Guest Blog from Plant-Based expert, Chrissy Roth
Kim and I met about 13 years ago. We were brought together by friends who thought we would enjoy meeting each other since we both had an intense love for environmental causes and we both had small kids who we hoped would share a similar view of the world. We brainstormed about starting a program at our kids’ elementary school that would champion educating kids on how to be stewards of their environment. She and a few other amazing women went on to call it Grades of Green and I pursued my path of nutrition education. Ultimately we circled back many times over the years to collaborate as it is no secret how taxing animal agriculture is to the environment. I have become an expert in plant based nutrition after having taken my family from pretty big meat eaters to a plant-based diet 5 years ago.
I am a physical therapist, and a holistic nutritionist with a passion for all things health and wellness. I’ve been fascinated with the human body since I was a small child, and have always been a research-based consumer of information. We are constantly bombarded with misinformation regarding food and how it affects our bodies and the food industry controls so much of what we hear. Drink milk, it does a body good. Beef, it’s what’s for dinner. Eggs… The perfect food. All baloney (like what I did there… I could have said hogwash, would have worked just as well). There is a ton of research delving into how what we eat relates to our health and lifespan, yet most people, including too many doctors, would rather be told what to eat by the food and pharmaceutical industry lobbyists, or the government, which lies in bed with these industries. People would rather take a pill, or have surgery, than eat healthy food to prevent illness and disease. Docs would rather prescribe drugs than discuss nutrition and it is not their fault. It’s what they learn to do in med school. There is practically no nutrition education provided to doctors.
Billion dollar industries would like to convince you that eating meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, healthy choices… WRONG! We need only 8-10% of our daily calories to be protein calories, easily achieved on a plant-based diet, yet, people are brainwashed to think that they need to wash their meat down with a protein shake. There is no Big Carrot or Big Kale industry, so sadly, you are not going to hear a peep from them.
The latest and greatest, solid research clearly demonstrates the following: The closer you get to eating a whole food plant based diet, the less health issues you should suffer from. Heart disease need not exist, as it is both preventable and reversible, yet, it is our number 1 killer! Dr Esselstyn has been successfully treating heart disease with diet for over 20 years . Many cardiologists are following suit. More than 50% of cancers are preventable with diet and lifestyle changes. 70% of colon cancer is preventable, however it causes over 50,000 people to suffer and die each year. Type 2 diabetes is preventable and treatable with a plant based diet. Yet, cases in this country are sky rocketing.
What almost amazes me more than the power of these billion dollar industries, is the fact that people are so willing to jump on whatever the diet-band-wagon-du-jour is, without doing any research on it whatsoever. Guess what? It’s not working if 2/3 of Americans are obese! The Keto diet is all the rage, yet research is showing it to be one of the worst diets out there for health and longevity. Sure, you will drop a few pounds right away, but to stay on this diet long term is so taxing to many of our organ systems and just plain dangerous! There is nothing to back up that this diet is a good idea and there is a ton of contrary research, but they have done a great job marketing so people continue to put butter in their coffee. So exciting for the dairy industry, but for your arteries, not so much.
Tips on how to eat more plants:
1. Vegucate yourselves! Learn all about what a plant based diet is. In short, a whole food plan based diet includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. There are so many options, but they may not be what you are used to, so can be a bit daunting at first. Nutrient dense foods abound and luckily there is a vast sea of resources to support you when you first start. Check out my blog, nutritionfacts.org, forksoverknives.com, nutritionstudies.org, or “google” plant based diet and open yourself up to a wealth of knowledge. I love the book Plant Based Nutrition for Idiots, by the well respected Juliana Hever . Great book for beginner plant based foodies.
2. Jump in or just dip your toes. There are many ways to transition a diet, and it depends on your personality type. If you are an all-in person who has to jump in and go for it with most of the things that you do (this is how I roll and how I did it), pick a date and go cold turkey ;), or if you are the type who likes sticking your toe in the water first, figure out how many meals you eat a week that include animal products (any protein or fat that comes from an animal), and cut one or two meals out. Or, go a bit further and commit to a vegan breakfast and lunch. Or just touch the tip of the iceberg and vow to have fruit and/or vegetables with every meal. Breakfast can alway includes some kind of fruit and lunch can include a salad of raw veggies. For dinner dinner cooked veggie dishes are a great way to get your plants in. Snack on fruit and veggies or whole grain crackers and hummus. Plant based meals and snacks are very nutrient dense, and full of fiber, so they’re very filling and satisfying.
3. Be patient and keep trying new foods. Your palate will change as you start eating healthier. The pleasure centers of our brain go crazy when we eat animal protein and salty, processed, fatty meals. Dr Doug Lisle does a fantastic job of explaining why we crave so many foods thta aren't good for us. It just isn’t true that if we crave foods, we must need them. When we cut those foods out, it can be tough at first because we continue to crave them. I can assure you it gets better. I haven’t really eaten sugary foods for the past 5 years. The first month or so was tough, but I pushed through it. Now I eat fruit or a smoothie and they taste incredibly sweet. Sugar laden foods just don’t taste good anymore. Tastes really do change so much. Prime example: my husband HATED beans, but I kept serving them up and to his credit, he kept trying them. He now will eat them in things like veggie burgers and soups without a single complaint. I never thought I would see the day. He really did loathe them prior to my
4. Make a list of the veggie based foods that you love and have some of these daily. If apples are your thing, have 1 a day. If broccoli is your favorite, don’t feel bad about having it every single evening. There is nothing wrong with having the same foods over and over if they are incredibly healthy for you! Ideally you would eat the colors of the rainbow, no not Skittles, that is a rainbow that has a pot of ill health at the end, not good health, but if your tastes are limited, eat what you like, and as mentioned keep trying new things.
5. Get your family on board. My husband and youngest son both eat plant-based diets and both feel empowered and healthy knowing that they are putting incredibly healthy foods in their bodies. Both were tough sells at first as their favorite food pastimes were bacon burgers, but they embraced the challenge and eating this way has now become second nature. Here are some tips to help you get your family to eat more plants.
6. Learn about the environmental impact of eating animals and that alone may be enough to convince you to stop, or cut way back. Vegan junction lays a lot out of good information for you here. Vegan junction lays a lot out for you here
7. Learn how to cook. I have spent the past 5 years making vegan meals and most have been incredible and a few just OK, but always healthy. Yes, it has taken extra time out of my day. When I roll in at 6pm and the kids have homework to do and the house is a mess, I don’t want to cook, but if I have planned out my meals and shopping, whipping up a stir fry in 25 minutes is so well worth it. There are so many beautiful foods out there that are vegan and so many websites and cookbooks available to point you in the right direction. I love this website because it links you to so many recipes that you will NEVER get bored.
8. Follow Kim's blog as she lays out for you the dire position that we are in if we continue to make meat the star of our plates. Animal agriculture harms the environment more than most of the things you think about first when you conjure up environmental assaults.
It may seem daunting to change your habits, but I promise it will be well worth it. The changes you will see and feel are undeniable. Energy levels soar, skin starts looking more clear, and afternoon malaise will be a thing of the past. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!