Follow Dr. Hyman's work and others like him in the wellness community. Click here to LIKE the Breaking Four Facebook page.
About Dr. Hyman
Mark Hyman, MD is dedicated to identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illness through a groundbreaking whole-systems medicine approach called Functional Medicine. He is a family physician, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in his field. Through his private practice, education efforts, writing, research and advocacy, Dr. Hyman empowers others to stop managing symptoms and start treating the underlying causes of illness, thereby tackling our chronic-disease epidemic.
To help those transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle get their kitchens in shape, we've compiled a quick and dirty list of our go-to foods and appliances. These are the basic "must-haves" for plant-strong living.
Appliances: High-speed blender, food processor, progressive onion chopper (perfect for dicing onions AND tomatoes -- homemade brushetta is a snap!)
Baking: Sprouted spelt
flour, oat flour, 100% whole wheat flour, cacao powder, cacao nibs, pure maple
syrup, flaxseed meal, unsweetened applesauce
Red, black, adzuki, white and garbanzo beans; lentils; split peas
Food for Life Sprouted Breads, English Muffins and Tortillas
Canned: Muir Glen
crushed and diced tomatoes
Cereal: Rolled oats,
Ezekiel Food for Life Golden Flax (for Matt and Sienna), Ezekiel Food for Life
Cinnamon Raisin (for Ryan)
Spices: Tumeric, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (in place of soy sauce and
carrots, garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, kale kale and more kale! (Too many veggies to list, honestly -- we eat them
Whole Grains: Quinoa
(pronounced keen-wah), brown rice
While our kitchen is filled with so much more, these are the plant-strong staples to help get you started. The rest you'll pick up as you roll along. Happy shopping! Lean more about plant-strong eating. LIKE us on Facebook.
It’s probably the biggest sacrifice for people who have
made or are currently making a transition to a whole-food, plant-based diet -- eliminating
cheese. Few can imagine living life without that ooey-gooeydelicacy we’ve come to enjoy on our pizza,
salads, sandwiches, dinner entrees … well, just about everything. When I made
my first but very weak attempt at giving up dairy (failing miserably at the first
Starbucks sighting) the thought of never enjoying a piping hot slice of cheese
pizza seemed like a "no-can do." I even started bargaining with MYSELF: “Well
if I give up all meat, fish, eggs and milk, I should be able to enjoy a slice of
pizza once a month, right? What’s one slice a month! Michael Pollan advocates dairy.”
Truth be told, a monthly slice of pizza wouldn’t hurt me but
why would I continue to eat something that decades of scientific research has proven isn't good for me? After all, I wouldn’t choose to smoke or take drugs once in a while. Eventually I did the grown-up
thing and said good-bye to my cheesy friend. And you know what? I’m here to
write … there IS life after cheese!
So how did I do it?
At first I tried to replace
it. A number of plant-based cookbooks wrote of two vegan brands -- Daiya and Follow
Your Heart. I’ve tried both. The former melts better. Insofar as taste, I had
to acquire it. I recall the first time I ate it. I turned to Matt and
said, “I’d rather eat anything else but this. It tastes nothing like cheese.”
And why would it? It’s not cheese.
I can say from personal experience that your taste buds do change
after adopting a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle. Food that once appealed to
your palette eventually stops and food that didn’t appeal to your palette eventually
does. That happened to me with Daiya. I tried it again about a year later and
it wasn’t bad. I actually enjoyed it. But if we put taste aside for a moment, Daiya
cheese is simply not healthful. The company prides itself on what it does NOT
contain rather than what it DOES contain. Remember, the primary focus when
transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet is to keep the “whole” part top
of mind. Vegan cheese substitutes, like Daiya and Follow Your Heart, are NOT whole foods. Therefore, I recommend avoiding them.
Which brings us to our headline -- how can we successfully
replace cheese? The answer lies in creativity and whole food.
Looking to spice up a
panini or make a grilled sandwich? Hummus is your new BFF. It’s quick
and easy to make or can be bought in any local grocery store. Best of all,
it’s absolutely delicious and you can make it in any number of flavors such as roasted
pepper, eggplant or zesty garlic. And when you heat up a sandwich with hummus,
you’ll definitely find yourself reacquainted with that ooey-gooey feeling you thought
only cheese could provide.
How about dressing up
a salad? I think the first time I ever really tasted a salad was after I
made this transition. Prior to that, my lettuce always seemed to be swimming in
some sort of dressing. Remember what I said about our taste buds changing (or maybe it's reawakening!) Here’s where I really experienced that feeling because I now enjoy my salad in its raw
state -- without dressing and without cheese. On occasion I may add a splash of
balsamic vinegar or a few dashes of the Indian spice chat masala, but for the
most part I let the fruits, tomatoes, olives, nuts, seeds, peppers, etc. put the BAM!
in my salad. If you’re looking to capture the consistency of cheese, a
healthful substitute is avocado. You can slice it, dice it or mix it in with
your fingers to ensure that it’s wrapped perfectly around every bite-sized piece of lettuce. This is a wonderfully delicious way to optimize the nutritional benefits from a greens salad without sacrificing
any flavor whatsoever.
Pizza, pizza and
pizza! Matt and I love making pizza and dare I write we still find it as
enjoyable to eat “cheeseless” as we did with cheese. The secret is in the base.
Try a little basil pesto, white bean garlic spread or caramelized onions. Top that
with your favorite tomato sauce and a bit of fresh garlic and then go crazy adding
vegetable toppings such as sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, eggplant, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, roasted peppers, etc. The possibilities are literally endless and
the result is always a to-die-for pie. If you’re ordering pizza out, ask for it "cheeseless" and have the chef add a bit of extra sauce, fresh garlic and a variety of veggies. Talk about “healththifying”
a comfort food that traditionally carries little if any nutritional value.
Homemade pizza -- cheeseless, meatless and totally YUM!
These are just a few ideas for replacing our beloved cheese.
If you’re looking for more, I can’t stress enough how helpful the Internet is.
Use it to Google plant-based recipes; whole-food, plant-based pizzas; cheese
alternatives; etc. There’s a wealth of information waiting to be discovered every
day. Remember, every question you have has been asked and answered hundreds of
times online, so let your fingers do the walking and have fun exploring.
I recently shared our challenges of going plant-based,
which is perhaps the most frequently asked question we receive (tied with the ‘ole, “From where
do you get your protein?”). Another FAQ we hear is how to get started. Recently, I’ve
had several people reach out to me for advice on going plant-based. While there
are a number of books and online resources available, I thought I’d blog my
tips and tricks for adopting a plant-passionate lifestyle.
Take Baby Steps
For many of us, change is difficult and it doesn’t happen
easily. When we begin to transition from the Standard American Diet to a
Whole-Food, Plant-Based lifestyle, it can seem overwhelming. After all, we’re
putting “curbside” everything we know in favor of something new, and at the start,
where we’re moving to may seem more like a sacrifice than any sort of win. Make
your transition slowly and in phases. For example:
Eliminate processed food from your kitchen and replace it with
whole- or minimally-processed food. Processed food often appears healthful,
thanks to clever marketing labels, but it's anything but. A good example is
bread. Bread requires four ingredients: yeast, water, flour and salt. Now open
your pantry and read how many ingredients your bread contains. Oftentimes,
bread we believe is healthy (because it’s marketed as such) has upwards of 25
ingredients listed! This means it’s so far removed from its natural state that
it’s no longer providing nutritional benefits to us. It’s actually doing more
harm than good. When it comes to ingredients, less is definitely more. As author Michael Pollan put it, "If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don't." (If you’re looking for healthful bread, we have a love affair with
Ezekiel Food for Life products. Check the organic, freezer section of your local grocery store. Here are some additional
tipsfor choosing bread.)
ingredients … for everything. If a food item contains added sugar or ingredients
you can’t pronounce, understand or buy on your own, avoid it at all costs!
Internet to familiarize yourself with a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle (look for new
ingredients, foods, menu options and recipes beyond what you are accustomed to
and start trying them out), or buy a
whole-food, plant-based cookbook and begin making different recipes. Commit to
cooking one whole-food, plant-based
dinner per week.
Reduce dairy consumption. Choose a non-dairy milk alternative such as Unsweetened Almond Milk by Silk (it tastes the most like cow’s).
Research healthful dairy-free methods of baking. For example, did you know that you can replace one egg with 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal + 3 tablespoons warm water?
Commit to preparing three whole-food, plant-based dinners per week.
Try something new. For example, my entire first year of being plant-based, I refused to cook with tofu. There was no rational reason for this. It simply looked slimy to me and I didn’t want to touch it. Once I learned what a culinary chameleon tofu is and then how to cook with it, I fell madly in love!
The idea is to challenge yourself each month to go
deeper into this lifestyle. You may decide to take it all the way (as Matt and I
have) or to adopt a more flexitarian approach (reducing meat to just 2-3
servings per week). That’s great too! As author and health advocate Kris Carr says, “Any step towards a
plant-passionate lifestyle is a positive one.”
You don’t need to get from A to
Z overnight. Baby steps -- this way you learn to love and embrace the lifestyle
you eventually choose.
Keep the Big Picture
Remember why you’re doing this. In your journey, you will
likely encounter challenges, frustrations and negativity. Rise above it and
keep the big picture in mind. You are taking control of your health. You’re
being proactive. By and large,
Americans are used to reacting
to issues rather than looking ahead to prevent issues before they
occur. This is your health. Fuel your body like you love yourself and it
will reward you today and tomorrow. Age
does not have to bring with it added weight, disease, ailments and an abundance
of prescription meds. Don’t wait for a medical diagnosis to start embracing
change. BE PROACTIVE.
Build a Support
This was probably the single most important thing I did. Few
like to go it completely alone and thanks to the Internet, we don’t have to. I
embraced Facebook and began building a small but mighty health and wellness
community that I could go to for advice, questions, recipes, etc. The most
amazing thing about this group is how welcoming, supportive and responsive they are. While
many of the pages I follow emphasize a whole-food, plant-based diet, not all of
them do. I like diversity in all areas of my life. The one thing we all have in common;
however, is the fact that our health is our No. 1 priority. It’s the one group
that doesn’t describe me as fanatic or over the top. And when I became more
comfortable in this lifestyle, I wanted to pay it forward by starting my own
blog and Facebook page to espouse the benefits and wonders of good nutrition
and fitness. The entire ride has been a gift so far and my hope is that many,
many others start to see this lifestyle change in the same way.
Develop Thick Skin
This is important. People who you’d least expect may be brutal
in their comments and secretly wish for you to fail. Why? Because your
healthful lifestyle shines a spotlight on their unhealthful ways. While it
doesn’t excuse the behavior, try to keep top of mind the reasons driving their negativity. It makes it easier to turn a deaf ear.
Don’t preach! People have their “aha” moments in their own time
(and some never do). Show the positives
of your new lifestyle in non-confrontational ways -- like preparing amazing
plant-based dishes that can be enjoyed by all. I can’t tell you how many times
I’m asked to bring a plant-based dish by people still addicted to the Standard
American Diet. Very recently, my mother-in-law couldn’t get enough of my
mac and cheese, which wasn’t prepared with cheese! The proof is in
the “vegan” pudding, as they say.
Immerse yourself in learning as much you can about
whole-food, plant-based nutrition. The science and clinical research is on our
side. Watch the latest documentaries, buy or borrow the latest books, subscribe
to magazines, visit local veg-fests, take a veg-head cooking class -- it’ll reinforce the “why” you’re
making this journey and help keep the BAM! in your food. Check out the recommendations and videos sections of my blog for some of my favorites.